It is all too easy to identify an actor with just one role. Particularly if that role becomes iconic and is part of a TV or film franchise. In the case of Robert Englund, the veteran Californian actor will perhaps forever be known as Freddy Krueger: the former child killer turned immortal dream demon who stalks the kids of Elm Street after he was burned alive by an angry mob of the parents of Krueger’s victims some years previously.
A huge hit on its release in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street became a massive movie franchise spawning six sequels, a TV series, a remake (which Englund wasn’t involved with) and a spin-off movie with fellow horror franchise Friday 13th titled Freddy vs Jason (after that series’ villain, Jason Vorhees) in 2003. By the late 80s Freddy Krueger was a household name, with each Nightmare on Elm Street sequel being more successful than the last. There was even Freddy merchandise that the likes of KISS might have been envious of!
So, although it might be fair to say that Robert Englund wouldn’t trade in that role anything, he has since proved himself as more than a one trick pony when it comes to his acting ability. It might be mostly horror but he has played a variety of roles and become a legend in the horror community. Here are five roles that Robert Englund has played before, during, and since he became the burnt faced, razor-gloved wielding slasher villain we all know and love.
1. Willie, V
A series released from 1983 to 85, that involved a mini-series, a sequel mini-series and a not so well received TV show, about a race of aliens who arrive on Earth, apparently seeking co-operation with humans. Right before our introduction to Freddy Krueger, Englund played a Visitor turned Resistance member named Willie, and gained praise and acclaim for his role.
2. Buck, Eaten Alive
Two years after Tobe Hooper wowed horror audiences and offended the conservative media and politicians with 1974’s seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he made 1976’s Eaten Alive. Also known as Death Trap, Horror Hotel or Starlight Slaughter, Englund was cast as Buck (who likes to fuck, apparently), a sleazy local in a run down redneck town. It’s not a huge role and the film is nowhere near as good as TCM but Robert is effective enough and his death is quite memorable too!
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3. The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera
This 1989 film stars Englund as The Phantom in, predictably at this point perhaps, a gorier version of the classic love story of sorts. The film itself isn’t bad and features some good kills courtesy of our Phantom who’ll do anything it takes to make the beautiful Christine the star of an opera. Robert Englund’s English accent is pretty good and he puts in a decent performance. This might look like a surprise entry for horror fans but this version is definitely a horror movie!
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4. Mayor Buckman, 2001 Maniacs
This 2005 remake based on splatter movie king, Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs is a lot of fun and up there with Robert Englund’s best non-Freddy roles. Englund plays Mayor Buckland, the enthusiastic leader of a small, southern US town called Pleasant Valley. Buckland persuades a group of college kids to stay with them for the town’s annual BBQ. Of course, the kids soon learn that the town and its people aren’t as pleasant as the town’s name suggests… Gory, funny, 2001 Maniacs is pure horror entertainment from start to finish.
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5. Dr Andover, Fear Clinic
This 2014 horror film is based upon a web series of the same name. Our man stars as Dr Andover, a brilliant doctor and scientist who has created a “Fear Chamber” as a way to help cure people of their phobias. But when people start returning to the doctor claiming the strength of their phobias have worsened it seems something more sinister may be at work. Also starring Fiona Dourif and Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor, Fear Clinic is a solid little horror movie and a great role for Mr Englund.
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Honourable Mentions: Other popular roles from Robert Englund, small and otherwise, include parts in Zombie Strippers (2008), Wishmaster (1997), Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), Urban Legend (1998), The Mangler (1995), Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007), The Funhouse Massacre (2015), Dead & Buried (1981), The Midnight Man (2016), Strangeland (1998) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994 where he not only reprises his role as Freddy Krueger but also plays himself!
So there you go. Proof, if it was needed, that Robert Englund can be more than just a heavily made up, maniacal, wise-cracking slasher villain, and can offer us a range of roles and characters showing why he is rightly known around the world as horror royalty. Thank you for your contribution to horror, Mr Englund!