In Memoriam: Susan Tyrrell and Richard Lynch

The film world has recently lost two terrific character actors.

Susan Tyrrell, who appeared in Fat City (1972), The Killer Inside Me (1976), and Cry-Baby (1990), died of unknown causes on June 19. Photo courtesy Follies of God by James Grissom, which has a wonderful quote about Tyrrell by Tennessee Williams.


Richard Lynch, horror, television and B-movie character great, was found dead in his home on June 19. Photo courtesy the official Richard Lynch website.

Both actors are more than deserving of their own posts, of course. Tyrrell and Lynch were both still actively working in film, both with active projects still in production. Richard Lynch has been a mainstay in the movies that many of my B-movie brethren talk about, and if we haven’t seen a Richard Lynch film for the Bad Netflix Instant Movie Marathon, it’s only because we haven’t yet gotten around to it. I first saw him on a two-part episode of “Hunter” in the late 1980s, and his performance was so strong that for years I referred to him as Frank Lassiter, the name of the character he had played. And that was exactly the kind of actor he was, giving terrific performances in everything from big budget films like Little Nikita (1988) to B-grade flicks like Puppetmaster III to a classic ensemble piece such as Crime and Punishment (2002).

Susan Tyrrell was one of the first cult movie mainstays I discovered, thanks to a university course in crime fiction. A burgeoning film critic even back then, though I didn’t know it, I chose to do my final term paper on comparing the novels of Jim Thompson with the film adaptations. My professor raved about Susan Tyrrell in The Killer Inside Me, as did I after watching the film. I loved her in everything I saw her in, and had just watched her powerhouse performance in Fat City on TCM just a few hours before she died — I suspect many of us did — and if you’re like me, you wondered again how such a strong, powerful actress could have failed to win an an Academy Award.

Both fine actors, gone far before their time. They will be missed.


    1. I was so upset. I had been thinking during Fat City that we should get David Lynch to cast her in an upcoming film, and I was really thinkin’ hard on it too, wondering about a blogging campaign and stuff. Just love her so much, all of her — the strength, the crazy, the talent, everything.

  1. Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will of course recognize Richard Lynch from his role as the mildly unscrupulous archeologist who couldn’t be bothered to completely learn his ridiculous lines in the classic episode WEREWOLF (or, as the vaguely Germanic leading lady pronounces it, “WAR-woolf?”). I think the first time I really noticed him was in 1980’s THE FORMULA.

    1. I just saw that episode not more than a month ago, and I forgot completely about him flubbing lines. For some reason I was thinking those jokes were made about Adrianna Miles — along with her interestingly undefinable accent, of course.

  2. Oh there’re plenty of jokes made at Adrianna’s expense too (and now that you mention it, EVERYBODY in that film, with the exception of Lynch and Joe Estevez, seems to have an interestingly undefinable accent). Mostly he goes up on his speech explaining the WARwoolf mythos, and while I’m usually hard on actors for that kind of thing, his lines are so chock full of just plain embarrassing bullshit (“a man who is yanaglatcheh will begin to take on a series of strange body habits, like sleeping like a coyote, noise to anus” [MAKES UNIVERSAL NOSE TO ANUS GESTURE]), that by the time he’s wrapping up and clearly just winging it, (“…the Hattateh will go in and…and try to…to get the…yanaglatcheh“) I suspect Richard and I are thinking the same thing: “Please let this end!

    1. Finally, I remember that! The last time I watched the film, I was reminded once again that the opening was pretty strong, at least for the kind of film it was, and I know I was still daydreaming about that during the explanation until the “Ubsulootly fussinating” line jarred me back to reality.

      It’s unfortunate that the universal nose to anus gesture is so similar to the universal I’d like a cup of tea gesture.

  3. I remember Lynch in “The Seven Ups”, he had an animalistic film presence in it, and of course, a great death scene. He was in a fine TV film, “Vampire”, still a good watch. Tyrrell was a bit of chaeleon, she morphed in and out of roles, but she always had that look of being on some other planet in her eyes.

    1. After doing more research on Lynch, I’ve decided that I must see Crime & Punishment, because it also stars Vanessa Redgrave, whose performance in Ballad of the Sad Cafe actually reminded me of Richard Lynch. She had the biting intensity and dangerousness, though obviously lacked the sociopathic delight Lynch brought to his roles.

      What I’m saying is that a film with both of them sounds amazing. Add Crispin Glover and it’s WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN THIS BEFORE WHYYYYY.

  4. I always kind of thought Lynch as a Poor Man’s Klaus Kinski. Not a knock. Not at all. My favorite role is when he almost single-handedly ruined Christmas before Chuck Norris got involved in Invasion USA. That Bazooka/Mexican stand-off was the stuff the awesome is made of. That and when he played Alien Super Jesus in Larry Cohen’s Gold Told Me To.

  5. Stacia: Like so many others, I thought Tyrrell was something supernatural in Fat City. Her performance was so stripped and painful, there were moments I felt like averting my gaze out of common decency. She seemed to be dying of liver failure and loneliness right there on the screen. May she rest in peace.

    By the way – I love the new place.

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