Boyish tough guy actor Christopher George was born to Greek immigrants in Royal Oak Michigan on February 25th 1929. Young George quit high school to join the Marines and after his tour of duty headed to New York where he found work in commercials and on the stage. Eventually the ruggedly handsome young man broke into films with an uncredited part in the 1965 flick ‘In Harm’s Way’.
His big break came the following year when he was cast as Sgt. Sam Troy in the ABC TV series ‘The Rat Patrol’ which concerned the heroic doings of a special African unit during WWII. The two seasons of the series gave him star status which her parlayed into several film roles throughout the late 60s such as ‘The Devil’s 8’, ‘The Thousand Plane Raid’, as well as ‘Chisum’ and ‘El Dorado’ (both with good friend John Wayne).
In 1970 he also made one of his first gore treats…he was the original Dan August (Burt Reynolds later played the detective on the TV series) in ‘The House on Greenapple Road’. This blood drenched mystery featured Janet Leigh in a great role, as well as Julie “The Haunting” Harris, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, Keenan Wynn, Ed Asner and Lynda Day -- Christopher George’s future wife.
Next up Chris made another strong impact in the ABC series ‘The Immortal’ as Ben Richards. Ben has a special type of blood antibody, which makes him immune to aging and disease – talk about fun blood disorders. Ah, but there is a price to pay. Of course some rich old bastard wants to capture Ben and basically use him as a blood bank to avoid the inevitable…so Ben is on the run. That series had a solid following and lasted a couple years as well.
Afterwards Christopher was back in films – ‘Escape’, ‘The Train Robbers’, ‘Midway’, ‘I Escaped Devil’s Island’, ‘The Shootist’ (old pal John Wayne’s movie swansong), ‘The Heist’, ‘Dixie Dynamite’, and ‘Mayday at 40,000 Feet!’ among others. He also made ‘The Next Scream You Hear’ in 1974; a flick culled from the ‘Thriller’ TV series. In this one Christopher George starred as Bernard Peel – he gets home from work, has a drink, BOOM, he’s unconscious, the next thing he knows police are knocking at his door saying they got a tip about some incident on the premises and lo and behold – they find his wife’s body.
The actor’s first genuine step onto racksandrazors turf came with his appearance as Ranger Michael Kelly in ‘Grizzly’ (1976), which was a cheap ‘Claws’ oh; I mean ‘Jaws’, ripoff for William Girdler (the man behind ‘The Manitou’, ‘Abby’, and ‘Three on a Meathook’). The film costarred Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel as well as (producer’s wife alert!) Joan McCall. (It should also be noted that there was a ‘Grizzly 2’ starring George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, and Joan McCall whose husband produced the sequel as well.)
Chris followed this role with the VERY similar ‘The Day of the Animals’ in 1977, also for Girdler. This one put together one of the greatest exploitation casts ever assembled -- Lynda Day George, Leslie Nielsen, Richard Jaeckel (again!), Ruth Roman, Andrew Stevens, and Michael Ansara. That is B-movie bliss! Anyway, the movie is about the ozone being depleted and the strange effect it is having. A group of hikers are trekking deep into the chemically imbalanced forest where animals are beginning to run amok and claim human lives. This one is mighty fun…there’s less cheese in Wisconsin!
Driven by a desire to keep working Christopher George took the roles given him, which often meant jumping into the exploitation pool with both feet. In 1978 there was ‘Cruise Into Terror’. A pleasure cruise ship is carrying an Egyptian artifact, but this is no ordinary artifact --- this is a sarcophagus that contains the son of Satan!!! Guess what? That evil menace begins to affect the passengers and true mayhem ensues. Christopher was part of an all-star cast, portraying Neal Barry. Actually, this might be the exploitation cast of all time – Lynda Day George, Dirk Benedict, Stella Stevens, Lee Meriwether, Ray Milland, Hugh O’Brian, John Forsythe, and Frank Converse. Whew!
Next on his horror list Christopher George made a nice little (extremely) gory shocker, Lucio Fulci’s 1980 classic ‘City of the Living Dead’. In Dunwich a priest has killed himself, opening the gates of hell. The dead are rising. Our man (CG) stars as Peter Bell, a reporter trying to stop the barrage of horrors and ends up eventually getting his head torn open by a zombie. This one is yummy, way over the top – even for Fulci. Janet Agren and Katherine MacColl costar.
Then came the Christopher George slasher trio – ‘Graduation Day’ (1981), ‘Pieces’ (1982), and ‘Mortuary’ (1983). In ‘Graduation Day’ (written and directed by Herb ‘Beyond Evil’ Freed) he is Coach Michaels. This one is delicious “comfort slasher gore” – from the very first scene with a scantily clad female jogger getting slaughtered you know exactly what you’re in for and it doesn’t disappoint. This one costarred Patch Mackenzie, Michael Pataki, and in an early role Linnea Quigley as Dolores, the high school bad girl who comes on to her music teacher. It also stars Vanna White as one of the teens --- Christopher George was her uncle!!! ‘Pieces’ was next. In this one Mr. George played Lt. Bracken. It co-starred his wife Lynda Day George (as a cop/tennis pro). This Spanish horror flick from Juan Piquer Simon is twisted from the get go -- when a mother discovers her son checking out porn mags she douses the all-of-it in lighter fluid. Talk about scarring! Well, who could blame the kid for years later killing sexy coeds with a chainsaw and subsequently putting them together “piece by piece” to make his ideal woman? It’s only natural. The final flick in this delicious triumvirate is ‘Mortuary’. It stars Mary McDonough (Erin on ‘The Waltons’!!!), a very young Bill Paxton, and (yup) Lynda Day George. The scarred youth theme reappears this time as well. A mortician’s son (Bill Paxton) goes on a killing rampage using the tools of the trade. Christopher George plays the demented teenager’s dad who gets his when he is stabbed in the stomach with an embalming needle…OUCH!
During this period Christopher George was by no means exclusively making horror flicks. He also starred as Detective James Dalton in the violent drive-in hit ‘The Exterminator’ (a sort of ‘Death Wish’ rip-off) costarring Robert Ginty and Samantha Eggar. Another popular exploitation flick from this period was his scenery chewing villain role as Charles Venarius in ‘Enter the Ninja’ (1981) with Franco Nero and drive-in goddess Susan George.
Throughout the later years of his career Mr. George also did loads of TV – guesting twice on ‘Charlie’s Angels’, 4 times on ‘Fantasy Island’, 4 times on ‘The Love Boat’, twice on ‘S.W.A.T.’, ‘Vega$’, ‘Wonder Woman’, and even stooping so low as to appear on an episode of ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’! That’s mighty low.
Sadly Christopher George died of a massive heart attack in Los Angeles on November 28th 1983 at the age of 54. He left behind an impressive body of work as well as his loving wife and frequently costar of 14 years, Lynda Day George.
He appeared in tons of western shows along with doing comedies, crime and adventure shows. Plus he has spoofed his horror character roles the odd time on 'The Red Skelton Show'