The hulking menace of low-grade 50s horror flicks was born in October 19th 1903 in Sweden. At 6’3” and tipping the scales at close to 300 lbs he took the wrestling world by storm. In 1928 he traveled to the California before barnstorming the country coast-to-coast under the professional wrestling name ‘The Swedish Angel’.

In no time Hollywood came calling and Tor was perfect for a great number of roles as a weightlifter or a strongman most often as a comic foil. His first film was the WC Fields vehicle (as a Tusoff wrestler) in ‘The Man on the Flying Trapeze’ (1935). He appeared in two Abbott and Costello features – as Majordomo in ‘Lost in a Harem’ (1944) and Abou Ben in ‘A & C in the Foreign Legion’ (1950). He was in a couple of Bob Hope features -- as Samson in ‘The Road to Rio’ (1947) and ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ (1951). Some of his other early roles were as Sir Guy (a jouster) in ‘The Canterville Ghost’ (1944), with Olsen and Johnson in ‘Ghost Catchers’ (1944), as a pro-wrestler in ‘Shadow of the Thin Man’ (1941), a pro wrestler in the Hepburn-Tracy vehicle ‘State of the Union’ (1948), as The Champ in ‘Behind Locked Doors’ (1948), Vladimir Pulasky in ‘The Meanest Man in the World’ (1943) with Jack Benny, etc. He had little dialogue and a whole lot of menace. You get the picture.

His career seemed rather destined to continue along a similar path and then came Ed Wood Jr. who cast him as Lobo, the gargantuan lumbering (and silent) assistant to Bela Lugosi (as Doctor Vornoff) in ‘Bride of the Monster’ (1955). In the movie Vornoff wants to mate Lobo with put-upon heroine (Loretta King) to create a super race. The following year Tor appeared once more with Lugosi (and once more Tor was mute) as Mr. Curry (a medical experiment gone awry) in Reginald LeBorg’s ‘The Black Sheep’. This 1956 horror flick (probably Tor’s finest in the horror field) boasted an awesome horror cast that, in addition to Lugosi and Johnson, included Lon Chaney, John Carradine, Basil Rathbone (as the mad scientist this time!), and Akim Tamiroff. The following year Tor returned to playing Lobo in Brooke L. Peters’ ‘The Unearthly’ (1957). This time out Tor is the casualty of some gland experiments and becomes the dopey servant to mad doctor John Carradine. However, in this flick Tor isn’t completely silent – he has some awesome dialogue such as “Time to go for bed”. ‘The Unearthly’ costarred Sally Todd and Allison (That ‘50 Foot Woman’) Hayes. The he came back to the Ed Wood Jr. fold in 1959 for the movie opus ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (Which was originally titled ‘Grave Robbers From Outer Space’). In this hypnotic and celebrated train-wreck of a movie Tor is cast as Inspector Clay who rises from the grave as the zombie sidekick to Vampira as Ghoul Woman (not quite a girl yet not quite a woman.) ‘Plan 9’ was Lugosi’s final film. The horror legend died abruptly during production and his scenes as The Ghoul Man (is this an Ed Wood in-joke?) were forcibly wedged and incorporated into a revised plot and his additional “lurking about the graveyard” scenes were done by a LA chiropractor (!!) Tom Mason. (As a trivia note Tor Johnson appeared in all 3 of Lugosi’s final films. The two became good friends and it is even rumored that Tor saved Lugosi from suicide at one point.) The same year he appeared in yet another Wood movie --- once more as Lobo --- in ‘Night of the Ghouls’ (a sorta sequel to ‘Bride of the Monster’), which costarred Duke Moore, Kenne Duncan (as Dr. Acula), Paul Marco, Vampira, and Vlada Hansen.

In 1961 Tor made his final horror movie (and perhaps his worst – which is saying something!) the amazingly appalling Coleman Francis flick ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats’. In which he plays a defecting Russian scientist who is caught in an atomic blast, mutates in a radioactive monster, and lives in a cave. He kills people and cannibalizes people and it is all done with (Gasp! Arg!) voice-over narration. Tor was so obese during filming that supposedly crew was needed to hoist him up and down the sand dunes. For this bit of career suicide Tor was paid $300 (No, that’s not a type-o!) for his starring role. He made only one more film Bob Rafelson’s vehicle for The Monkees ‘Head’ in (1968)!

Tor also made sporadic appearances on television in such shows as Groucho Marx’s ‘You Bet Your Life’ (in which he tested his knowledge of classical mythology), ‘The Red Skelton Show’, ‘Peter Gunn’, and ‘Bonanza’ (in a notable role Tor played Busthead Brannigan who wrestles Hoss Cartwright in the ‘San Francisco Days’ episode.)

On May 12th 1971 Tor died of a heart ailment in San Fernando CA at the age of 67. According to his death certificate he had suffered from rheumatic heart disease for over 40 years. This compromised condition was no doubt exasperated by Tor’s habit of eating gallons of ice cream and drinking copious amounts of beer – often a case at a time. The Swedish Angel, who was often so big he crushed toilet seats, was interred at the Whispering Pines section of Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall California.

Since his death Tor has been immortalized on film by pro wrestler George ‘The Animal’ Steele in Tim Burton’s 1994 bio-pic ‘Ed Wood’. Tor has also achieved even greater immortality through sales of the rubber Lobo The Henchman mask – that’s right that creepy bald slipover head mask that has been a Halloween staple for decades is closely modeled on Tor Johnson himself.