In The Shadows: THORLEY WALTERS
By Michael Arruda
Welcome to another edition of In The Shadows, the column where we honor character actors from the movies, especially horror movies. Earlier in this column we looked at the careers of Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye, and Hammer favorite Michael Ripper.
Today we look at another character actor from Hammer Films, Thorley Walters. If you’ve seen your share of Hammer Films, chances are you’ve seen Thorley Walters.
Walters usually played a pompous stuffy type, a bumbling buffoon, or a mixture of the two. Some standout roles include his performance as Ludwig in DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), in which he played a character very similar to Renfield from Bram Stoker’s novel. Ludwig is a man who had once visited Castle Dracula and had left the castle somewhat insane and still under Dracula’s influence.
When the young couple fleeing Dracula (Christopher Lee) takes shelter with Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) at his monastery, where Ludwig is also staying, it’s Ludwig who invites Dracula inside.
Walters was also memorable as the snuff sniffing Police Inspector hot on the trail of Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969). He chases Frankenstein throughout the entire movie but never quite catches him.
Walters’ most memorable performance however, and my personal favorite, came in the previous Hammer Frankenstein movie, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1969). In this film, Walters played Baron Frankenstein’s bumbling but loyal assistant, Doctor Hertz. The way Cushing and Walters interact in this film is priceless, and their camaraderie here is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. In the entire Hammer Frankenstein series, Walters’ Hertz is probably the best of Victor Frankenstein’s assistants. He’s certainly the most likable.
I’ve always wished Walters had reprised the role. I would have enjoyed seeing more tales of Baron Frankenstein with Doctor Hertz by his side.
Walters enjoyed a long film career, appearing in films from the 1930s all the way up until his death in 1991.
Here’s a partial list of Thorley Walters’ 139 acting credits, concentrating mostly on his Hammer Film and other genre appearances:
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) – Lattimer – Assistant to Michael Gough’s insanely annoying Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, the true villain in this Hammer Phantom film starring Herbert Lom as the Phantom. Walters gets to roll his eyes and shake his head at Gough’s infuriating antics.
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE (1962) – Dr. Watson-
Plays Dr. Watson to Christopher Lee’s Sherlock Holmes in this French, Italian, and German production directed by Hammer A-list director Terence Fisher. A muddled production. Both Lee’s and Walter’s voices are dubbed by other actors!
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964) – Edgar Otis – A science fiction horror film by director Terence Fisher.
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Ludwig – Memorable role as Renfield-type character in this sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), again directed by Terence Fisher. With Christopher Lee, of course, as Dracula.
THE PSYCHOPATH (1966) – Martin Roth – Walters appears here in a horror movie not directed by Terence Fisher, but by Freddie Francis with a script by Robert Bloch in this Amicus production.
THE AVENGERS – TV series- Episode: “What The Butler Saw” (July 28, 1966) – Hubert Hemming.
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) – Doctor Hertz – My personal favorite Thorley Walters role. His Doctor Hertz is such a likeable character, and Walters and Peter Cushing work so well together it’s too bad this was the only pairing of these two characters. The best of Baron Frankenstein’s assistants in the Hammer Frankenstein series.
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)- Inspector Frisch – As Inspector Frisch, Thorley Walters chases Peter Cushing’s evil Baron Frankenstein across the countryside because in this flick Frankenstein must be destroyed.
THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (1970) – Frank Bellamy – Thriller starring Roger Moore.
TROG (1970) – Magistrate – Classic horror flick from the 1970s starring Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, and an ape man. Directed by Freddie Francis. Sadly, Crawford’s last film.
THERE’S A GIRL IN MY SOUP (1970) – Manager of Carlton Hotel – Silly comedy starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn.
VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)- Burgermeister – Superior and very underrated Hammer vampire film. If you haven’t seen this one, definitely check it out.
THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER (1975) – Dr. Watson – Again plays Dr. Watson, this time to Douglas Wilmer’s Sherlock Holmes in this silly comedy starring Gene Wilder as Sherlock Holmes’ inept younger brother. Also starring Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, and Dom DeLuise, obviously trying to recapture the YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) magic. Falls short. Written and directed by Wilder.
THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977) – Norfolk – Amicus’ sequel to their earlier hit THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), both films starring Doug McClure. Average.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL (1984) – Ned Quilley – Critically acclaimed drama starring Diane Keaton.
Thorley Walters also appeared in many TV shows and miniseries.
Thorley Walters: May 12, 1913 – July 6, 1991
Thanks for reading everybody!