Michael Parks: Crusty Genius

As a teenager I developed an almost unhealthy obsession with the movie From Dusk till Dawn – most especially with one scene in particular. The scene in question featured a monologue from a crusty Texas lawman on the joys of alcohol abuse and the dangers of being served food by the mentally disabled. Aside from Quentin Tarantino’s beautifully crafted dialogue, the real joy of this scene lay in the actor’s gruff delivery, his craggy, weathered face, squinting eyes and thousand yard stare – all under the shade of a sheriff’s hat. The actor, of course, was Michael Parks – a man Tarantino once described as the world’s greatest living actor.

It wasn’t long before I started seeing this actor pop up in other films, and his momentary presence seemed to increase the currency of a film immediately (for me anyway). I am perhaps the only person in the world who believes that his performance in Death Wish 5 ranks him amongst the all time greatest bad guys. I would be doing the man a disservice if I attempted to encapsulate his genius into words, so here are some clips from a few of my favourite Michael Parks films for your viewing pleasure (and filmic education).

Kill Bill Volume 2

Death Wish 5

From Dusk Till Dawn

Death Proof


James Curnow is an obsessive cinephile and the owner and head editor of CURNBLOG. His work as a film journalist has been published in a range of print and digital publications, including The Guardian, Broadsheet and Screening the Past. James is currently working through a PhD in Film Studies, focused primarily on issues of historical representation in Contemporary Hollywood cinema.

13 thoughts on “Michael Parks: Crusty Genius

  1. Did not know there was a Death Wish 5, I’ll have to check that out. Death Wish 3 is a great bad movie. I see what you mean when you say Parks presence increases the currency of a film. Keen article.

  2. If you’re a Michael Parks fan, you need to check out the television series he did back in ’69-’70 — Then Came Bronson. It’s an anti-establishment classic, and I remember it well to this day even though I’ve not seen it since it first aired.

  3. I worked on the set of Kevin Smith’s “Red State.” Parks was the main villain in that. I had no idea who the guy was at the time but not only is he a HELL of an actor, he is a hilarious, awesome guy, too. Ditto for his adult son James, who also played a major part in the film.

      • I’ll be the first to admit that Red State isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s really different from pretty much anything I’ve ever seen. (I’m not just saying that… the story turns a few few right angle turns out of nowhere. I can understand why someone would love OR hate it.) But if you like Parks, then I think you’ll like this. Let me know your thoughts after you give it a view.

    • Yeah, I remember. There’s the great moment where he’s mocking people that complain about the food on film sets:

      “”Chicken again?” – REALLY?”

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