The first day of fall seems extra gloomy today as we found out that genre icon Sid Haig passed away at the age of 80.
The star is probably best known to current audiences for his role as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s iconic horror trilogy that began with House of 1000 Corpses and ended recently with 3 From Hell. But throughout his nearly four-decade career, Haig played a part in some of the most iconic series of all time, becoming a vital part of pop culture history as well as a fan-favorite actor whose work spanned everything from prime time TV through exploitation films and art house cinema.
Haig first hit the small screen in 1962’s The Untouchables TV series and worked consistently until his death. In 1966, he joined the cast of ABC’s beloved Batman series, featuring in two episodes as the Royal Apothecary in a fun story featuring King Tut. A year later he was a guest in the Star Trek episode “First Lawgiver,” before starring in a couple of episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was during this time that he began to craft a space for himself in some classic B-movies like the Lon Chaney-starring Spider Baby and surreal race movie Pitstop.
His late ’60s and early ’70s output also included a stint on Mission Impossible for three years, taking on multiple roles over nine episodes, as well as guest spots on Get Smart and the network oddity, The Flying Nun. Haig quickly became a regular in exploitation movies being filmed in the Philippines—a lot made by legendary low-budget producer Roger Corman—and some of the biggest hits included The Big Bird Cage, The Woman Hunt, and Black Mama White Mama. His on-screen collaboration with blaxploitation icon Pam Grier was a regular one, with roles in two of her biggest films, Coffy, and Foxy Brown.
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With over 140 credits, it’s hard to sum up the impact and prolific nature of Haig’s career. But after decades of character acting work in shows like MacGuyver, The A-Team, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Haig achieved a cult following that saw him gain a second wave of popularity. He featured in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and Kill Bill Vol. 2. In between those two movies, he took on the role of the killer clown Captain Spaulding, a character who would re-cement Haig as a horror icon and shape the later part of his career.
The explosion of the internet and the popularity of exploring and dissecting pop culture means that more people have come to appreciate the hard work and zeitgeist shaping nature of performers like Haig. These working actors just happen to have been a part of almost every important moment in cult and counter culture filmmaking, which has more and more become a vital part of mainstream film and television history. We’ll miss Haig and are grateful for all the wonderful work that’s made him a cinematic legend. Rest in Peace, Sid.
Header Image: Miramax Films