Every now and then I like to highlight an underrated actor/actress you might not have heard of, and the latest addition to that list is 80’s heavy Wings Hauser. Beyond having one of the coolest names ever (seriously, I want to be named Wings in my next life) Mr. Hauser is also deserving of attention for the wide body of work he has contributed to the world of cult filmdom . . .
While his filmography dates back to the mid-70’s, Hauser made his first big cinematic splash in the 1982 film Vice Squad. Gary Sherman’s (Dead & Buried) standard crime thriller remains memorable to this day due to Hauser’s iconic villain performance. It was so strong, that it relegated Hauser to playing bad guy roles for most of his career (drawing comparisons in some circles to Richard Widmark), although he did manage to play a hero now and then (e. g. Dead Man Walking). From that jumping off point, Hauser worked steadily throughout the 80’s (and well into the 90’s) in numerous genre films including: Mutant, Uncommon Valor, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Beastmaster 2, Watchers 3, Tales from the Hood, and Original Gangstas to name but a few. Whether playing the villain (which he does so well) or the hero, his appearance always adds something special even to the blandest outing. He’s one of those folks who oozes charisma (often in the form of menace), and totally captures your attention when he’s on the screen. That he never became a major star is unfortunate, but you can still find him turning in memorable cameos on television in shows such as House and Monk (and for retro fun he appeared several times on The A-Team and Beverly Hills 90210).
My personal favorite Hauser film is the 1983 film Mutant. This zombie film is (despite a little cheese here and there), one of the best entries in that particular genre. In a setup echoing An American Werewolf in London, Hauser and his young brother enter an odd southern town where the inhabitants seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate. When Hauser’s brother turns up missing after an overnight stay, he begins to unravel a mystery that involves water pollution and the undead! Although it could have been a throwaway B-movie, this one has great suspense, a top-notch cast, good effects for the time, and even an orchestral score! Oh, and it has one of the coolest 80’s horror posters! If you haven’t seen it, run (don’t walk) to check it out. It’s a great way to discover the Hauser magic (not to mention a great zombie film).