Actor and cult favourite Robert Z’Dar passed away on Monday from cardiac arrest following heart complications, his manager and long-time friend Jim Decker has stated. He was 64.
Instantly recognisable for his hulking stature and truly immense chin, Z’Dar had a three-decade career largely playing memorable villains in low-budget productions, and as a result acquired a large and loyal fanbase who seek out obscure titles based on nothing other than his name appearing in the credits.
He is probably best known for his role as the undead killing machine Matthew Cordell in the three Maniac Cop films of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, while some other highlights include the “Japanese hitman” Yamashita in Samurai Cop (unrelated to Maniac Cop, even if the film’s poster tries to dupe you into thinking otherwise); taking over the role of Sam Hell from Rowdy Roddy Piper in Frogtown II, the magnificently dire sequel to Hell Comes to Frogtown; and the prostitute-murdering, soul-devouring, indestructible serial killer Chuck Sommers in The Night Stalker.
Some slightly more (relatively) mainstream roles were a henchman in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time and sidekick to Bryan Cranston’s villain in an episode of The Flash TV series from 1990, while his most conventional appearance was a prison gang leader in Tango & Cash.
His popularity only grew after two of his films were featured in 1999 episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. First was 1990’s Soultaker, where he played a blonde-mulletted Angel of Death and celestial middle management to the titular reaper man; and then came 1997’s Future War (a film of kickboxing, cardboard boxes and exploding dinosaurs), where he played a cyborg assassin hunting the film’s bargain-basement JCVD protagonist.
Like many cult actors he was a mainstay of the convention circuit, and was hospitalised while in Pensacola, Florida to attend the annual Pensacon. At the time of his death he was signed on to begin work on a belated sequel to Samurai Cop (subtitled Deadly Vengeance), in which he would have somehow reprised his role as the villainous Yamashita.
He will be sorely missed by many of us here at STARBURST and our thoughts are with his family and friends.
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