Five of the most memorable priests in film
Actor Brendan Gleeson and director John Michael McDonagh will follow up their hit film The Guard with the recently-announced Calvary. Gleeson will play a priest in Calvary so JOE decided to look back at some of the most memorable men of the cloth to appear on the big screen.
By Dermot Keys
Father Damien Karras – The Exorcist
They famously needed “an old priest and a young priest” in this 1972 film, to quote Mr Austin Powers. Fr Damien (Jason Miller) is struggling with his faith when he’s asked to help exorcise a demon from a 12-year-old girl.
There’s nothing quite like a projectile-vomiting, head-spinning demon child to renew your faith. However, things get steadily worse for Fr Damo when he loses his older wingman. The trainee exorcist spends much of the film looking scared but he gets extra brownie points for taking on the actual Devil… well, the actually Hollywood Devil.
Priest – Priest
Paul Bettany makes a habit of playing weirdos in movies, but the imaginatively-named Priest is pretty ridiculous – even by his standards. He’s a kind of Teenage Mutant Ninja Priest (complete with a crucifix tattoo on his face) who specialises in killing vampires. I bet you’re starting to realise why you missed this one in the cinema, eh?
In the film’s post-apocalyptic world, kung fu priests defeated an army of vampires. However, our hero must return to battle when some vamps kidnap his niece. Bettany spends most of the film trying to look intense but he ends up looking mildly-constipated.
Fr McGruder – Braindead
Peter Jackson didn’t always make New Zealand tourist videos featuring characters from JRR Tolkien books. He used to make gory horror movies on a shoestring budget.
Braindead is a cult classic that features Stuart Devenie as Fr “I kick arse for thy Lord” McGruder. The good Father unleashes his kung fu skills on a group of zombies who invade his town. Imagine a roundhouse-kicking Fr Ted in pyjamas and a dressing gown and you’re halfway there. Fr McGruder’s big scene is only two minutes long but it’s two minutes of absolute brilliance.
Padre – Machete
Who better than cinema’s seminal stoner to play a shotgun-toting Mexican priest in Robert Rodriguez’s over-the-top B movie? Cheech Marin stars as Machete’s brother and he gets to drop cheesy lines like “God has mercy – I don’t.”
He’s a “priest who’s good with blessings but better with guns,” and he’s happy to unleash holy war on anyone who mistakes him for the turn-the-other-cheek type. And since this is a Rodriguez film, Padre gets his own stylised shoot-out to show off his skills.
Harry Powell – Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum’s former convict poses as a preacher to marry a thief’s widow and get his hands on the dead man’s hidden loot. Mitchum exudes menace as the creepy impostor who terrorises his stepchildren in this classic thriller.
The black garb, his dead eyes, and his pseudo-biblical ramblings all combine to make Powell one of cinema’s great psychos. Not to mention his casual attitude to murder. The famous scene where he explains the LOVE and HATE tattoos on his knuckles tells you this is a guy who clearly isn’t in the running for the Well-Adjusted Human Being of the Year Award.