Max von Sydow was born on April 10, 1929 – so I’m a day late in celebrating his birthday. Still, it’s Monster Sketch Monday, so hopefully that’s okay with you folks.
The prolific Swedish actor was in over 150 films and TV series. When SAW ran a How Many Max von Sydow films have you seen I have to admit I only came up with 22. What films they were, though! The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist, Dune, Flash Gordon, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Strange Brew… Come on, he was great in Strange Brew!
An imposing presence and voice, von Sydow elevated every film he was in and I was always happy to see him show up on screen, He worked pretty steadily until his death in 2020 and he would sometimes show up in surprising places (as the voice of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters 2, for instance).
He didn’t often do horror movies, which is the nominal cause of this particular featured, but the few he did were iconic. You can argue about The Seventh Seal or The Virgin Spring – I think they count, personally – but Father Merrin in The Exorcist is probably his best known role. (I still haven’t seen Hour of the Wolf – I know, I know, it’s on the list). Other than that we’ve got films like The Night Visitor, Dreamscape, Needful Things, Sleepless and even a brief appearance in the director’s cut of 2010’s The Wolf Man.
Outside of horror films I tend to think of Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon and Kynes, the Judge of the Change in 1984’s Dune. And Brewmeister Smith in Strange Brew, of course.
I had thought to do either a version of Ming, as it’s probably his most striking look, or Father Merrin because it’s his most famous role. In the end I wanted to celebrate the man’s entire career – so we have a younger man from his early Bergman days and an older man still appearing shows like Game of Thrones and in Star Wars films. (Though I did put him in Merrin’s collar, because I couldn’t help myself.
So what’s your favorite Max von Sydow film or role? And have you seen Strange Brew? Why not?