Sid Haig – born Sidney Eddy Mosesian, July 14th, 1939 – is a California-born actor of American and Armenian heritage. His roles have included acting in Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s, films of varying budgets made by the likes of Roger Corman, George Lucas and Eddie Romero before finding a new audience specifically in the horror genre after his role as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s films House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
After a childhood which began with a passion for dance and music, in particular the drums, Haig’s love for entertaining people expanded into the acting field whilst he was still at school. Keeping his options open, he recorded one single for the T-Birds, aged nineteen, called “Full House”, an instrumental rock ‘n’ roll tune which performed well in the local California area, reaching number 4 on the regional charts. However, this potential career was abandoned in favour of treading the boards, due in no small part to the influence of his school drama teacher, Alice Merill, herself a minor Broadway star.
After enrolling in the Pasadena Playhouse, the renowned acting school which had also contributed to the later success of the likes of Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman; a chance meeting with another Broadway star, Dennis Morgan (The Return of Doctor X) had convinced Haig that acting was the way forward and duly the bright lights of Hollywood proved irresistible.
Further good fortune saw Haig’s first screen role being in Jack Hill’s UCLA short film, The Host, in 1960, a union which was to be increasingly fruitful over the coming years. Until the latter end of the 1960’s, it seemed likely that Haig would become a mainstay of the television treadmill; early roles saw him appear as often larger than life characters in programmes such as one of the henchman to Victor Buono’s King Tut in Batman, the be-cloaked First Lawgiver in Star Trek and two parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. However, a reunion with Hill saw him appearing in the jumbled Corman production, Blood Bath (1966) that partly used footage from the Yugoslav-shot Operation Titan. It was not in any sense a massive success but it was a precursor to a film which was equally unconventional but immeasurably more influential.
1967’s Spider Baby (aka The Maddest Story Ever Told) saw Haig, with his now recognisable shaven head, appearing as Ralph Merrye, a sexually complex, feral youngster with only rudimentary understandings of language and social etiquette. Performing alongside the legendary Lon Chaney Jr, it didn’t trouble the box office but it did showcase Haig’s remarkable physical acting style, as well as securing his mantle as one of the industry’s go-to character actors.
Further television roles followed (of note were parts in Gunsmoke, Get Smart and a record number of guest appearances in Mission: Impossible), though Hill returned for his trusty partner in crime for Pitstop (1969) and the exploitation masterpieces The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Birdcage (1972). The mainstream threatened to strike with lesser roles in Lucas’ THX1138 and Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (both 1971) but it was in exploitation films and in particular, blaxploitation, that Haig became best known… at least for another twenty-odd years.
Eddie Romero’s Black Mama, White Mama (1973) and Savage Sisters (1974) and Hill’s Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) saw Haig as an often villainous and ominous character, his huge frame, swarthy looks, bald head and South American dictator’s beard allowing him to play characters from a variety of backgrounds. Though helping to pay the bills, more regular work was again found more easily on the small screen, the 1980’s providing many opportunities, from The Fall Guy to The A-Team, to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century to the short-lived Werewolf, almost always as the villain of the episode.
Parts in genre films The Aftermath (1982) and more especially Galaxy of Terror (1981, the trashy Alien-a-like romp which also gave early roles to Robert Englund and Grace Zabriskie) proved once more to be false dawns leading Haig to announce in 1992, quite likely to a meagre audience, that he was retiring from the business: “I’ll never play another stupid heavy again, and I don’t care if that means that I never work, ever.”
The wilderness years, bizarrely, saw Haig becoming a qualified hypnotherapist. A pocket watch-swinging career was curtailed five years later when Quentin Tarantino came calling, having written a role specifically for him as Judge, for the blaxploitation homage, Jackie Brown, reuniting him with Pam Grier. Having passed on the opportunity to appear in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in the Marsellus Wallace role later taken by Ving Rhames, it was a turning point in Haig’s career. Some three years later, another student of genre films, Rob Zombie, cast Haig in his film House of 1000 Corpses, the character of Captain Spaulding almost immediately becoming a fan favourite and leading to a reprised performance in Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. Haig also appeared as Captain Spaulding in Zombie’s animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
Spurred on by numerous horror industry awards and nominations, Haig enjoyed one of the most productive periods of his career, at least in terms of numbers of films, if not necessarily high quality or memorable. A minor part in Zombie’s Halloween was probably a blessing not to be larger, whilst lower-budget fare featuring the actor included the risible Night of the Living Dead 3D, Brotherhood of Blood, Dark Moon Rising, Hatchet III and The Inflicted, often alongside other horror film survivors from yesteryear, such as Ken Foree and Michael Berryman (the latter appearing, yet again, in Zombie’s The Lords of Salem). As of the time of writing, Haig has four films in varying stage of production, including Bone Tomahawk and Suicide for Beginners.