I love a good comeback as much as the next person. Although, this may be a spectral return to form more than it’s a full-bodied apparition. Judy Matheson is a self-proclaimed jobbing actress who rose to cult fame after co-starring in a handful of horror movies including Crucible of Terror, The Exquisite Cadaver, The Flesh and Blood Show, The House That Vanished, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil. The 1970’s were a pivotal time for film production, especially in England and overseas, and the time period spawned a generation of classic films that are held in heavy regard to this very day. And that’s where Judy Matheson comes in. Having the unique opportunity to experience these pictures behind-the-scenes has given her insights and stories that have withstood decades of fluctuating horror fads. The 1970’s and early 1980’s have come to be known as The Golden Age of Horror, and many titles from this era, as well as their participants, are incredibly well-respected by film enthusiasts including Matheson. She reflects, “I would never have imagined the interest and regard that some of my work still amasses so many years later. I am constantly amazed by the fact that the Hammer Films, in particular, have such a huge international following. I was simply lucky enough to be consistently in work, and I never considered that the work I did would eventually be held as ‘cult.’ That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy being a guest at film conventions, as it’s so amazing to meet fans who know a lot more about my movies than I do!”
After finding stardom in horror films that saw her rubbing shoulders with Isobel Black, Ray Brooks, Peter Cushing, Peter Forbes-Robertson, Barbara Jefford and Ronald Lacey, Judy took on the world of television production; starting with a leading arc on “Crossroads” in 1977. Numerous guest appearances on other shows, including “Blake’s 7” in 1980, and Matheson was ready to pursue other loves, other creative outlets, and other special endeavors. Although she still occasionally lends her voice to various narrations, her life is full of relaxation and education in 2018. Judy says, “Life today consists of fun, family and frolics. And that’s only on Mondays! I have been teaching for the past 14 years, though I’m just about to retire from that. I’m also an Honorary Patron of The Misty Moon Film Society in London. Whenever I can, I go to one of their fascinating gigs. They run events such as ‘Evenings With…’ and special Q & A’s with actors and actresses from international stage, television and film. The Misty Moon Film Society has branched out into theatrical and film production. I also attend film conventions as a guest from time to time, which I always thoroughly enjoy.” It was due to her involvement with The Misty Moon Film Society that Judy returned to on-screen acting in a new short film titled Frankula.
Frankula, a seven minute retro short film and comedic spoof, was produced by The Misty Moon Film Society inspired by the British comedy, “Please Sir.” Featuring classic movie villains in more wholesome roles, Frankula is Judy’s first physical film appearance in over 44 years. Although she’s a talented and seasoned performer, the idea of appearing on-screen again was a little daunting. The cult actress admits, “I was actually pretty doubtful about appearing on-screen again, but producer Suart Morris, the inspirational curator of Misty Moon, persuaded me into believing it would be a fun thing to do, and he was right! Of course, I was also thrilled with the prospect of finally working with the magnificent Caroline Munro, whom I have known and admired for years; not to mention the wonderfully talented, young film-maker Emma Dark, and veteran actor and author David Barry. After reading the script, accepting the role of Vera Vomit was a no-brainer. My character, Vera Vomit, seemed cloaked in venom, together with a touch of mystery and mischief. What’s not to love?” Elaborating more on her character and overall experience, Matheson says, “I decided to attempt a quasi-Transylvanian accent for Vera, partly in homage to the incomparable Ingrid Pitt. Being on set, all on location, was huge fun, but what struck me most, after so many years away from the film process, was how very professional and efficient the experience was. I have nothing but total admiration for the work our small film crew did, led by the extraordinary jack-of-all-trades, our talented director Jason Read.”
With years of stage, television and film work under her belt, I wanted to ask Judy how she felt about the advances in media capturing technology. The Golden Age of Horror wasn’t always the most modern or glamorized, and I wondered if she was impartial to more traditional methods of film-making. She says, “Advances in filming techniques can only be good, and as an avid film fan, I can appreciate the amazing special effects used today. Having said that, I do think it is possibly more difficult for an actor when working in front of a green screen with all the CGI effects that can be wrought. I think back to, for instance, my scene in Twins of Evil with real flames leaping around me while the great Peter Cushing intones his blessing and [real flames] certainly helped that it was truly frightening for me to play.” Finally, I wondered one last thing – did her appearance in Frankula usher in a new desire to grace the small screen in the future? Judy divulges, “Of course, I’m always open to offers, but I don’t have a career in acting anymore. However, the occasional cameo is very welcomed.”
Judy, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me for HorrorSociety.com. As I mentioned in our original correspondence, I felt like I was talking to a legend! Horror fans, watch this incredibly talented performer and honorable woman in Frankula below!