Monday, 22 November 2010

Horrific Beards I Have Known – The Sci-Fi Edition

Brian Blessed
Prince Vultan
Flash Gordon (1980) and just generally, in everything, in life, always

Brian Blessed is quite definitely one of my absolute favourite actors, no people, on the planet ever. My husband and I quite often in everyday life spontaneously decide to have ‘Talk Like Brian Blessed Hours’. The man is a clearly a great big, mountainous, booming bloody genius, and that’s before we get anywhere near the beard. Brian is a beard devotee. Brian’s beard is a constant, it’s a life choice, it’s a personality all of its very own, and, frankly, it’s the kind of beard that you could trap bears in.

Flash Gordon epitomises everything I love; it’s brash, it’s camp, it’s kitsch, it’s bright and colourful and it’s full of British character actors and pervy costumes. It’s pretty much exactly how I see the world and how I want it to be. It’s also soundtracked by the pantomime dames of rock, Queen.

As Prince Vultan leader of the Hawk People Brian steals the show. He is a winged vision in metal pants. There aren’t many men who can carry that look off, but Brian does with dignity and aplomb. The might of his beard in this performance is undeniable, surrounded by glittering, regal gold the beard gives the impression that if left to its devices not only could it merrily take down Emperor Ming the Merciless it could quite easily give him a good shouting at, straighten him out and get him a job with good prospects in the Mingo City civil service. The beard is that authoritative and mighty. It sits about Brian’s face saying: yes, I am wearing a combination of leather, lamé and feathers, what are you going to do about it?

It would be remiss of me, in any discussion pertaining to the man, the legend, Brian Blessed not to include at least a mention my favourite performance of his as Richard, The Duke of York in The Black Adder. There can’t ever have been a role more perfect for any actor than this one. Brian is comedy perfection in this, the most underrated of the Blackadder series, he gleefully hams it up as the warmongering Richard IV who likes nothing more than fighting, banqueting, hunting, drinking and bellowing. In The Black Adder Brian’s beard takes the bold step to allow the hair to join in the fun, the result – a level of hirsute insanity never before, or since, witnessed by the eyes of man. If there was ever an actor you could believe defeated an entire Turkish horde armed only with a small knife used for peeling fruit it’s Brian.

A hundred years ago when I thought that the theatre was an appropriate profession for me I quite often found myself turning to Brian and the lessons learned from him, and I became a proponent for the ‘if in doubt shout’ school of acting. Now, obviously Mr. Blessed, despite being the figurehead of this school that I made up in head, is never in doubt, he’s a great British actor of immense talent and experience and his characteristic booming voice comes not from any incapability but from skill and his very nature, the power and dynamism he embodies that allows him to command audiences the world over. However, for the less accomplished actor, this is a very useful technique as you can quite easily pass off a lack of talent for deeply considered character development resulting in uncontainable volcanic emotion and passion with very little actual thought or effort. (While I generally got good reviews, I was quite often called ‘dangerous’, ‘combustible’ and ‘an alarming presence’ as an actor and I’m fairly sure these weren’t really compliments).

Apparently you now can get Brian on your satnav. I can’t think of anything better than that. TURN RIGHT NOW!!!!

Brian Blessed has committed himself to the beard probably more than any other man before him. And his beard is the best, it’s a tremendous specimen envied the world over. I’d go as far as far as to say that God is jealous of Brian’s beard. In hundreds of years when societies have fallen and what remains of the earth is a sparsely populated blasted wasteland the survivors will huddle round fires into the night and they will tell tales of Brian’s beard and it’s glory and it will give them hope.

Brian Blessed: actor, adventurer, author, protector and shelterer of animals, legend, may you continue adventuring at high volume for years to come and may your beard remain as bushy and as magnificent.


  1. Oh, Brian Blessed! He and his beard are truly magnificent. And Brian could perhaps be the best gameshow host ever, as shown by this clip...

  2. I love BLACK ADDER!!! Yea B.B.!
    Though I think I first fell in love with Mr. B when he appeared in the famed Doctor Who episode TRIAL OF A TIME LORD.
    I'd grow my beard back too, cept it now comes in pure white/grey and makes me look like a homeless man at the bus depot :(

  3. Love Brian Blessed and his character in Flash Gordon!

  4. I worship at the altar of Blessed. And of this post.

    We're not worthy!! We're not worthy!!

    (As proof, my CAPTCHA is "colest", which I assume means this is in fact the COOLEST thing ever.)

  5. Brian Blessed is amazing. His beard is an example to all men of how facial hair should be...I sometimes wish I could grow a beard.

  6. Agreed - Brian Blessed is too awesome for words.

    In fact, much of my alienation from mainstream cinema over the past decade or so stems from the fact that they keep churning out these big fantasy sagas and whatnot, and BRIAN BLESSED'S NOT IN THEM. I mean, who the fuck films about eight hours worth of bloody Lord of the Rings without ensuring Brian Blessed is on side? USELESS.

    Not that he could care less, given that he's busy climbing mountains, saving Yetis and trying to build moonbases... in short, I refer you to my first sentence.

  7. Oriel, awesomeness! Love it!

    Rogue, I love Blackadder too. That's probably obvious. I think the first series is terribly underrated. Oh, I do love Brian in Doctor Who too, and I should have included that. I bet your beard is fabulous, I'm sure you look distinguished and heroic and not at all homeless.

    Thanks for the Brian love, Daniel, you are a man of good taste.

    Oh, Mike, as always you are right, the altar of Blessed should indeed be worshipped at. You, like Brian, are the coolest.

    Milly, I bet you'd still be super cute with a beard.

    Ben, you sir, are a man after my own heart. I couldn't agree with you more. Modern cinema has it all wrong. Nowhere near enough Brian. He'd have been so wonderful in so many things, including Lotd. I was briefly excited a while ago when I heard a rumour that Brian was going to be playing Odin on the new Thor movie. Perfect casting you'd think. But apparently it's going to be Anthony Hopkins now. World's gone mad.

    Thanks so much all of you. Huzzah, for Brian!

  8. That bearded dude looks like the "Cool Story, Bro!" guy....

  9. Damn - got here too late to be the one to recommend those fabulous outtakes, which have been one of my biggest joys for years now ("Give me that fucking badge back!" - priceless.)
    I also know a good story about BB storming out of a lecture on mountaineering in my home town of Plymouth because he thought the audience wasn't taking it seriously enough, but going to the wrong door, which was locked, and making a big show of trying to open it and failing, and shouting, and going back the other way in an even fouler mood. (Not so good in print but very funny when acted out.)
    Also, did you ever see him on Ready Steady Cook? He brought the most ridiculously useless ingredients, including ice cream, and then went into raptures about how much he loves ice cream. I do a good impression of that, too, though I say so myself, but I'm hoping you saw it and know exactly what I'm talking about.

    Should have known you'd be a fan of the Great Grumbledook. So much better than those ordinary, studio-bound follow-ups. It's surely the most expensive-looking sitcom ever, with amazing location filming, and a more potent sense of period than many a straight historical drama. And a real sense of cruelty, too, which greatly appealed to me as a child.

    Oh, and have you seen BB in the 1983 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles? Worth tracking down - he's on form.

    (Note: By 'BB' I'm referring to Brian Blessed, obviously, and not Brigitte Bardot. To the best of my knowledge the Sex Kitten did not go the wrong way trying to storm out of a lecture on mountaineering.)



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