02 June, 2020

Dan Van Husen, R.I.P.

The prolific, versatile German character actor Dan Van Husen passed away on May 25, 2020 in England. Linda, his wife, was at his side. He died from COVID-19 complications and had also been in declining health, due to Alzheimer's disease, for several years. I was friends with Dan for around 20 years, I met him on a Spaghetti Western Internet board circa 2001. We then kept in touch through email, and eventually Facebook.

ABOVE: Dan Van Husen in Jess Franco's LA NOCHE DE LOS ASESINOS (1972). Dan was very friendly and generous with the time he took to help me understand his work with Jess Franco, whom I had been publishing articles and blog posts about since the early 1990s.

Dan had been in dozens of European genre films since the late 1960s. He had acted alongside Lee Van Cleef (in BAD MAN'S RIVER and other Spaghetti Westerns). He worked with Federico Fellini (in FELLINI'S CASANOVA), Werner Herzog, Tinto Brass (SALON KITTY) and many other legendary names. Between 1968 and 2019 he appeared in 145 films and television productions. At least 23 of his performances were in the Eurowestern category or Hollywood films such as EL CONDOR and DOC, which were filmed in Spain. His striking looks made him a natural for villain roles or unique character parts.

He acted in his first Jess Franco film, DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO (DEATH PACKS A SUITCASE) in April 1971. He appeared as a burglar working with the main villain (Horst Tappert). The film was a Bryan Edgar Wallace krimi, produced and co-written by CCC founder Artur Brauner, a German-Spanish co-production filmed in Alicante, Barcelona and London. Dan fit right into Franco's strange, mood-drenched universe and would be cast in four more of the director's films, including KISS ME KILLER and TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE (both 1973).

 His final film with Franco was the digital horror-comedy KILLER BARBYS VS. DRACULA (2002), where he played vampire hunter Dr. Seward. I spoke with Dan right after he made his final Franco film and he seemed to have had fun, being amused by Franco's frenetic, haphazard, low budget attempt to make a Dracula film, He was also pleased to be reunited with  1960s and 70s Spaghetti Western regulars Aldo Sambrell and Peter Martell, who also had roles in the shot-in-Spain musical-horror oddity.

ABOVE: Dan Van Husen was given a lifetime achievement acting award at the Almeria Film Festival

Dan was especially fond of his time spent making Franco's NIGHT OF THE SKULL, mostly because he got to act alongside his close friend, actress Swan Heinze, whom he also worked with in Franco's KISS ME KILLER, a Eurocine remake of the director's atmospheric 1962 noir LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES. He admitted he didn't have any recall whatsoever of appearing in KISS ME KILLER or TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE, in which he appeared as a tough homicide detective. Both of those films seem to have been made back-to-back in late 1973 or in such hectic circumstances that they were wiped from his memory. After all, Franco made 12 films in 1973, an amazing amount even for him. When I asked him if he remembered anything at all about them, he laughed saying, "Well, you know Jess, he sometimes made two or three films at the same time without telling the actors about how many films they were playing in"

Dan continued to send me emails inquiring about how I was doing, sending holiday greetings and reporting updates and information on his continuing acting career. I'll miss hearing from him.

Dan Van Husen was a memorable, reliable, versatile character actor and one of the good guys.

Thanks to Tom Betts.

(C) Robert Monell, 2020.

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