The 'Super Swedish Angel'
It was sometimes said that Rondo Hatton was the only horror film star who didn't need any make-up, but with the entry of Tor Johnson into the genre, that simply wasn't true anymore. With his startlingly large shoulders, bull-neck, shaved head and fearsome grimaces, Johnson cut a wide and visually memorable swath through a number of mediocre films. In the 1930s he barnstormed the U.S. as a professional wrestler, billed as the "Super Swedish Angel," as distinct from Phil Olafsson, the "Swedish Angel," who actually bore more of a resemblance to Rondo Hatton.
In 1935, he played a wrestler in a W.C. Fields movie, The Man on the Flying Trapeze, and followed that with brief appearances in other Hollywood movies. His horror movie career took off in earnest when he was invited by B-movie director Ed Wood to play "Lobo," the atomic monster-creation of "Dr. Vornoff" (played by Bela Lugosi) in Bride of the Monster (1955). With a thick Swedish accent and unfocused thespian style, Johnson was no Olivier, but he did play a key role in Wood's classic of bad cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), and made a career of replaying "Lobo" in subsequent B movies and public appearances around southern California.
Now a cult figure of sorts, his face was used as the model for a popular Halloween mask, he was portrayed by wrestler George "The Animal" Steele in Tim Burton's 1995 film Ed Wood, and he even showed up as a character in an underground comic book, Tor Love Betty, as a "Lobo"-like, ardent admirer of pin-up girl Bettie Page.
Johnson was born on this day in 1903, and died on May 12, 1971 in Los Angeles.