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Julian Beck: More Than a “Poltergeist” Victim

To see the terror in some situations, you have to look at
them through the eyes of a child. Hence,
the most frightening moments in Poltergeist II rely not on phantasmagorical
special effects, but on the presence of Julian Beck. As the Reverend Kane, Beck plays a
sinister stranger bent on isolating wee Carol Anne Freeling from her frantic
family for purposes unknown. Kane’s attempt to abduct the girl from a busy shopping mall and wheedle his way into the Freeling house
have kept viewers returning to
this sequel long after they might’ve rationally outgrown it. Unlike F/X which age poorly, great performances are timeless.

Life itself was a performance for Beck: He co-founded the avant-garde Living Theatre with wife Judith Malina in 1947, a troupe equally famous for the lifestyle of its members as it was for any of the shows it produced.  Of course, few who were freaked by Beck’s final role knew of his work off-off-Broadway. In many circles, he’s simply a victim of the same "Poltergeist Curse" that claimed the lives of two other stars: Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunne. As Beck himself put it, "You cannot be free if you are contained within a fiction."  A repeat viewing of Poltergeist II may bear this out: Perhaps, for the first time, you will glimpse the man behind the monster, beyond the jinx.

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