Rest In Peace Don Calfa (1939 – 2016)
By Ken W. Hanley
December 2, 2016
Just a few days short of his 77th birthday, FANGORIA is sad to report that cult film and horror icon Don Calfa has passed away, as per various reports from his former co-stars. A fine performer and convention stalwart, Calfa’s standing in the genre film community was never questioned, and while he was long overdue for a career renaissance akin to his more prolific counterparts, Calfa’s work certainly speaks for itself, and will remain to do so for years to come.
Having started his career as a frequent collaborator of Robert Downey Sr., with a prominent supporting role in Downey’s benchmark cult film GREASER’S PALACE, Calfa quickly became a steady working character actor. Calfa found himself working with filmmakers such as Peter Bogdanovich, William Castle (in the killer mime film SHANKS), Martin Scorsese, Blake Edwards, Mark Rydell, and Steven Spielberg, whilst landing a memorable turn in the 1978 comedy hit FOUL PLAY. But Calfa wouldn’t cement his place in horror history until taking on the role of mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, where his pitch-perfect comedic timing and chemistry among the ensemble cast helped him steal scenes from greats such as Clu Gulager and James Karen.
While Calfa would find more success throughout the ’80s and ’90s, with memorable roles in projects such as WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S, BUGSY, and STAY TUNED, the actor would keep his toes in the world of horror throughout the years, with small but memorable roles in Brian Yuzna’s NECRONOMICON and PROGENY, the Peter Hyams-helmed episode of AMAZING STORIES, Troma’s CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, and even a blink-if-you-miss-it role in TWIN PEAKS. However, Calfa’s film work would slow down in recent years, with the actor instead spending time at horror conventions whilst enjoying his semi-retirement. His final genre film effort would be an uncredited turn in 2004’s CORPSES ARE FOREVER, helmed by genre filmmaker Jose Prendes.
Don Calfa passed away earlier this week at the age of 76, and he will be missed. Rest in Peace.
CALFA, Don (Donald George Calfa)
Born: 12/3/1939, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 12/1/2016, Palm Springs, California, U.S.A.
Don Calfa’s western – actor:
Greaser’s Palace – 1972 (Morris)