Ten brilliant actors bringing their A-Game to playing the a-hole. Ineptitude has never been so funny.
10. Principal Rooney
Jeffrey Jones does “hapless bastard” like no body’s business. As the foil in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Principal Rooney fancies himself a Dirty Harry of the school hall. By end credits roll, the beaten Rooney is more like the Coyote to Matthew Broderick‘s Roadrunner, aka Ferris Bueller. In a bizarre twist of fate, Jones is now a registered as a sex offender after a 2003 arrest for soliciting a minor for X-rated photos.
9. Walter Peck
When Walter Peck makes his first appearance at the firehouse headquarters in Ghostbusters, the clenched-jawed, indignant EPA fink oozes more slime than the other ghosts combined. Played pitch perfect by William Atherton, just listen to the way the paper pushing, pencil neck Peck asks, “May I please see the storage facility, Mr. Vennkman?” It’s smarminess raised to high art.
8. Vice Principal Vernon
I will fight you if you don’t think Paul Gleason is the MVP of The Breakfast Club. Bare knuckles, knives, chains, pointed sticks, you just name it. Gleason channels a slightly psychotic, ramrod straight drill sergeant diligence into Richard “Dick” Vernon. It’s the type of performance by an actor that understands the importance of playing the straight man. At the end of the day, Vice Principal Vernon walks away with the most laughs… and a toilet seat cover stuck to his pants.
7. Detective Hank Dick
Another dick in the deck, this Dick is a pain in the neck. Billy Zane stars as Joey Turks in Blood & Concrete: A Love Story, an ’90’s indie comedy that never got its due. Among the colorful jibber-jabbing characters that fill the flick, classic TV actor Darren McGavin goes nutso with gusto as deranged Detective Hank Dick. A scene where he drives into midday traffic while scowling straight at Zane squirming away riding shotgun, done as one long take, is priceless.
6. Officer Bimbeau
There’s those who see The Hollywood Knights as a prank filled raunchfest and a treasure trove of quotes for those in the know. Then there’s the high minded, self anointed purveyors of taste like alleged “movie reviewer” Pete Laurie. Doomed buffoons forever confused by the antics of the Newbaum Turks of the world. Representing this Laurie-esque ass clownery is Gaylord Sartain as Officer Bimbeau. It’s a performance one can only assume Pete Laurie found mesmerizing.
5. Dean Vernon Wormer
Fondly and forever remembered as the dean of mean at Faber University ain’t a bad legacy to have. As Dean Vernon Wormer, John Vernon owns it. Just owns it. Watch the scene where he stalks into Delta house like a predator in a three piece suit. Voice sounding like a tank rolling over a gravel rock road as he foolishly lowers the boom on our heroes in Animal House. For it’s said lowered boom that seals the fate of Wormer’s academic career, leading to his last words: “I hate those guys…”
4. Sergeant Stedenko
Thank Stacy Keach for acting the shit out of what could’ve been a one-joke pony from Up In Smoke. A master craftsman like Keach brings the bombast big time. You can practically feel the heat off bellowing windbag Sergeant Stedenko. As the narc’s quest to catch Cheech & Chong repeatedly derails due to incompetence,we feel Stedenko’s misery go from slow burn to full blown freak out in the finale as the stoned sergeant finally lets it all go and goes for it.
3. Major Vaughn Liceman
Up The Academy is Mad Magazine’s attempt to get some leftover Lampoon tang at the box office. As a critical and financial disaster, it’s undeniable. As comedy gold spun by Ron Leibman, it’s irrefutable. Leibman revels in maniacal glee whenever commanding recruits to “Say it again!” Telegraphing the Major’s major sadistic side, his presence always comes with an over the top icy wind and the ominous dirge of the Stooges “Gimme Danger.” It’s sheer dingbat surrealism that would make David Lynch proud.
2. Judge Smails
All hail the judge. Ted Knight takes his stuffed shirt persona from TV’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show and goes to big screen-levels of cartoonish self-important buffoonery. If viewed as a study into one man’s descent into mental illness, Caddyshack becomes a tale about Hizzoner having an extended nervous breakdown as his world – safe “snob” country club life – becomes invaded by madness – the “slobs.” Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield are wild cards in the comedic deck, but the ace up the movie’s sleeve is Knight. A poker metaphor used for a golf flick? Deal with it.
1. Sheriff Buford T. Justice
There is no way, no way Jackie Gleason could steal this movie from Burt Reynolds. It’s Gleason’s movie to begin with. It’s called Smokey and the Bandit, not the other way around. Director Hal Needham wisely gave Gleason free range to improvise. In every scene he’s in as the career lawman hellbent on taking down the Bandit, Gleason deploys Oliver Hardy-like fastidiousness to his mannerisms. The classic scene in a Choke-and-Puke diner where Justice orders an El Diablo sandwich and has no idea the fellow chatting him up is the Bandit himself – the only scene Gleason and Reynolds share the screen time together – was Gleason’s idea. Just another reason why he was known as The Great One.