09 November 2017

Brad Harris (1933-2017)

On 7 November 2017, American stuntman and actor Brad Harris passed away. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was one of the muscular action heroes of the European cinema and he played in about 50 Peplums, Eurospy films and Spaghetti Westerns. Harris was 84.

Brad Harris
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, no. 2169. Photo: Rapid / Gloria / Marhoffer. Publicity still for Die Flusspiraten vom Mississippi/Pirates of the Mississippi (Jürgen Roland, 1963).

Muscular Peplum Hero

Brad Harris was born Bradford Harris in St. Anthony, a small town in eastern Idaho, USA in 1933. His family moved to California where he attended Burbank High School. He came from a family in the banking business and intended to make a career in the same area.

In the early 1950s, he received an athletic scholarship to UCLA where he studied economics. When he injured his knee playing football he was advised to take up weight lifting to strengthen the injury. This developed his interest in bodybuilding.

His studies may have been intended as the groundwork for a career in his family's banking business, but Harris instead drifted into the fringes of Los Angeles' movie industry, and secured employment as a stunt man.

He also played a small role in Monkey on My Back (André De Toth, 1957) starring Cameron Mitchell as a World War II hero and champion professional boxer, who became addicted to morphine. He also appeared in the western 13 Fighting Men (Harry W. Gerstad, 1960) with Grant Williams.

Harris travelled to Rome to watch the 1960 Summer Olympics and to perform stunts as a gladiator in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) starring Kirk Douglas. He stayed in Europe and found himself working as a second-unit director for the short film Eco nel villaggio/Echo in the village (Themistocles Hoetis, 1961).

Harris was invited to join the ranks of American actors and body-builders in the Peplum genre (sword and sandal films) - following in the wake of Steve Reeves' successful portrayal of Hercules.

Harris first starring role was as Goliath in the Peplum Goliath contro i giganti/Goliath Against the Giants (Guido Malatesta, 1961) opposite Spanish actor Fernando Rey. He then played Samson in Sansone/Samson (Gianfranco Parolini, 1961), and Hercules in La furia di Ercole/The Fury of Hercules (Gianfranco Parolini, 1962), both with bodybuilder Sergio Ciani a.k.a. Alan Steel and French musician Serge Gainsbourg.

His good looks and muscular build kept Harris in demand. Of the muscular Peplum heroes, Brad Harris was the first to branch out into other film genres. When the Peplum genre began to fade away, he moved into a spate of action films.

In Germany he appeared in Heißer Hafen Hong Kong/Hong Kong Hot Harbor (Jürgen Roland, 1962) with Marianne Koch, and Weiße Fracht für Hongkong/Operation Hong Kong (Helmut Ashley, Giorgio Stegani, 1964) featuring Maria Perschy.

Harris discovered that stunt coordinators were nonexistent in Germany and he often did extra duties as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, and second unit director. During the shooting of Das Geheimnis der chinesischen Nelke/Secret of the Chinese Carnation (Rudolf Zehetgruber, 1964), he fell in love with his co-star, Czech actress Olga Schoberová. They married in 1967, but divorced two years later.

Brad Harris
German card. Photo: Rapid / Constantin / Michaelis. Publicity still for Die Schwarzen Adler von Santa Fé/Black Eagle of Santa Fe (Ernst Hofbauer, 1965).

Brad Harris
German card. Photo: Parnass Film GmBH. Publicity still for Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt/Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (Gianfranco Parolini, 1966).

Kommissar X

In 1963, Brad Harris co-starred with Hansjörg Felmy in the early Euro-Western Die Flusspiraten vom Mississippi/Pirates of the Mississippi (Jürgen Roland, 1963).

It lead to more parts in Westerns like the West-German-Italian-French co-production Die Goldsucher von Arkansas/Massacre at Marble City (Paul Martin, 1964) with Mario Adorf, another West-German-Italian-French co-production Die schwarzen Adler von Santa Fe/Black Eagle of Santa Fe (Ernst Hofbauer, 1965) with Tony Kendall, the Spanish-Italian Un hombre vino a matar/Rattler Kid (León Klimovsky, 1967) and the Italian Wanted Sabata (Roberto Mauri, 1970).

Another popular European genre in which he often starred was the Euro-spy-thriller. Examples are A 001, operazione Giamaica/Our Man in Jamaica (Ernst R. von Theumer, Mel Welles, 1965) starring Larry Pennell and Barbara Valentin, and the Kommissar X film series (1966-1971), six films featuring Tony Kendall.

By 1970, Harris was writing and producing films and headed his own production company, Three Star Films, including distribution and foreign sales in Rome, Italy. In addition, he acted as creative consultant for various German film companies.

He also continued to work in genre films like the Giallo La casa della paura/The Girl in 2A (William Rose, 1974) with Raf Vallone, and the horror comedy Lady Dracula (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1978), for which he had also written the story.

He also served as executive producer on several of his films such as the Sci-fi horror The Mutations (Jack Cardiff, 1974) starring Donald Pleasence. In the following decades he guest starred in popular series as the German Krimi series Derrick (1979) and the American soap operas Dallas (1984-1989) and Falcon Crest (1984-1989).

He also appeared in a new version of Hercules (Luigi Cozzi, 1983), now starring TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno. At the 4th Golden Raspberry Awards, Hercules was nominated for five awards: worst screenplay, worst supporting actress (Sybil Danning), worst actor (Lou Ferrigno), worst new star (Ferrigno), and worst picture. It won Raspberries for worst supporting actress and worst new star.

Since then Harris only incidentally returned for the cameras. He invented an exercise machine called AB-OrigOnals, and owns a fitness products company called Modern Body Design. At the Muscle Beach Bodybuilding Championship in 2001, Harris received a special achievement award along with other ‘Legends of Hercules’ - Mark Forest, Ed Fury, Mickey Hargitay, Richard Harrison, Reg Lewis, Peter Lupus and Gordon Mitchell.

In 2012, he returned to the screen in the American thriller Shiver (Julian Richards, 2012) starring Caspar van Dien, for which he also served as executive producer, and in the German comedy Die X-Männer schlagen zurück/The X-Men Strike Back (Reginald Ginster, 2012), for which he was reunited with Tony Kendall.

Brad Harris passed away on 7 November 2017 at the age of 84. Harris was a member of the Stuntman's Hall of Fame. He and his ex-wife Olga Schoberová had a daughter, Sabrina (Babrinka) Harris.

Trailer for A 001, operazione Giamaica/Our Man in Jamaica (1965). Source: Dolorado Films (YouTube).

Trailer Hercules (1983). Source: Old Hollywood Trailers (YouTube).

Sources: Bruce Eder (AllMovie), Brian J. Walker (Brian’s Drive-In Theater), Wikipedia and IMDb.


diets said...

Looks like a great movie. Never seen it. Are you going to post it full? Please do!

Bob of Holland said...

Which of the three do you mean, Diets?