Hal Holbrook was most widely known for his portrayal of Mark Twain in a one-man show he created called Mark Twain Tonight!, as well as many other theater performances and film roles over the course of 70+ years as an actor. Revered, award-worthy roles that garnered him much earned praise that would take him through his entire career. But the one role that will always stick out to me and with me was his role as Henry Northrup in 1982s Creepshow. “The Crate” was the segment Holbrook was in, portraying a beaten down and cuckolded husband to Adrienne Barbeau who gets a plan to rid himself of his loud mouth, abusive drunk of a wife by feeding her to a Tasmanian Devil that lives in a crate under a stairwell at the University where he teaches.
I watched Creepshow when I was 10-years old. Maybe I was too young, but it was the 80s and things were different back then. That movie defined for me what horror films should be; dark, funny, smart, disturbing, and should elicit a visceral feeling in you. Creepshow still remains one of my all-time favorite horror films, and “The Crate” was the one that gave me the most chills. Holbrook’s Henry was the beaten down, soft-spoken husband that you wanted to see come out on top. In the end I think he does.
Hal Holbrook was one of those actors that carried himself well. He was a Midwesterner, like me, and he had a no nonsense approach to his roles. I appreciated him in everything I saw him in. He reminded me of my grandfather somewhat. The quiet, reserved Midwesterner that did his job well and to the best of his ability. Jason Robards was another actor that I put into that category, and another Midwesterner. I always wished that Hal Holbrook could’ve portrayed Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout in a proper film adaptation of Breakfast of Champions. I think he would have nailed that role.
RIP Hal Holbrook. Thanks for so many great performances. And thanks for Henry Northrup.