Law (along with Tim Lucas) delivers one of the most engaging commentary tracks I’ve ever heard on Paramount’s Diabolik DVD, and his obvious pride and pleasure in his work is truly infectious. This came across in person, too. I was lucky enough to meet Law on several occasions, and to hear him speak after screenings of some of his films, and he was always as affable and charming as you could ask for. On the last occasion on which I met him, at a screening last January of Otto Preminger’s Hurry Sundown (in which he stars alongside Michael Caine, Robert Hooks and Jane Fonda), he didn’t seem well and may have already (according to a follow-up post by Lucas) known that he had limited time left. Realizing this puts the whole evening in a new perspective, but I can’t think of a warmer send-off for such a beloved star. The screening, the Q&A, and his easy, amiable chatting with fans like me afterwards (along with gracious autograph-signing) shed light on one of his most overlooked performances and served as a celebration of his prodigious career in general. I hope it was as rewarding an experience for Law as it was for his public.
I suppose my own first John Phillip Law movie was The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, a childhood favorite. I saw him in other per-formances later (as the Red Baron, as Diabolik, as Sinbad, as Barbarella’s Angel Pygar), but didn’t always recognize him right away. For someone with such good looks and such distinctive eyes, he was a masterful chameleon, losing himself in every role he took. It’s a shame that Law never appeared in his prime as a straightforward secret agent hero, but he did turn up in such spy-tinged productions as Target of an Assassin, The Cassandra Crossing and Roman Coppola’s fantastic homage to Diabolik and Modesty Blaise, CQ.