Herbert Lom once said, "One thing I hate is when directors come to me before shooting a take and say: 'Herbert, give me your best!' And I think: 'But it's my job to give my best. I can't give anything else!'" Like Karloff before him, Herbert Lom is one actor you can count on to give a top-notch performance, no matter the quality of the picture. Lom's dedication to the craft has allowed the versatile Czech actor, born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague on September 11, 1917, to play a memorable role in the horror genre.
In 1939, two years after making his debut in the Czech film Žena pod křížem, Lom moved to England. His first English-language film was Carol Reed's The Young Mrs. Pitt (1942), where he played Napoleon (a role he would play again in 1956's War and Peace). He kept his career going with character parts and supporting roles. Occasionally, he also took top billing, as when he played not one, but two trapeze artists, twins, in 1946's Dual Alibi. Major roles of note from the 1950s include wrestling promoter Kristo in Jules Dassin's Night and the City (1950) and Louis, the comically serious criminal in Ealing comedy The Ladykillers (1955). The latter film was the first time that Lom worked with Peter Sellers; they would later team up for A Shot in the Dark (1964) and most of the subsequent Pink Panther comedies, with Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and Lom as his eternally frustrated superior Dreyfuss.
Lom's first foray into the horror genre was Terence Fisher's take on The Phantom of the Opera in 1962. Lom was reportedly "disappointed" with the picture. He would not return to horror again until the early 1970s, when he made seven genre films in a four-year period. Notable among these is Jesus Franco's Count Dracula, where he appeared as Van Helsing against Christopher Lee's Dracula, although he did not act Lee. "They didn't have the money to keep Christopher Lee long enough to play his scenes with me," Lom told Horror-wood Webzine. "By the time I arrived in Barcelona, he had already left. So I had to act the main dramatic scenes addressing the script girl!"
Other significant horror films with Lom from the period include Mark of the Devil (1970), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971), the Amicus anthology Asylum (1972), and And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973). He also appeared in the 1974 version of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, as well as the 1979 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.
In 1983, Lom appeared in David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone as the concerned Dr. Sam Weizak, who works with Christopher Walken's Johnny Smith when he develops psychic abilities. Then, in 1990, he replaced Jack Palance as Ludwig in the South African remake of Masque of the Red Death.
Lom's appeared in Michele Soavi's La Setta (1991, aka The Sect or The Devil's Daughter) as the improbably named Moebius Kelly, who tries to entice Kelly Curtis to join a Satanic cult. The experience making the film, which was co-written by horror legend Dario Argento, was a positive one for Lom. "I loved making The Sect," Lom once said. "How can you go wrong with the world-famous horror expert Dario Argento?"
Although Lom's screen appearances have slowed, the actor himself has not stopped. He recently appeared in a Miss Marple television movie for ITV. He has also written two historical novels, one on Christopher Marlow and the other on Dr. Guillotin, the inventor of the execution device that bears his name.
Chartrand, Harvey F. "Herbert Lom Loses His Head". Horror-Wood Webzine. 01 July 2001. Retrieved 11 September 2007. <http://www.horror-wood.com/lom.htm>
McFarlane, Brian. "Lom, Herbert (1917-)" BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 11 September 2007. <http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/486466/index.html>