Horror News Network is sad to announce the death of Don Calfa, star of Return of the Living Dead, who died Thursday at 76.
Anyone who loved punk rock and horror in the 1980’s discovered and loved Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead. And aside from all the young actors who portrayed those punk rockers, the film also featured performances from three Hollywood vets: Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa as the adults who were just as nuts as their younger counterparts.
Calfa played Ernie in the 1985 film, a mortician that enjoys his work just “a little too much”. The vast majority of the second half of the film takes place in Ernie’s funeral home, although he is a bit reluctant to let all of those mohawked punks inside at first.
Although horror fans will always remember his performance in Return of the Living Dead, Calfa also had a long career on the big and small screens. The Hollywood Reporter remembered his contributions to the industry, recalling that, “Calfa was cast by some of the top directors of his time, including Peter Bogdanovich (1976’s Nickelodeon), Martin Scorsese (1977’s New York, New York), Blake Edwards (1979’s 10), Steven Spielberg (1979’s 1941), Bob Rafelson (the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice)and Barry Levinson (1991’s Bugsy). Calfa also collaborated several times with director (and fellow New Yorker) Peter Hyams; they worked together on Peeper (1976), The Star Chamber (1983), Running Scared (1986), The Presidio(1988) and Stay Tuned (1992). He also was in Cinderella Liberty (1973), Bank Shot (1974), Foul Play (1978), The Rose (1979) and the remake of Doctor Dolittle (1998).”
Calfa also had a memorable role on Doogie Howser, M.D., portraying Carmine Delpino (the father of Vinnie Delpino, Doogie’s best friend).