Hellraisers, by Robert Sellers ISBN 9781906838362
Five out of five stars
This graphic novel opens with Martin, a budding hellraiser, drinking himself into a stupor, stumbling home and mistreating his wife and child. After passing out on his bed, Martin is transformed to another place where he meets the spirit of Welsh actor Richard Burton. The spirit takes him through what is an autobiography of Burton’s extremely tumultuous life with an emphasis on his drinking and sex life. Some of his success as an actor is also included. While he died at the early age of 58, when reading this story of his life it is amazing he lived that long. Since he was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won many other awards, his acting skills are beyond dispute.
Once the life of Burton is examined, the story rather seamlessly passes to Martin being exposed to the life of Irish actor Richard Harris. This job is also performed by his spirit. Another man devoted to drink and other debauchery, nominated for two Academy Awards for best actor and the winner of other awards, Harris is another actor that was very successful in spite of himself.
After the life of Harris, the story makes a smooth transition on to the life of English actor Oliver Reed. He was also a man that chose a life of wildness, Reed suffered a serious facial scar in a barfight, fighting was something he was known for. Reed was known as a very belligerent drunk and his appearances on celebrity talk shows are the fodder for some dubious legends.
Finally, Martin is taken on a trip through the life of British-Irish actor Peter O’Toole, again by his spirit. Another man that drank and womanized heavily, O’Toole was also an acclaimed star. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor in a leading role eight times, but was never selected. However, he did win many other awards.
It is noted in this book that the reason none of the four ever won an Academy Award may have been due to the number of Academy men that refused to vote for them because the actor had bedded their wives. The amount of alcohol that these men supposedly drank is almost beyond belief. It has been said that for some time Burton drank three bottles of vodka a day.
Other than the drinking and other debauchery, the one constant across the lives of these four men is that they had tumultuous childhoods. While some of that was due to the instability of their home life, all were rebels at an early age.
Although it has an unusual form, this book is an excellent biography of four of the more notorious male actors that were extremely talented, but their flaws kept them from even higher levels of greatness. They certainly made great tabloid headlines.