Somewhere on the web exists a site devoted to the most alluring belly buttons in the world. I was satisfied when I came upon Caroline Munro’s own navel, which qualified for the Top 10. Truth is, fans of Miss Munro had many opportunity to gaze at her abdomen during the course of her career, as she was a high profile pinup in England and then an actress for many decorative roles, many of them quite absurd but always endearing. She was truthfully one of the most adored starlet of the seventies. An article in one of the first issues of Fangoria magazine contributed to a growing popularity in North America. It was always charming to read about her own astonishment over fan adulation.
I first met Caroline late one Friday night… as I was viewing for the first time Dracula A.D. 1972. Willingly taking part in a satanic ceremony, our heroine is Count Dracula’s first victim after his resurrection, in a maze of voluptuous cleavage and screams of horror. This small role remains one of her most memorable. Needless to say, I became hooked from that point on. And as the years went by, I always asked myself the same question over and over: why hasn’t Caroline Munro made more movies?
Born in Windsor, England, on January 16, 1950, Caroline was raised in a convent. As a teen, she won a “Face of the Year” prize, which gave her the opportunity to shoot publicity ads and sign a contract for Vogue at the age of 17. Her many posters for Lamb’s Navy Rum are now classics. She was an extra for the royal mess that is Casino Royale and did silent bits in some British productions.
Caroline is a member of the short Dr. Phibes series with Vincent Price in the starring role. Hers is the pivotal role of Victoria Phibes, the doctor’s deceased wife. You read correctly, deceased (and presumably embalmed!). What looks trivial here is essential for the plot of these two over the top productions, as the death of his wife will make the good doctor blow his top, as he’ll start an imaginative murder spree. Don’t blink too often if you desire to witness Caroline’s contribution (in fact, she’s not even credited). I’m leaving you the surprise. Caroline soon after briefly became a starlet for Hammer Studios, in the above-mentioned Dracula A.D. 1972 and Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter.
The mid-seventies will be the peak of Caroline’s celebrity, as she took part in the classic fantasy The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (maybe her most cherished role among her fans), The Devil Within Her, At the Earth’s Core, an episode of The New Avengers and a James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me (which depicts her as an helicopter pilot).
Then came her first starring role for Starcrash, as she played Stella Star, galactic adventurer with a flair for revealing costumes. This mind-blowing Italian production proposes an interesting choice of actors: Christopher Plummer, Robert Tessier, Joe Spinell, Marjoe Gortner and David Hasselhof! This movie must be seen at least once in a lifetime, of course for Caroline’s Barbarella-like spacesuits, but also for the pleasure of witnessing with great amusement a production with ambitious intents falling flat on its face. In other words, it’s so awful in a juvenile way that it becomes entertaining, as it came in an international wave of Star Wars clones, each as bad as the others.
Then, Caroline came to the United States in 1980 to film Maniac, a controversial slasher movie due to its vicious treatment of women. We can only ponder as to why a friendly individual like Caroline would take part in the shooting of such gory and macabre going-ons. Many future projects were announced for Caroline but never came to be, like a follow-up to Stella Star’s adventures. She reunited with her Starcrash and Maniac co-star, Joe Spinell (one of the best ever character actor) for The Last Horror Film, as she played of female horror star dealing with a disturbed fan. She even found time to take part in a rock video, Goodie Two Shoes, for Adam Ant.
She could then be seen in Don’t Open Till Christmas, Slaughter High, Howl of the Devil (with Paul Naschy), Faceless (from Jess Franco, with another amazing cast, including Telly Savalas, Helmut Berger, Howard Vernon, Stéphane Audran, Lina Romay, Christopher Mitchum, Brigitte Lahaie and Anton Diffring) and The Black Cat.
I’ve always admired Caroline Munro. Hey, I even once painted her picture to give as a gift, and braved ice-cold weather on a Sunday afternoon to go see a viewing of At the Earth’s Core in a Montreal repertory theater. As of this writing, it’s doubtful that Caroline will ever again have the chance to become a major player in world cinema. We can sadly deduce that she won’t play any big role in the future. As she was not the most gifted actress of all time, she brought great joy to many fans by her enthusiasm and constant humor in many convention appearances. And to think about that navel…