Before They Were Stars: John Ratzenberger in “Motel Hell”

Today, we shall celebrate the 64th birthday of John Ratzenberger, the fourth highest grossing box office actor of all time. No, I’m serious, you can look it up! Of course, those large box office numbers are due in large part to Mr. Ratzenberger lending his voice to every single Pixar film ever made, but we also can’t overlook the fact that before he found fame on Cheers, he had bit parts in some pretty major films, including The Empire Strikes Back, Gandhi and Superman I & II. However, my “Before They Were Stars” spotlight shall be on Ratzenberger’s early role in a grindhouse horror guilty pleasure of mine called Motel Hell. The film stars Rory Calhoun (or, as Mr. Burns calls him, “that fellow who’s always standing and walking”) as Farmer Vincent, a psycho who captures innocent victims and uses their flesh to sell a very popular brand of smoked meats. John Ratzenberger has a bit part as the member of a heavy metal band who are captured, have their vocal chords slashed and are being buried up to their necks in a garden, so that Farmer Vincent can fatten them up before he kills them. In this really bizarre scene, Farmer Vincent and his sister use psychedelic hypnosis on the band while wrapping nooses around them and using a tractor to snap their necks. I find it pretty awesome that Ratzenberger would appear in an iconic blockbuster like The Empire Strikes Back and a demented grindhouse flick like Motel Hell in the exact same year. The man’s certainly got diversity!

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