John Hurt's 10 Most Underrated Performances

5. The Horned King - The Black Cauldron (1985)

Tbc Disney's The Black Cauldron is a strange little film. Heavily butchered by Jeffrey Katzenberg during its production, and beaten by The Care Bears Movie on opening weekend, it is perhaps the closest that Disney has ever come to an animated cult classic. The film has all manner of problems in both its narrative and characters, but it does have a cracking villain in the shape of the Horned King. The Black Cauldron is based loosely on the Welsh adventure series The Chronicles of Prydain, which were heavily influenced by Tolkien (him again). It follows an "assistant pig keeper" called Taran who sets off with the fortune-telling pig Henwyn (just go with it), and becomes embroiled in a plot by the Horned King to use an ancient evil cauldron to create an army of the undead. In short, it's a zombie film for children, and had the studio not got cold feet with its more gruesome scenes, it could have been a really good one. Hurt's performance as the Horned King is terrifying. The character design is scary enough, with the long cloak, horns and the skull-like face, but add in the forbidding, echo-y voice and the dark motivations, and you have one scary villain. That's not to mention the surprisingly graphic manner in which the character gets dispatched. While most Disney villains just fall to their deaths or die off-camera, the Horned King gets his skin ripped clean from his bones while screaming in agony, and then his body is vaporised by pure evil. Ouch.

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast ( and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter ( Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.