He was never going to replace Bela Lugosi in the public zeitgeist. In fact, if you named five actors who played Count Dracula, it’s likely he never even came into your thought process. But Michael Pataki was a solid contributor to the genre, and a fine character actor in general. And now he has passed on, after suffering with cancer.
Mainstream movie fans are most likely to associate Pataki’s face with Nicoli Koloff, Ivan Drago’s manager in the megahit ROCKY IV. It was his most high profile part in a long, and varied career. Horror fans will likely conjure up HALLOWEEN 4, where he played Dr. Hoffman, the man in charge of keeping Michael Meyers under wraps, and insulting Dr. Loomis.
But Pataki’s career in horror goes well beyond that entry. He essayed a gay prisoner in ZOMBIE HOUSE, directed by horror actor John Saxon; one of the townsfolk in Dan O’Bannon’s DEAD AND BURIED; one of the worst school administrators in film history in the school slasher GRADUATION DAY; and not only Count Dracula himself, but a descendant of the count as well in ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA. Though some of these flicks run south of the quality equator, Pataki never played them for a joke. He did a credible job, whether in low budget horror or in a classic episode of STAR TREK, in which he spoke Klingonese.
As a character actor, Michael Pataki was a fine contributor to the genre. Seek out his works if you want to see how to survive several decades in the genre, even if you’re second banana as Count Dracula to the count’s dog.