Though he'd been acting for some time, anyone with any familiarity with Saxon's background would probably say that his breakout performance was alongside Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon (1973), a film that has only grown as more and more viewers have discovering Lee's work after the martial artist's untimely demise. Saxon held his own against Lee and Jim Kelly, both budding Thespians at best to John's early mastery of that craft. But -- truth be told -- Saxon was also a Black Belt in Karate, so one could argue he more than others were perfectly cast in the feature to help give Lee the support needed thematically and literally.
With a resume just shy of two hundred different productions under that Black Belt, he tackled every genre imaginable, and it looks like he was willing to try anything to hone his craft. As tends to happen as actors age, John ended up for a time being cast largely as a 'heavy' (or the villain), but I'd argue that's because he knew a thing or two about convincing an audience as to the seriousness of even his wildest machinations, a skill that deserves the depth of cunning only a true actor can capture. Sure, maybe he never played Santa Claus, but that's only because Santa Claus didn't have the skills to take over the world.
Genre fans? Well, buckle up ...
He contributed to such projects in his lifetime as Blood Beast From Outer Space (1965), Queen Of Blood (1966), Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel, Gene Roddenberry's Planet Earth (1974), Strange New World (1975), The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, TV's Wonder Woman, The Fantastic Journey, Roger Corman's Battle Beyond The Stars (1980), Blood Beach (1980), Prisoners Of The Lost Universe (1983), the afore-mentioned A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Hands Of Steel (1986), A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), My Mom's A Werewolf (1989), The Ray Bradbury Theater, Monsters, Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Lancelot: Guardian Of Time (1997), and War Wolves (2009).
And his work was not without accolades. Though these were largely bookends to his career (he experienced nominations and wins near the start and toward the end of his professional time), I prefer to think that voters saw his raw potential early on, and -- though they lost sight of him as he built an incredible body of work through the 1970's, 80's, and beyond -- they rediscovered his greatness in his golden years.
Alas, none of us last forever, but we'll always have film to remember him by.
As always, thanks for reading ... and may he rest in peace.