In 1964 he appeared in his first feature film, Don Siegel’s tough-guy remake of The Killers (loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway short story) co-starring and John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, and featuring future president Ronald Reagan slapping Angie Dickinson across the face.
Gulager continued working in the 1960s at a prolific rate, with recurring roles on fondly remembered shows like The Virginian, and others that have receded into the mists of time. (NBC’s San Fransisco International Airport only lasted seven episodes, but it’s movie-of-the-week pilot did gain a second life on the aforementioned Mystery Science Theater 3000.)
In 1969 he directed an avant garde short film, A Day With The Boys, shot by New Hollywood stalwart László Kovács, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1971, Peter Bogdanovich cast him in his desolate Texas period piece The Last Picture Show as Abilene, the oil rig foreman having an affair with Ellen Burstyn’s character, who then also has a rendezvous (on a pool table!) with Burstyn’s daughter, played by Cybill Shepherd. The rest of the 1970s saw more nonstop work, mostly in television, and in 1985 he appeared in two horror classics: Dan O’Bannon’s comedic The Return of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead, the latter of which has recently been celebrated as a classic in gay cinema.
In his later years, Gulager was a ubiquitous man on the convention scene, who frequently held court at Los Angeles’s New Beverly Cinema. Indeed, that theater’s owner, Quentin Tarantino cast him in his final performance, as the clerk who gives Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate the copy of Tess of the d’Urbevilles.