Friday, May 27, 2011

Price Tag!

Spotlight on : Vincent Price!

It's a whole week dedicated to the "Vincentennial" - actor Vincent Price's 100th birthday celebration, Friday, May 27th, 2011!

December 26, 1935: A young actor named Vincent Price makes his theatrical debut
playing Prince Albert to Helen Hayes in the role of Queen Victoria. The play was
Victoria Regina. He was 24 years old.

1938: Film debut: Service De Luxe.

1939: Playing the doomed Duke of Clarence
in Tower of London, Vincent has his first role
in a horror film.

I mean, he does get drowned in a vat of wine by
Basil Rathbone (l) and Boris Karloff (r)!

1940: Vincent was next seen...er...well, you know what I mean...in
The Invisible Man Returns.

When he is actually on view - it's sans mustache
for the first time!

Throughout the 1940's, Vincent acted in scads of movies - sometimes with the cookie duster, and sometimes without. He was mainly a supporting player in the bulk of these flicks, third or fourth billed (or lower) and usually playing villains and cads, but he always brought something good to the table.

Throughout the 1940's Vincent was also a
popular radio actor, appearing in several
shows, but most remembered for playing
The Saint.

One of Vincent's favorite roles was Burnbridge Waters in
Champagne for Caesar, a comedy from 1950.

In 1953, Vincent's career was forever changed by his starring role in
House of Wax. He may have dabbled in a few projects that were gothic
melodramas or that had horrific elements, but this was his first full-blooded
horror movie. He plays Henry Jarrod, the eccentric but seemingly benign
owner of a waxworks House of Horrors.

SPOILER! Once his waxen mask is knocked off,
it turns out Jarrod is also the hideously burned
psycho who's been murdering his way through
the cast. Price's delicious performance instantly
cemented him into the horror actor role.

Did I mention the movie was in 3-D? Here's what
it looked like with the red-and-blue effect - and yes,
if you have a pair of 3-D glasses they will work on
this picture! A new blog first! Now with 3-D!

After the success of House of Wax, Vincent Price became
one of the screen's top boogeymen, joining Boris Karloff.
Here he is in The Bat.

The Mad Magician was another scarepic in 3-D, trying hard to repeat the success
of House of Wax. It's not as good, but it's Vincent Price, so of course it's worth watching!

The 1960's proved to be one of the busiest ever for Vincent Price.
He worked constantly in movies and on television. He also
started a series of movies for producer/director Roger Corman based
on the works of author Edgar Allan Poe. The series started with
The Fall of the House of Usher in 1960.

More Poe followed: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

A lot of the movies Vincent made in the 1960's were for
American-International Pictures. Away from the gothic frights of his
star vehicles, he would also pop in for cameos in some of their other
movies, such as his cameo as"Big Daddy" in Beach Party (1963).

Sometimes his acting style was described in reviews as hammy. Here he
shows if true, it was a glazed ham. Tales of Terror (1962).

The Raven (1963) teamed Vincent with Boris Karloff and
Peter Lorre. It also took the novel approach of being a
spoof, showing Poe's renowned humorous side.

The Masque of the Red Death in 1964 was a high point in the Poe series.

The Poe series came to an end with Tomb of Ligeia the same year.

Vincent continued as the King of Scares throughout the decade,
joined by his British brethren Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee
as the Triumvirate of Terror.

He acted with them too, in several different movies and different combinations across the
late 1960's and early 1970's. Here's The Oblong Box and Madhouse. They were great co-stars
onscreen, and great friends offscreen.

Vincent did lots of television too, appearing here with Boris Karloff on Red Skelton's show.

Vincent appeared on Batman several times as the villain Egghead. He was
always one of my favorites - I mean, look at him! The egg colored suit with
yolk colored shirt, the head, the "egg" puns (eggsactly, eggstreme, eggsquisite,
etc.) And boy did it look like he was having a good time!

In 1968 Vincent had one of his best roles, as the evil
Matthew Hopkins in The Witchfinder General. It was also
retitled The Conqueror Worm, a Poe poem title, to try to
tie it to the older Poe flicks. It didn't need help. It was
a terrific historical horror drama that could totally stand on
its own, and Vincent shines in it in a serious performance.

As the 1970's rolled around, Vincent continued to appear all
over the place. Here he threatens to reduce The Brady Bunch
to the Brady Quintet when the Bradys explored the wrong
cave on their trip to Hawaii.

Vincent added another indelible character to the Horror Hall of Fame when he played Dr. Anton
Phibes in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972). Phibes was
a genius in animatronics and acoustics, out to kill those he feels responsible for the death of
his wife Victoria. While racing to his wife's side his car wrecked and he burned to death.
Only, not. Phibes disguises his burns under a mask of his original face as he goes about his
murderous plan. In this picture he shows the depths of evil he is capable of when he prepares
lunch and it's nothing but Brussels sprouts!

Dr. Phibes unmasked.

Vincent appeared with rocker Alice Cooper in his TV special
Alice Cooper: The Nightmare in 1974.

Vincent had another favorite role in Theater of Blood in 1973, which built on the Dr. Phibes movies, casting Price as a ham Shakespearean actor turned down for the Critics' Guild award, whereupon he murders the critics one by one
using scenes from the Bard's works. It's good, and some feel it's the best of the three movies, but I prefer the
Art Deco excesses of the Phibes movies.

1974 brought us Madhouse, wherein our hero plays a horror host named
Dr. Death. Murder and madness abound onscreen, but the more graphic
nature of the film and a feeling that the movie companies were grooming
others to replace him led to Vincent calling this his last horror film. By the
way, if this character looks familiar but you never saw Madhouse - rest
easy - Bill Moseley and director Rob Zombie "borrowed" this makeup
design for a horror host Moseley plays in Zombie's Halloween II (2009).

Bill Moseley as "Seymour Coffins"

But even though he retired from horror films, Vincent kept working
steadily, though more in television. Here's one of his many
appearances on The Hollywood Squares.

Vincent also kept busy throughout the 70's touring in the play Diversions
and Delights, in which he played Oscar Wilde.

Thankfully for horror fans, Vincent was coaxed out of retirement in 1981,
although the resulting film, The Monster Club wasn't much, even with
the added support of John Carradine.

The House of the Long Shadows (1983) was a horror film's delight, casting the four reigning
Kings of Horror in their first film together. In case you're a heathen, that's Christopher Lee (also
celebrating a birthday today! 89! Happy birthday Christopher Lee!), John Carradine, Peter
Cushing (birthday yesterday, May 26th!), and Vincent. Sadly for horror fans, they were saddled
with an indifferent script, and most damagingly, co-star Desi Arnaz Jr. Still, what true horror
fan could resist giving it a watch?

Vincent took great joy in providing the voice of the villainous
Professor Ratigan for Disney's The Great Mouse Detective in

Slowing down a bit in his mid 70's, each new project Vincent Price took on in
the 1980's became a cause to celebrate for his fans. The Offspring (aka From
a Whisper to a Scream) features Price as a small town librarian telling
spooky stories from his town's history to reporter Susan Tyrell.

As the 80's wore on, Vincent became the elder statesman of
horror and Halloween, playing King to Elvira's Queen each October.

Vincent had a wonderful character role in The
Whales of August with Lillian Gish and Bette Davis
in 1988.

Vincent popped in for a cameo that livened up the otherwise
meh Dead Heat in 1988.

Director Tim Burton idolized Vincent, and cast him in his
last great role, the Creator who didn't live long enough to
replace Edward's scissor hands in, er... Edward Scissorhands.

Vincent did a couple more smallish parts in a couple of cable
movies, then played his last role in front of a microphone when
he voiced the character Zigzag for the animated feature The
Princess and the Cobbler.

Vincent Price passed away October 25, 1993. The world lost a wonderfully witty actor, raconteur,
art historian, gourmand, husband, and father. We still miss him. I try to watch something with
him during every Halloween Film Festival, and always love to hear his laugh each October
from my radio.

Happy 100th Birthday Mr. Vincent Price!

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

No comments:

Post a Comment