Friday, October 14, 2011

A Price Far Above Rubies!

Spotlight on : Vincent Price!

This post originally appeared in a whole week dedicated to the "Vincentennial" - actor Vincent Price's 100th birthday celebration back on Friday, May 27th, 2011! I am rerunning it now, because Mr. Price is a Halloween season kind of guy!


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 gothic historical melodrama that some call
a horror film. I mean, he does get drowned
in a vat of wine by Basil Rathbone and
Boris Karloff!

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

When he is actually on view at the end of the flick
- 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! Look at this cool blog! Now it comes with even more 3-D!

After the success of House of Wax, Vincent Price became one of the screen's top boogeymen, joining Boris, Bela, and Lon Jr as the Kings of Horror. 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 in 1960 with this color opus:

House of Usher (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. In this film it was obviously 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.


You also get a young Jack Nicholson hobknobbing with the veterans.

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 TV's Batman several times as the villain Egghead. He was always one of my favorites - I mean, look at him! The eggshell 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 Price 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 Brady boys 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 Dr. Phibes's evil when he prepares lunch
and it's nothing but Brussels sprouts!

Dr. Phibes unmasked.

 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, with an incredible cast of British thespians, including Diana Rigg and Coral Browne (Mrs. Price!) and some feel it's the best of the three movies, but I personally prefer the Art Deco excesses of the Phibes flicks.

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 - you're not crazy - 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"

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 late 70's touring in the play Diversions and Delights, in which he played Oscar Wilde. It was his favorite performance in his favorite project. He performed it at what would later be my university around this time, and although I knew it was happening, I did not manage to see it. That I was around 12 years old and couldn't drive played a part in that. But nonetheless, I could actually cry now at the thought that I could have actually seen one of my Ultimate Screen Legends in a live performance. If you build a time machine and tell me about it - we're going back and taking young me to the show!

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 all together. In case you're a heathen, that's Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price. Sadly for horror fans, these legendary actors 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 1986.


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 briefly brought the otherwise DOA movie Dead Heat to life in 1988.


Director Tim Burton idolized Vincent Price, and cast the legend 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 Horrorfest, and always love to hear his laugh each October from my radio.

I usually stick to pics for these Spotlight posts, but for this rerun I can't resist throwing in two video clips - one a wonderfully edited tribute to the man with scenes from a few of his movies, the other an extended take of his Thriller monologue.

There was a whole week of Vincent Price posts back in May to celebrate the Vincentennial - if you want to check them out, here is a convenient link to the first of the series...

Yes, there are going to be a few repeat posts in this year's Halloween Blogfest Blowout, which means it is only going to be 90% new stuff. But even the reruns have 15-20% added material! I'm not sure of the math there, but I think it adds up to a month of fun no matter which way you look at it! At least I hope it does!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With a Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Who knew he was so handsome way back when!
    New follower, nice to meet you!

  2. Just stopped in at the request of Melissa Bradley.
    Fabulous retrospect of Mr. Price's career.
    Thanks for sharing

  3. I'm glad you mentioned Thriller, which is total awesomeness due in part to Vincent's part in it.
    I'd like to add that a couple of my favourite movies (that you didn't mention) of his were "Laura" (which was not horror-related in any way) and "The Last Man on Earth".
    I recently watched Season 2 of the Bionic Woman and was pleasantly surprised to see that he starred in one of the episodes. :)
    And, as a Canadian, I HAVE to mention his contribution to the fun "Hilarious House of Frightenstein" TV series from the 70's, which starred Billy Van. Thanks to this show, I knew of Vincent as a kid.

  4. What an amazing tribute to Price. I've always loved Vincent and I do miss him. He had elegant way about him that, along with Cushing, Lee and Carradine, lent a certain elegance to the horror genre that we just don't see. I'm sick of all the new horror with nothing but starlets and clueless young people. They don't make truly stylish horror films anymore. I enjoy the genre but I can do without the little tartlets and boy toys.

  5. Lydia - thanks so much for coming by! Welcome aboard! Please come by often, and comment as much as you'd like!

    Gail - the more the merrier! Thank you for the kind words! Isn't Melissa just the ginchiest?

    RavenElaine! I do love his Thriller monologue - but words on a screen don't do it justice - you need to hear Vincent's velvet voice - and adding the video/audio clip works great for that! I did not mention Laura - a great movie - or Last Man - another good flick - but they fell victim, as did literally dozens of other fine movies and TV shows Mr. Price worked on - to my fear of this post becoming about 17,000 mouse wheel scrolls long...you know, they actually syndicated the Hilarious House of Frightenstein to America in the late 70's, and I got to see several episodes - it was like Laugh-In for monster loving kids! There's also a HHoF compilation available on Netflix - still fun to watch! Thanks for coming by and commenting from the Great White North!

    Melissa - taking another opportunity to thank you for your kindness in Paying It Forward with my blog one of your three choices - you singlehandedly increased my Followers list by 10% just today! Thank you - I am happy with this piece - it's easy to write something nice about someone you admire as much as I do Vincent Price. And you're entirely right - horror has lost its elegant gentlemen with the passing of three of those four men - we still have Christopher Lee, thank goodness! I was having similar thoughts watching the 2009 Sorority Row a few days ago - not the worst horror movie in the world, but dripping with the tartlets as you so charmingly call them! I guess Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, and Bill Moseley are the closest thing we have to a quartet like the one above - and they are fine actors I truly enjoy watching - but there's still just this little extra oomph those older guys had - and Lee still has. I miss it too. Thank goodness we can still watch the older movies!

  6. What a fantastic tribute. He was a tremendous talent. He may be gone, but his legacy strongly lives on.

    1. Thank you Fred. It didn't hurt my fandom that I knew early on that Vincent Price hailed from the Midwest - St. Louis Missouri - just a couple of hours from my hometown in Southern Illinois. But I've been watching his movies for decades - and he worked so often I'm still seeing new stuff. Thanks for blogging about him - it makes me happy to see others appreciate him.