6WH: Week 5.5 – Vincent Price

It has recently come to my attention that I am woefully deficient in my knowledge of Vincent Price and his filmography. So I set about rectifying that, and so I’ve watched (or rewatched) four of his movies in the past couple of weeks.

  • The Muppet Show with special guest Vincent Price
  • Sawed by the Bell (Robot Chicken)
  • Se7en (trailer)
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes: Doctors are being found dead under mysterious circumstances. As the deaths continue, a pattern begins to emerge. The deaths are following the 9 biblical plagues and the dead doctors were all involved in an unsuccessful operation involving the wife of Dr. Anton Phibes (who is a concert organist, theological scholar, and mechanical genius). 9 plagues, 9 doctors. But Dr. Phibes can’t be the one responsible, can he? He died in a car accident after the death of his wife! This isn’t the world’s greatest movie, but it’s campy fun and you can definitely see the influence in modern films like Se7en (biblically inspired kills) and Saw (dig the key out of this body to save your son). The one major crime the movie commits is making it so that Dr. Phibes (played by Price) can’t talk without the aid of some device that sorta distorts his voice (I could listen to Price reading the phone book, why cast him in a role without much talking and a distorted voice?). On the other hand, it turns out that Dr. Phibes doesn’t actually look like that, he’s just wearing a Vincent Price mask. Heh. Anyway, Price is very good (despite the dearth of dialogue), and I also rather liked the bumbling Inspector Trout (played by Peter Jeffrey). The movie was followed by a quick sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, this time focusing on Egyptian mythology for his kills, but that film is really just more of the same. So the sequel is worth a watch if you liked the first one, but nothing special. **1/2 (for both movies)

    I want to play a game

  • Vincent Price Polaroid VHS commercial
  • Suspiria (trailer)
  • The Blair Witch Project (trailer)
  • Witchfinder General: This isn’t really so much of a horror film as it is a period costume drama with some horrific elements. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, the titular Witchfinder, and he’s the villain. The film is set during the English civil war of the mid-1700s. As such, the authorities are engaged elsewhere, leaving Hopkins and his sadistic sidekick to roam the countryside and make whatever accusations they like. There’s nothing pious or righteous about what they do, it’s a big power trip for them, and they usually make a tidy profit as well. In one town, they engage a priest and his beautiful niece, accusing them of witchcraft and eventually taking them down, leaving the niece’s fiance to hunt down Hopkins in revenge. Price plays Hopkins as a total scumbag, cowardly and cruel, and you’re hoping for his comeuppance throughout the film. This ends up being a much darker film than the other two covered in this post. Hopkins is a true scumbag and the film doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to his exploits. Visually, the film has some interesting touches. The director, Michael Reeves, was very young when he made this movie, and he showed a lot of promise as a filmmaker… unfortunately, he died of a drug overdose not long after this movie was released. The film moves a little slower than I would have preferred, but it’s still an interesting watch. **1/2

    He finds witches

  • The Raven, read by Vincent Price
  • Cooking with Vincent Price (audio)
  • House on Haunted Hill (trailer)
  • The Tingler: The most notable and interesting thing about this film is that it is truly a gimmick, and I feel bad watching it on my television… this is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen with a big crowd. Director William Castle pulled out all the stops here, even going so far as to install buzzers beneath certain seats in the theater that would vibrate the seats during especially scary moments, a system he called “Percepto.” Indeed, at the start of the film, Castle himself walks on screen and warns you about it. Later in the film, Price kinda sorta directly addresses the audience in a rather clever way. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The film concerns Dr. Warren Chapin (played by Price) and his quest to understand fear. He discovers a mysterious creature that lives in vertebrates and grows when its host experiences fear. He calls this creature, The Tingler! It’s a great bit of silly cinema logic, but in the world created by Castle and Price, it’s almost believable. It was great fun (if not all that scary), even on the small screen. It must have been a blast to see this in the theater, especially during its heyday… ***

As I mentioned above, I could listen to Price read the phone book. While I couldn’t find any clips of him doing just that, I did find the next best thing. Check out the Cooking With Vincent Price link. I’m particularly fond of Foods From the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Well, I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but how could you not like that title?

In other news, Kernunrex is still going strong, putting me to shame with almost daily updates. Countdown to Halloween features numerous sites also blogging about horror this month. Dennis Cozzalio has a big post about Halloween reads and L.A. Repertory Cinema. Apparently there’s an Italian Horror blog-a-thon getting underway over at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies as well. Too many movies, too little time…