My Vincent Price marathon continues (my other blogs covering his movies are here and here) with the perfect number of films: 13! I wish the number had been 14, but I’ve yet to get my hands on a copy of his 1984 horror comedy Bloodbath at the House of Death, which seriously needs a DVD release!
HOUSE OF WAX (1953)
House of Wax is pretty much The Phantom of the Wax Museum. When Price’s wax museum is burned down and he is horribly disfigured, he comes back to get his revenge. He reopens his museum, focusing specifically on macabre real-life murders. And the exhibits look incredibly real…because they are! Price is pretty much an early masked killer, and in true slasher form, sets his sights on one particular woman.
Price also has a muscular deaf mute assistant named Igor! I’m not even kidding. And I’m also not kidding when I tell you—that assistant is played by Charles Bronson!
House of Wax was originally in 3D and has become available on 3D Blu-ray in recent years. It’s definitely a classic in the horror genre.
THE MAD MAGICIAN (1954)
It’s like anything done in contemporary horror was already done by Vincent Price sixty or seventy years ago, as is the case with The Mad Magician.
Price is the man who comes up with all the tricks, while another man gets all the glory for performing them in front of an audience. Just as Price plans to steal the spotlight with a new trick, he’s again robbed of the glory. This wanna be magician goes mad!
The way he kills his nemesis is gruesome in its implied state here, so imagine how gory this could have been if Price had R ratings at his disposal back then.
Price crafts masks to perfectly impersonate his enemies as he takes them down, but several people are on to him, including the female mystery author who rents him a room and the wife of his nemesis, played by Green Acres Queen Eva Gabor.
The simple, macabre fun is enhanced by some now campy moments, including Gabor smoothly and swiftly plucking the mask of her husband from Price’s face, as well as Price karate chopping a detective.
THE BAT (1959)
I’d never seen The Bat before, but after watching it, it ranks as one of my all-time favorite Price films. But honestly, this film gets all its charm from Agnes “Endora” Moorehead of Bewitched. Agnes plays a mystery author who rents a big mansion for the summer, and she absolutely rocks the snarky dialogue, with the help of her sidekick maid.
Aside from being humorous, this horror mystery is pretty much a predecessor to Slumber Party Massacre! A group of women (old babes in housecoats!) is trapped in a house while a masked killer, known as “The Bat,” is on the loose! He wears a suit, black ski mask, fedora, and black gloves with sharp claws he uses to rip throats open! Fantastic.
The male characters, including Price as a doctor, make for one big whodunit because they all seem guilty. Throw in thunder and lightning, actual bat attacks, and secret passages, and The Bat deserves a lot more recognition as a Price classic.
RETURN OF THE FLY (1959)
The Fly was a landmark horror flick in which Vincent Price really only mattered in the final, horrific scene. For the sequel, he was given star status, telling the son of the fly (which should have been the title) about his dad’s experiments…and then spending the rest of the movie trying to save the son from the same fate.
Naturally, he fails. Return of the Fly is a pretty bad cash-in that exploits and makes laughable the human head on the fly, which damaged my soul at the end of the first film. For even more laughs, it also has the man with the fly head all up in the camera and running around like a fly with its body chopped off.
Also of note, while the first film was in color, the sequel is in black and white.
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)
In the movies in which they appeared together, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre made quite a comic duo, so why not exploit that in The Comedy of Terrors?
Price runs his father-in-law’s funeral home and Lorre is his assistant. The business is failing, so they usually recycle coffins after the funeral ends. But then they think of an even better way to drum up business…make sure there are more dead bodies to be buried. Yes!
This slapstick flick, witch brings to mind Sweeney Todd, is loaded with murder, people coming back to life, and even a crazed man with an axe!
TWICE TOLD TALES (1963)
This horror anthology features adaptations of Nathaniel Hawthorne stories with a great gothic feel.
In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Price and his old doctor friend discover that dripping water in the tomb of the doc’s wife has kept her body preserved. So they drink it down to make themselves young and bring her back to life. As you can imagine, that’s a big mistake.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” could easily have been the inspiration for a movie like Teeth. Price plays a father who comes up with a unique way to protect his daughter from ever being hurt by a man. He makes her untouchable…literally.
“The House of the Seven Gables,” one of Hawthorne’s most famous novels, becomes a tale of ghosts, haunting premonitions, and murder when Price and his wife return to his childhood home, where it is believed a curse has been put on his family. This one definitely finishes the anthology off with a traditional Price haunted house movie feel.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)
Considered a horror classic, Witchfinder General is more an historical docudrama about the horrific witch hunts of the 1600s. Price portrays Matthew Hopkins, a man who plays upon paranoia, going from town to town using the well-documented tactics of proving everyone a witch…or killing them in the process.
There are some early scenes that are disturbing due to their basis in reality and also a witch-burning scene near the end that’s pretty heinous, but damn this film is boring! And there are way too many scenes of horse riding!
CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970)
If Witchfinder General were actually a horror movie, it would be this trippy flick. Price plays…you guessed it. An evil witch hunter during the witch hunts. His men invade a Witches’ Sabbath and kill most of the witches (who are all dancing in white?). The mother of all witches does what she needs to do to get revenge.
Cry of the Banshee has an awesome animated opening (my favorite part), several scenes of women being harassed and stripped by drunken men in a bar, step-incest, voodoo dolls, witch chanting, and a werewolf-like monster. Despite being a mess, it’s still more of a horror movie than Witchfinder General will ever be….
SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970)
This disastrous, disjointed flick is oddly watchable. There are evil Russians (including Peter Cushing), and one of them appears to have psychic powers. There’s a serial killer on the loose and he seems to be sucking the blood from his female victims. A jogger in a hospital is missing a different limb every time he wakes up. Christopher Lee makes a brief appearance. And Price plays a doctor. If you had to guess, would you imagine it’s an evil doctor?
In a weird way, it does all come together in the end, and it’s sort of like an Ira Levin novel with a dash of The Bionic Woman’s fembots thrown in for good measure. But the best part of the film—aside from the never-ending scene of cops chasing the serial killer (by car, then on foot, then by car, then by foot again)—is the club scene in which the rockin’ band is playing the “Scream and Scream Again” theme song. Awesome.
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)
Price gets psychedelic as he steps into the 1970s, because The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a fucking trip. We are thrown right into a bizarre “concert hall” with Phibes playing organ, a band of plastic men accompanying him, and a beautiful female assistant ballroom dancing with him.
Also, Phibes is going around setting fatal traps for doctors as part of a revenge plan for the death of his wife, which we learn as the movie progresses. And the only way he can “speak” is through this Frankenstein bolt he attaches to his neck. Oh. And in a unique twist on the masked killer concept…Phibes wears a normal man face as a mask—a Vincent Price face!
There’s also a bumbling, slapstick team of detectives on the case, and they actually bring the most camp and adult humor to this undeniably infectious piece of horror absurdity. Definitely ranks as one of my favorite Price films. And some of the kills are fricking nasty for the time period.
PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)
Phibes returns to his concert hall—now located in a cave in Egypt (?)—to use ancient scrolls to resurrect his wife. Unfortunately, they’ve been stolen. His dancing assistant is back (played by a different actress). Comic detectives are again pursuing Phibes. And the party responsible for stealing the scrolls is about to face the dastardly, ingeniously gruesome traps Phibes sets in the desert location.
Phibes makes a lot more use of his Frankenstein bolt this time. He seriously never shuts up. And yet the detectives still get all the best laughs. But not to be overshadowed, Phibes lays some fucked up traps that would make Jigsaw envious. And he might even come out of the closet at the end of the film as he sings “Over the Rainbow” to us. WTF? Damn, I wish they’d made a third film.
THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)
After two decades of making horror films, it was time for Price to start poking fun at himself with Theatre of Blood. And it’s a total blast. While it’s not really a “comedy,” it is a darkly tongue-in-cheek, brutal gorefest!
This is one of Price’s most deliciously maniacal performances ever. He is a Shakespearean actor, believed dead but actually quite alive, who gets heinous revenge on all the theater critics who ripped him apart in print. And he enacts his gruesome revenge with the help of homeless thespians!
Aside from one of the critics being a big flaming queen with two poodles, Price at one point disguises himself as a big queeny hairdresser with an afro who goes by the name of BUTCH. Price’s flamboyant performance and flirtations with another man are, well…Priceless!
Poking fun at his horror icon status. Price plays a horror actor most known for his role as skeleton-faced killer “Dr. Death.”
When Price’s beloved is murdered, he goes a little crazy…just as he’s about to star in a new television show. Before long, people involved with the show are dying deaths that mimic the murders in the Dr. Death movies.
Madhouse is essentially a slasher with Price as the “final girl.” The killer wears a cape, a black hat, and a creepy mask, some of the deaths are deliciously gruesome, and there’s even a great chase scene.
But the film also celebrates classic horror, even using clips from old Price horror flicks as his character does a promotional tour. Plus, Peter Cushing plays Price’s horror writer friend.
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983)
Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine. A group of people trapped in a scary old house during a rainstorm. A crazed killer locked in a room upstairs. Crazed killer escaping. Victims being murdered one by one. And it was made in the 80s. House of the Long Shadows should be an amazing film.
It breaks my heart to say that it is so fucking boring. Desi Arnaz Jr. is an author who comes to an empty Welch manor to write a novel. Over the course of an hour, each of our horror icons begins to appear at the house, along with a few more people. The pacing is horrible as everyone talks…and talks…and talks…and does it really slow. WTF? Finally, we learn about the killer…who has escaped the room upstairs.
Because this is a PG film and supposedly a parody film (that pretty much lacks any humor), it totally fails to deliver even a thrilling slasher experience in its last forty minutes (this movie is too fucking long). The creepy atmosphere doesn’t even help because the film is beyond dark. You seriously can’t see much of anything at most times.
House of the Long Shadows has one notable thing going for it. ***SPOILERS*** Its final reveal came three years before the same twist was used in April Fool’s Day.