I love Vincent Price. No really, I mean I just love him. They just don’t make actors like him anymore. Classy, elegant, stylish, and just the right amount of twisted.
From his earliest appearances in film, Price had a way of delivering a line that would stop you in your tracks and appreciate his style.
Take this line from Laura, a film that Price considered his first, even though he had a handful of credits that came before it including Tower of London with Boris Karloff and The Invisible Man Returns:
“I don’t use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom.”
Any decent actor could deliver that line. Most would do so with an inherent sarcasm. But, when Price said it, a chill ran up my spine.
As for me, it never fails that as October rolls around all I want to do is watch Vincent Price movies and relish every moment of the actor onscreen, and that makes it the perfect time to share some of my favorites with all of you!
Frederick Loren–House on Haunted Hill
Frederick: I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on Haunted Hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. Ah, but here come our other guests.
I love this movie so much. It’s like comfort food! From those first moments of darkness with spooky sounds and screams to Price’s opening narration inviting us all to a party to skeleton’s on wires jerkily walking across the floor, it thrills me.
It was the first of two films Price made with the king of gimmicks, William Castle–the second was The Tingler. Castle told the story that he happened to catch Price on a day when he had been passed over for a part. The director invited Price to lunch and pitched the idea of House on Haunted Hill to the actor who eagerly accepted. So, let’s all be grateful to whoever passed on Price for whatever that other picture was going to be!
What I love most about this particular performance is that Price’s acerbic wit, especially when squaring off with the gorgeous Carole Ohmart as his wife. It is pure acid-drenched lightning!
I can’t imagine that anyone hasn’t seen this film, but if you haven’t, now is the time to rectify that! You really don’t know what you’re missing.
Dr. Malcolm Wells–The Bat
Dr. Wells: In my report I shall state that death was caused by a stunning blow followed by sever laceration and hemorrhage.
Lt. Anderson: In plain English, he didn’t know what hit him.
Dr. Well: Oh he knew, but he didn’t have time to think about it.
This film has everything!
Agnes Moorhead (Bewitched) stars opposite Price as a mystery author who finds herself in the midst of real life terror when she is trapped in her home by a killer the local authorities have named The Bat. Price plays a local doctor who, among other things, has been studying the nocturnal creatures. He also just might be a cold-blooded killer looking for a million dollars that was embezzled from a local bank.
Price just slips right into this role, oozing menace even when he’s bandaging up someone’s wounds. I love his performance in this. It’s so sedate, reserved. There’s no need for scene-chewing or overstated gestures. It’s just Price doing what he does best.
It’s important to note that this was the fourth adaptation of the original novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart, often called the American Agatha Christie. Price said later that he had watched a play adaptation as a child and had been terrified by it which is why he chose to do the film. Sadly, he said he was disappointed overall because he didn’t felt the script lived up to what he had seen as a youngster.
Regardless, The Bat is free to watch on Amazon Prime. Grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, and enjoy!
Dr. Erasmus Craven–The Raven
Dr. Erasmus Craven: Oh yes, yes. Instead of facing life I turned my back on it. I know now why my father resisted Dr. Scarabus. Because he knew that one cannot fight evil by hiding from it. Men like Scarabus thrive on the apathy of others. He thrived on mine and that offends me. By avoiding contact with the brotherhood I’ve given him freedom to commit his atrocities, unopposed.
Loosely, and I cannot say it enough, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famed poem, Price is at his campy best as Dr. Erasmus Craven, a magician who has turned his back on his magic. When another magician (Peter Lorre) appears in his home in the form of a raven, he’s informed that the man was cursed by Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff), a fiend who has abused others with his power.
Okay, it might be better to say this film was suggested by The Raven.
Director Roger Corman pulled out all the stops in this film, and both Price and Karloff rise to the occasion. Believe me when I tell you that there has never been finer acting with eyebrows in all of cinematic history as when the two face off in a magician’s duel.
I loved everything Price did in this film, and it’s one that is fun to watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it! Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for a young Jack Nicholson among the cast, as well!
Edward Lionheart–Theater of Blood
Edward: How many actors have you destroyed as you destroyed me? How many talented lives have you cut down with your glib attacks? What do you know of the blood, sweat and toil of a theatrical production? Of the dedication of the men and the women in the noblest profession of them all? How could you know you talentless fools who spew vitriol on the creative efforts of others because because you lack the ability to create yourselves! No Devlin, no! I did not kill Larding and the others. PUNISHED them my dear boy, punished them. Just as you shall have to be punished
You know, when Vincent Price decided to chew through the scenery, he made a full meal of it, and Theater of Blood is a five-course feast!
This is one of those movies that you just have to sit back and accept it for what it is. Price plays Edward Lionheart, an over-the-top actor driven mad by his critics who sets out for bloody and theatrical revenge. This film is one for the ages.
The actor was joined by Diana Rigg, who recently passed away, who played his daughter. Rigg often spoke fondly of the film and her time making it. Interestingly enough, the film was later adapted as a play and Rigg’s daughter, Rachael Stirling, played the same role.
Dr. Phibes–The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Dr. Phibes: Where can we find two better hemispheres, without sharp north, without declining west? My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, and true plain hearts do in thee faces rest. Within twenty-four hours, my work will be finished, and then, my precious jewel, I will join you in your setting. We shall be reunited forever in a secluded corner of the great elysian field of the beautiful beyond!
A lot of people probably have opinions on this, but this is one of Price’s most unsettling roles. I’m not sure what it was about it. Perhaps it was the fact that he didn’t speak until a half hour into the film. Perhaps, it’s because when he did speak, his lips didn’t move. Or perhaps, it was the sheer, driving madness of the character and how he killed.
I think it was all of those things, and even after all these years, Dr. Phibes and his mechanical orchestral still gets under my skin.
Price played Phibes two times, and a third film was planned, but after the actor cut ties with the studio and they changed their focus to more exploitation fare, the third chapter was abandoned. I always kind of wondered what could have been. The third film reportedly had Phibes fighting Nazis while searching for the “key to Olympus.”
Jean–Three Skeleton Key (Radio Show)
Jean: From time to time I’d strike a match to see the clock, but when I did it lit up the million red eyes about us…all about us…watching…waiting…
Okay, I know that old radio plays aren’t for everyone, but believe me when I tell you this one is pure gold.
Price plays Jean, a man working in a lighthouse with two other men on a desolate island. When a strange ship crashes ashore thousands of rats stream from inside onto the island. The ravenous creatures trap the men inside the lighthouse and are slowly worn down by the swarm.
Price is a brilliant narrator in this piece. You can feel his exhaustion and his tenuous balancing act on the precipice of madness. I cannot recommend it enough. Turn down the lights, close your eyes, and let Vincent tell you a story. You’ll thank me!
Professor Henry Jarrod–House of Wax
Professor Jarrod: Once in his lifetime, every artist feels the hand of God, and creates something that comes alive.
House of Wax, a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum, was the first 3-D film shot by Warner Bros.
Price plays the Jarrod, owner of the titular museum whose business partner thinks they could make more money by displaying macabre scenes to shock their visitors. Jarrod disagrees and his partner burns down the museum, supposedly killing the sculptor as well.
When Jarrod shows up over a year later with a gruesome new museum, things get scary, especially when the truth comes out about why his statues look so very lifelike.
Price was at his scene-stealing best in this film. It’s one that I return to over and over again. I just love the dramatic, and admittedly deranged romance of the piece and I just can’t get enough of it.