Far too often we throw around the phrase “horror icon” or “horror legend”; however, there is no disputing the fact that Vincent Price absolutely deserves to be described with both of those handles. And today, to celebrate Scream Factory’s launch of The Vincent Price Collection (review), we count down our Top 10 Vincent Price Films.
Well known to mainstream, non-horror fans as the voice in the legendary Michael Jackson song “Thriller,” Vincent Price was indeed the face of horror for quite some time. He was incredibly chilling with a voice that simply oozed horror. And it’s for those enviable traits, and the fact that he spent so much of his life dedicated to the horror genre, that we honor Vincent Price with his own personal Top 10 list!
He has just under 200 acting credits to his name, then over 175 more instances where he appeared as himself. Price’s credits read like a venerable laundry list of classic horror and entertainment, so it certainly was not easy to get it down to just 10. Therefore, let’s start with some honorable mentions that barely missed the cut. From The Masque of Red Death to Witchfinder General and The Tomb of Legia, Price’s horror work was unmatched. However, he was also a great comedic talent as well, appearing as Egghead in the “Batman” television series and the Canadian children’s show “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.” He was excellent as both a horror host on shows like “Masterpiece Mystery” and a talk/game show guest, appearing on nearly 400 episodes of “Hollywood Squares” and almost 40 times on “The Tonight Show.” He even had a short-lived cooking show entitled “Cooking Price-Wise with Vincent Price” (very short-lived). But it’s for the horror that we love and remember him, so on to the Top 10 Vincent Price Films!
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Directed by the legendary William Castle, Vincent Price stars as the host of the haunted house party, Frederick Loren. Price’s performance of Loren, combined with Castle’s marketing genius, made the film a huge success. Castle floated a skeleton over the live audience with a gimmick he called “Emergo.” In fact, Alfred Hitchcock himself was so intrigued by the performance of the low-budget horror film at the box office that he decided to make one of his own and give it a go. Thus, Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill inspired Psycho.
The Tingler (1959)
Vincent Price had a memorable performance in another 1959 film directed by William Castle. And it again featured one of Castle’s infamous in-theater gimmicks. The Tingler was a bit more campy than House on Haunted Hill, but it is still a great film. In The Tingler Price plays pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin, who discovers that the “spine-tingling” sensation experienced by humans during extreme fear is due to the existence of a creature every person has attached to his or her spine called a “Tingler.” At the conclusion of the film, Castle broke the fourth wall and gave the appearance of Tinglers entering the theater. Random seats had been wired to deliver an electric pulse to the viewer in the chair, resulting in a shocking experience! *rimshot* The Tingler also features a scene with Dr. Chapin tripping on LSD, a first in a major motion picture. Check out the scene below.
House of Wax (1953)
Before he partnered with William Castle and his gimmicks, Vincent Price appeared in the groundbreaking film House of Wax. This was a landmark in cinema as it was the first ever full-color 3D film from a major American studio and also the first 3D film with stereophonic sound presented in regular theaters. The film was actually a remake of a 1933 movie entitled Mystery of the Wax Museum (see, they were even doing remakes back in the 1950’s), and Price played Professor Henry Jarrod, a wax figure sculptor with a museum in New York in the 1890’s. Directed by André de Toth, House of Wax features Price’s character as a psychotic killer who hides his victims within his wax sculptures. If anyone is recalling the 2005 “remake” featuring Paris Hilton, please stop.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
One of Price’s most memorable characters was Dr. Anton Phibes. Phibes was on a revenge kick against a group of doctors he felt botched his wife’s surgery, resulting in her death. This film is Price at his campy best. Even though he didn’t have to recite any lines during the filming of the movie, with everything being added aftewards, Price still manages to deliver a smashingly entertaining performance. Phibes’ revenge plot is based upon the 10 plagues of Egypt, including frogs, rats, beasts and blood. Price returned to the character the following year, reuniting with the original film’s director Robert Fuest, in Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
The Fall of the House of Usher (or simply House of Usher as it’s also known) was the beginning of an excellent string of films for Price which saw him teaming with director Roger Corman for a run of movies adapted from Edgar Allan Poe stories by writer Richard Matheson. Price plays the creepy and foreboding Roderick User, determined to keep his sister Madeline from marrying and continuing the tainted family bloodline.
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
The second collaboration among Price, Corman and Matheson on an Edgar Allan Poe story resulted in another memorable movie. In The Pit and the Pendulum, Price plays the seriously unbalanced Nicholas Medina (he also appears as Nicholas’ father, Sebastian). Imagery from The Pit and the Pendulum is still prominent today, and the swinging blade is as recognizable as ever. This second installment in the Poe series was a larger success than its predecessor and even more well received by critics. In fact, it was due to this success that the later films in the series were made as even after the success of Usher, there wasn’t talk of a series of movies until after Pit knocked them dead at the box office.
The Raven (1963)
A third entry from the Price-Corman-Matheson-Poe collection makes the list. The Raven not only features Vincent Price, but Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre as well. The three appear as rival conjurors. A young Jack Nicholson is also in the movie. Price plays Erasamus Craver, distraught over the loss of his wife, of course, Lenore. This could not be more loosely based on the classic Poe poem of the same name, but there are, at least, a couple raven sightings in the movie. In fact, this was quite the change for Price and the Edgar Allan Poe filmmaking crew as The Raven was actually a horror-comedy and not the straight up scarefest they had previously been shooting for. Indeed, one of the highlights is hearing the delivery of that famous line, “Quoth the raven…nevermore.”
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
This is the first film adapted from Richard Matheson’s classic book I Am Legend. It was, of course, later used by George A. Romero as the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead, and The Last Man on Earth was remade in 1971 as a film entitled Omega Man and in 2007 as I Am Legend. In the ’64 film Vincent Price plays protagonist Dr. Robert Morgan, who is trying to survive by himself in a world overrun by vampires. He hunts them during the day and attempts to dispose of as many as possible. As he gets closer to a possible cure, tragedy strikes. This is as post-apocalyptic as it gets!
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Invisible Man Returns is a notable film for Price because it was his first-ever horror role. That’s right; even the master of the macabre had to start somewhere. It was in this movie that Price plays Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe, a man wrongly accused of murder. In order for him to find the real killer and clear his name, the brother of the original Invisible Man injects Radcliffe with a serum that turns him invisible and allows him to go on this mission. Price was actually only onscreen for about one minute, as he was invisible for most of the movie. For the rest of the time he brought the character to live with his disembodied voice.
The Fly (1958)
We round out the Top 10 Vincent Price films with another classic, The Fly, which, much like many of Price’s films, was a critical and financial success. Price played Francois Delambre, brother of Andre Delambre, the scientist who became the beast. It was another memorable performance for a man who had a career absolutely loaded with them. Vincent Price was a trailblazer for the genre. This time, instead of playing the villain, Price gets to deliver the final line of morality of the film, explaining how his brother died in search of the truth. He did it with a giant fly head, but he did seek truth!
You can purchase the THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION Blu-ray directly from Scream Factory’s website.
This 4-Disc Blu-ray™ collector’s set brings together SIX Vincent Price masterpiece classics, featuring the first-ever Blu-ray movie presentation of FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960), THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963), THE MASQUE OF RED DEATH (1964), THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) and THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971). Brimming with a bevy of chilling bonus content including interviews with producer/director Roger Corman, audio commentaries, original theatrical trailers, still galleries and archival materials, this Blu-ray collection also includes a 24-page Collector’s book.
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