I’ve recently had a couple of occasions to talk with different people about one of my all-time favorite actors, Mr. Vincent Price. Growing up as I did in the late 60s and early 70s, it seemed as though Mr. Price was all over the TV, either in some of his most iconic movie roles which would play on the late-night or afternoon TV movie shows or as a guest star on all kinds of variety shows (I particularly love his guest shot on The Muppet Show, which, if you haven’t ever seen is well worth seeking out) to simply adding his unique voice to any of a variety of projects (yes, that is him at the end of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video). It seemed at the time there was no project that he wouldn’t accept, and no matter what kind of role he would take on, just his mere presence in or on something seemed to, as they say “class up the joint” just a little bit. I guess in that way he was kind of the Morgan Freeman of that era.
Anyway, these discussions led me to look at what of Mr. Price’s work is currently availble for streaming on Netflix. This was initially just going to be an e-mail to a friend of mine to make sure that they had seen some of my favorites, but I figured since I was going to be writing about them anyway, I might as well just turn it into a post here. So what I’m basically going to be doing is sharing a few thoughts on a variety of these movies, with trailers if I can find them, and links in case you want to add some of them to your own streaming queue.
First up is one of my all-time favorites from Mr. Price, William Castle’s 1959 feature House on Haunted Hill. This was one of Castle’s great ballyhoo features which was advertised during it’s initial run as featuring the thrilling technology known as “Emergo!” Basically this meant that during a certain point in the movie (and it’s fairly obvious when) a skeleton would be rigged up to pop out from the side of the screen to scare the attending audience. Even without the gimmick, however, this is actually a fun little creep fest from producer/director Castle. It’s a fairly standard plot- strangers are brought together in a creepy old house and are locked in until morning, and pretty soon creepy things start happening and the bodies start falling – brought up not only by a particularly smarmy performance by Price as the host for the evening’s festivities, but also Elisha Cook Jr. as the house’s owner. This is one of those films that, because of its public domain status seems like it’s on every cheap horror collection or dollar disk around, but I’m always surprised by the number of people who have not actually seen it. Anyway, here’s the trailer:
Looks like fun, doesn’t it? Well, if you want to watch it, here’s the Netflix link: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/House_on_Haunted_Hill/605556
Next up is another all-time favorite, and another one of those public domain staples that I tend to just take for granted that everyone who has any interest at all in the movies of Vincent Price has seen, and then am consistently surprised when that turns out not to be the case. The movie is The Last Man on Earth, and I mentioned this one fairly recently when I posted about the interview with writer Richsrd Matheson, because it is the first adaptation of his book I Am Legend. Yes, this is the same story that formed the basis for the Will Smith movie of the same name from a few years back, and also was the basis for the Charlton Heston-starring The Omega Man (neither of which are currently available on Netflix streaming, unfortunately). Anyway, given the popularity of zombie movies today, this is one I’m really surprised hasn’t been given more play. Actually, the night creatures in this flick are sort of a cross between vampires (they are killed by a stake through the heart and only come out at might) and zombies. Nonetheless, it’s a hauntingly disturbing meditation on isolation and desperation for company as played out in a post apocalyptic landscape. Anyway, again, here’s the trailer:
and here’s the Netflix link: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Last_Man_on_Earth/70016997 .
Okay, so those are probably my two personal favorite Vincent Price movies, but let’s move along and see what else is available, shall we?
Next up are three variations on a theme. One of the most famous characters created by Mr. Price is the title character in a movie titled The Abominable Dr. Phibes. I suppose in a way you could consider Dr. Phibes a precursor to serial killers such as the one in the movie Se7en, where all of the murders fit into a certain revenge theme, and part of the “game” of the movie is figuring out what the theme of the murders is, and then how they are all going to fit into the selected theme. Unfortunately, the original Dr. Phibes movie isn’t available for streaming at the moment, but it’s sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, is. This one unfortunately, which has to do with Phibes attempting to transport his dead wife’s body to Egypt to restore her to life is nowhere near as creative as the original (which saw the murders taking the shape of variations on the Egyptian plagues), but it remains entertaining nonetheless.
Here’s the Netflix link for this one: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Dr._Phibes_Rises_Again/60001126
Variations on this twisted serial killer theme can also be found in two other Price movies that are available for streaming, 1973’s Theater of Blood, where Vincent plays a London actor seeking bloody revenge on the critics who panned him ( http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Theater_of_Blood/70147559 ) and Madhouse from 1974 where Price plays an actor who may or may not be committing murders in the guise of his onscreen persona, Dr. Death. ( http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Madhouse/70147061 ).
(Just a quick side-note, since Madhouse presents Price as an actor who is known for “Vincent Price-type” murderous roles, it’s obvious that the producers were quite pleased that they could use footage from some of Price’s own movies to show the actor as a younger man in those roles.)
So now we move to another aspect of Mr, Price’s career which can also be represented by a couple of selections from Netflix, specifically the Corman/Poe movies. In the early to mid 1960s, prolific producer/director Roger Corman was involved with bringing what can only be described generously as extremely loose adaptations of various Edgar Allan Poe stories to the screen under the auspices of American International Pictures. In total he made eight of these films, and most were done as starring vehicles for Mr. Price. Interestingly, quite a few of these adaptations were once again penned by the prolific Richard Matheson. Of the seven Corman/Poe/Price collaborations, two of them appear to be available at the moment on Netflix. The first is 1962’s Tales of Terror, which brings together three of horror’s most recognizable stars, Price, Basil Rathbone, and Peter Lorre to tell three very different Poe tales: “The Black Cat”, “Morella”, and “The Case of M. Valdemar”. The second available Corman/Poe flick is a feature length outing for Mr. Price, The Masque of the Red Death.
As I noted, these Poe outings tended to at times be VERY loosely based on the original tales, but as is true for almost everything Roger Corman was putting out at the time, faithfulness of adaptation was of secondary (or even tertiary) concern to putting butts in seats (or bringing cars full of teenagers into the drive-ins) and entertaining an audience for 90 minutes, and that’s exactly what Corman delivered with each of these outings. Actually I’m highly disappointed that one of my personal favorites of these Poe movies, The Raven (which, trust me, strays about as far as you can from the source material, but what can you expect when one is trying to turn a poem into a 90 minute screenplay?) isn’t available.
Anyway, I digress. Here are the Netflix links for Tales of Terror http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Tales_of_Terror/60001127 and Masque of the Red Death http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Masque_of_the_Red_Death/70147561 .
And here are trailers for each, again, to give you a taste of what you can expect:
Lest you begin to think that horror was all that Mr. Price did (and unfortunately, it really is the large majority of his output, and more to the point of this post, what is available for streaming) let’s take a look at a couple of other genres that he also touched upon. first of all looking at adventure films such as 1961’s Master of the World. Conceived by AIP as a sort of answer to the epic adventure film Around the World in 80 Days, this outing, based upon a combination of Jules Verne stories is unfortunately betrayed by the budgetary constraints of the studio. Nonetheless, it remains entertaining, again, largely and pretty expressly due to the charisma of its star. Here’s the trailer:
and here’s the Netflix link: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Master_of_the_World/70147194
And that finally brings us to the last pair of movies that I want to look at, and the last aspect of Mr.Price’s career as represented by the movies that Netflix has available for streaming: comedies. Yep, despite being best known for his horror and suspense turns, Mr. Price quite often showed quite the comedic streak, and fortunately we can even touch on that part of his nature with a pair of sci-fi/spy/beach party spoofs, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine ( http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Dr._Goldfoot_and_the_Bikini_Machine/60020659 ) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs ( http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Dr._Goldfoot_and_the_Girl_Bombs/70148769 ). The first of these, Bikini Machine, co-starred Frankie Avalon as its ostensible hero, and, while it proved a strong enough hit here in the U.S., it was an even bigger hit in Italy, leading to the inevitable sequel being made there, and even being directed by Italian horror maestro Mario Bava. Even when Price was making comedies, it seems, there was always some kind of horror connection!
Anyway, the two movies are largely sex-spoof fluff, but here are the trailers to give you a taste of them and round things out.
So there you go. Of course, focused as it is on movies that are available on one streaming site, I can’t really claim that this is any kind of a comprehensive view of the extremely prolific career of Mr. Price, and there are actually a couple of titles available there that I left out, but nonetheless, hopefully this will provide a pretty good overview of the great actor’s output over the years, and it’s certainly enough to provide more that a few evenings worth of entertainment.
And if, in the end, you wind up a huge fan of Mr Vincent Price like I am, well, then, all the better.
Until next time, Happy Viewing!
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes (kiltskittensandscifi.wordpress.com)
- Man on Haunted Hill: The Venerable Vincent Price (theyearofhalloween.com)
- Rotten Cotton Unveils a Couple of Classics – Vincent Price and H.P. Lovecraft! (dreadcentral.com)
- The music of Les Baxter: the sound of B movies (musicaddict.ca)