Throwback Thursday – The House on Haunted Hill

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on Feb 16, 2010.


Tuesday Terrors – House on Haunted Hill (1959) – starring Vincent Price

hhh1“The ghosts are moving tonight. Restless. Hungry.”

Doors that open and close themselves! Guests arriving in a funeral procession lead by a hearse! A falling Chandelier! Blood dripping from the ceiling! A witch that appears and disappears! 7 people already murdered! Detached Heads! Party favors that turn out to be loaded guns delivered in coffins! An organ that plays itself! The floating head of Elisha Cook Jr.! Ghosts! Dead bodies that disappear and reappear! Thunderstorms! Secret passages! Ropes that wrap themselves around the damsel’s feet! A wine vat filled with acid! A floating skeleton! And an elegant host (played by the ever-charming Vincent Price) who may be trying to kill his wife (who may, in turn, be trying to kill him)! It’s obvious that producer and director William Castle was trying to throw everything into the pot on this one.

In 1959, William Castle had made a number of b-grade pictures for various studios, but he was just beginninng to emerge as the king of the gimmick picture. His legacy today is as the man who, while he may not have invented the style, certainly perfected it and used it to bring amazing attention to his pictures. Some of Castle’s gimmicks included insuring movie goers in case they died of fright during a showing of Macabre; “Percepto”, in which audience members watching The Tingler, already encouraged to scream because the titular monster had gotten loose in the theater, recieved mild electric jolts from wires attatched to their seats; Illusion-o, which gave brave audience members a chance to see 13 Ghosts while those who were too fearful didn’t have to; and the “Fright Break” in Homicidal which gave audience members a chance to leave the theater and get a full refund before the climax if they were willing to sign a certificate of cowardicee In the midst of this came House on Haunted Hill which, through the magic of “Emergo” had a skeleton come out of the movie and float over the heads of the audience. (Don’t ruin the surprise by telling your friends, but it was actually an inflatable glow-in-the-dark skeleton that was pulled through the theater on a set of wires.)

hhh2In the film, Vincent Price plays Fredric Loren, a millionaire who is hosting a party for his fourth wife. Instead of inviting their friends, however, he has invited five guests who represent different layers of society. He has offered each of them $10,000 if they will spend the whole night in the House on Haunted hill, a house with a history of killings and hauntings. However, soon after they arrive, spooky things begin happening including all of the events listed above. Adding to the intrigue is the relationship between Loren and his wife, neither of whom like the other very much and they both have good reasons for wanting the other dead. The guests soon find that they are completely locked in the house, and there is no way out until the caretakers return in the morning. The haunted house may soon become their tomb and by morning may well have seven new ghostly residents!

Yes, the film is cheesy and some of the efffects are obviously lacking, but for a good low budget scare that is definitely highlighted by the presence of Mr. Price, you can definitely find worse ways to pass an hour and fifteen minutes. And it’s certainly more fun than the perhaps technically more proficient but heartless 1999 remake.

Preview time! Here’s the Trailer:

And here’s the skinny:

Title: House on Haunted Hill
Release Date: 1959
Running Time: 75 min
Black and White
Starring: Vincent Price
Director: William Castle
Producers: William Castle, Robb White
Distributed by: Allied Artists

House on Haunted Hill is available for viewing or download here.

Old Time Radio Tuesday – Three Skeleton Key

tskThe short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. OTR  Tuesday is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Usually for OTR Tuesday I post a whole bunch of shows covering a particular genre or a specific series, but I thought today, since we’re well into the spooky season, and especially in light of this week’s release of Robert Eggers’s movie The Lighthouse, it would be a good time to take a look at one of the true classic episodes of the era.

For those unfamiliar with the show Escape, it was broadcast on the CBS radio network from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954. Escape was an anthology series, presenting a new story each week, many of them adapted from short stories such as Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds”, Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen Versus the Ants”, Algernon Blackwood’s “Confession”, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven”, and Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game”.

On of the most popular episodes of Escape was their adaptation of French author George Toudouze’s short story “Three Skeleton Key”. In the story, three men are trapped inside a lighthouse by a horde of thousands of hungry and angry rats. It was first broadcast on November 15, 1949, and was subsequently rebroadcast (with different casts) a number of times, and it also made the leap to Escape‘s “sister show” Suspense.

The version I’m posting below is from March 17, 1950, and stars Vincent Price in the role of Jean.

Okay, that’s definitely enough words from me. Now just sit back, turn out your lights, and have yourself a little… escape… if you can…

By the way, if you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out my previous posts featuring Escape. You can find them here and here.

 

Streaming Vincent: Some Top Vincent Price Picks on YouTube (Part Two)

Not too long ago we revisited an earlier post which was all about Vincent Price movies which are available to stream in their entirety on YouTube. It was actually a re-working of an article from a few years back which was focused on Price films available on Netflix back when it was actually a good place to catch that kind of thing. Now, of course, the service is more dedicated to newer movies and their own productions, so there seems to be less space for the older films that used to be a staple and a reason for subscribing. Fortunately, however, there are still plenty of options available to those of us who love older films, and surprisingly, one of the best places to find not just films, but also television and other appearances of Mr Price is YouTube. As I said, the first part of this feature was a re-working of an earlier article, but this time I thought we’d move beyond that and look at some of YouTibe’s other Price offerings.

So where to start? Well, how about at the very beginning of his film career, a largely forgotten movie entitled Service de Luxe. Largely a feature for Constance Bennett who was, for a time in the 30s the highest paid actress in Hollywood, Service features Price as an inventor who falls for Bennett (and she for him) in this highly entertaining rom-com. Perhaps not the start one might epect for the man whose name would later become almost synonymous with horror, but he does prove himself a capable leading man, and his charm and charisma are easily apparent even in this early appearance. But don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself:

Mr. Price’s first actual foray into the world of horror was in the 1939 Boris Karloff vehicle Tower of London, and while that film isn’t available on YouTube, there is another movie, a 1962 film directed by the prolific Roger Corman (with whom Price would work many times) which really bares no resemblance to the earlier film, but still stars Mr. Price, this time as the film’s lead, which is.

Another lesser-known favorite of mine is Price’s 1959 outing The Bat, which co-starred Agnes Moorehead. In this one Mr. Price plays a local doctor who loves to exxperiment with and study bats. Meanwhile, the town, and Ms. Moorehead in particular, is being hreatened by a serial killer who is, conveniently, known as The Bat. Could Price’s doctor actually be The Bat? Or will he be the one to capture the killer? The only way to know is to watch the film right here. (Well, okay, it may not be the only way, but it’s the way I recommend.)

I said earlier that YouTube was a great way to take in Mr. Price’s appearances in media other than just films, and I’d like to turn to some of those, now. Those of you who are regulars here will known that besides film, one of my loves is old time radio, and Mr. Price made a lot of appearances on radio. He appeared numerous times on Suspense, including the memorable episode “Three Skeleton Key”.

Vincent was also the star of the radio series The Saint.

He even hosted his own horror series for the BBC entitled, appropriately enough, The Price of Fear.

I’d originally planned to wrap up this retrospective in this part, but honestly, there’s enough left to justify a part three, so look for that in a few days.

 

 

 

Streaming Vincent: Some Top Vincent Price Picks on YouTube (Part One)

In looking back through the archives and statistics for the site, I find that one of the most popular articles I’ve posted is 2013’s Streaming Vincent: Some Top Vincent Price Picks on Netflix. Of course, a lot has changed since 2013, one of the main things – at least as far as that article is concerned – is that where at one time Netflix was the go-to for finding older or less popular movies and they had an extensive collection of movies from many of the great horror masters of the past such as Mr. Price. Now, of course, they have turned mostly to newer fare and producing their own movies and series, and when last I looked there was, sadly, not a single Vincent Price movie to be found on the site.

Fortunately, YouTube is there to step into the breach. You might be surprised how many full length features are available on YouTube. And not just features, but TV appearances and so much more. That’s why I’ve decided to make this a two-parter. The first post (today’s) is basically a re-write of the previous post, except for one main difference: instead of simply posting trailers for the movies I’m discussing I’ll be. for the most part posting the full length movie so that you can watch it either here or on YouTube. There are a few that aren’t available in the full version, and for those, I will again post trailers.

Then, in the second part, which I’ll be posting next week, I’ll expand the focus a bit and look at other items featuring Mr. Price that are available, including an incredible movie by movie career retrospective.

Enjoy!


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 it 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 available for streaming on YouTube.. 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 links to the full movies where they are available.

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. Here’s your chance to remedy that:

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 . 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. Take a look:

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. When I first wrote this, the film wasn’t available on Netflix, but now, thanks to an uploader on YouTube, here it is:

Also available is the sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, .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.

Variations on this twisted serial killer theme can also be found in two other Price movies 1973’s Theater of Blood, where Vincent plays a London actor seeking bloody revenge on the critics who panned him, 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. Theater of Blood is currently available in its full form on YouTube, and while Madhouse isn’t, I did wrangle up a trailer to give you a taste of it:

(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, 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. Unfortunately at the moment, the only one of these Corman/Poe collaborations that appears to be available in its entirety is The Masque of the Red Death, though there are trailers and clips from many of the others.

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.

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. Let’s take a look, shall we?

And that finally brings us to the last pair of movies that I want to look at, though unfortunately, only one of them is fully available on YouTube: 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  and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs . 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’s the trailer for Bikini Machine and then the full version of Girl Bombs.

So there you go. Of course, focused as it is on movies that are readily available on YouTube, 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!

Sometimes You Wish You Really Were The Last – The Omega Man (1971)

omp01The first time I watched the 1971 Charlton Heston-starring The Omega Man I actually didn’t.

Okay, in order for me to explain that statement, I’m going to have to take you back in time a bit, to when I was much younger, when we only had a few television channels, no VCRs or DVRs or even DVDs, and yes, dinosaurs did roam the Earth.

We’re talking the early 70s here kids. Ancient history.

At that point, when a movie came on TV, you basically had two options: either watch it as it was being broadcast, or miss it completely and hope that it would be shown again at some unknown future date. There was no “Well, if I don’t watch it now I can always get it on Amazon or download it or stream it on Netflix.”

That’s also why in my house, as well as in most American homes, the TV Guide was the most-read magazine. As a matter of fact, at that point it was the best-selling magazine in America. And in my house, especially for a sci-fi/horror movie loving kid like myself, it was a true treasure to be pored over each week when it came in, to see what genre movies were coming on and which ones I was going to try to see.

Oh, and let me just add: woe forbid if two or more of those movies overlapped, or if they overlapped with a favorite regular TV show, because than a real choice had to be made.

om05And it was even worse if something you wanted to watch conflicted with something your parents wanted to see, because it was obvious who was going to win that little fight. Actually, there wasn’t really going to be a fight. (Oh, yeah, one other thing I forgot to mention earlier about this time: there was also no such thing as watching something you wanted to on a computer or iPad or phone or whatever. Remember, we’re talking about a time before home computers or the internet. Yeah, I know, it’s a wonder we were able to survive.)

Anyway, it was under such circumstances that I first came into contact with The Omega Man.

The Omega Man is actually the second of three major adaptations of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend. The first was 1964’s The Last Man on Earth which starred Vincent Price. The third was 2007’s I Am Legend which had Will Smith in the lead role.

Though each of them varies to a larger or smaller degree from Matheson’s novel, they all share the same basic set-up. In The Omega Man the concept is simple. Robert Neville, who was both a Colonel in the U.S. Army and a doctor who studied rare diseases is seemingly the lone human survivor after a biological war between Russia and China sets off a plague which kills off most of the world’s population and turns most of the “survivors” into plague ridden zombies.

That’s right kids, we’re talking Zombie Apocalypse 1971 style.

Anyway, back to the story I was telling:

ds1At the same time as I was a young sci-fi/horror movie fan, I was also a fan of the early pulp characters such as The Shadow and Doc Savage. I had become a fan of these characters through a series of paperbacks that were being released at the time which reprinted those early pulp stories, and which the local library would sporadically get in.

Again, finding a new one of these paperbacks on the library shelves was like a gold miner finding an unexpectedly large nugget.

You can, therefore, imagine my pleasure when, on a certain Saturday afternoon I just happened to run across a new oc Savage reprint at the library. I couldn’t wait to get home and dive right into it.

Of course, as luck would have it, that was the same Saturday that NBC was going to be premiering The Omega Man. What a terrible choice to have to make. A known good in the Doc Savage book, or the possibility of something new and interesting in The Omega Man?

Yeah, my hero won.

So, while I was holed up in my room reading the latest (well, to me at least – hey, if you’ve never read it it might as well be a new book, right?) adventures of doc and his companions, my dad was in the living room checking out the Chuck Heston flick.

Still every once in awhile, the sounds coming from the other room were just intriguing enough to draw me in to take a peek at what was going on. Of course I really had no idea what was happening, but I did see was enough to make me curious. Especially when I happened to pop in on the rather iconic final shot. But hey, if you aren’t familiar with that shot, I’ll just have to tell you what my dad told me when I asked him what was going on: if you want to know, you’ll just have to watch the movie sometime.

Fortunately, I eventually did.

I have to admit that I’ve always found Heston to be, if nothing else, an interesting actor, especially during this period of his career when he was making some very interesting choices as far as the movies he was in. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Planet of the Apes, Anthony and Cleopatra, Soylent Green, and the list goes on. For those who think of him today mostly as an NRA-loving reactionist, at the time, Heston was not just a highly respected and sought-after actor, but a man who made some interesting choices in the roles he sought out.

And this remains true when it comes to his choice to portray, and his interpretation of, Neville in this movie.

As the movie opens, Neville is a man alone. As far as he knows, he is the last human survivor of the plague, and he is also a man determined to stay that way – a survivor, that is. He spends his days hunting down zombies, collecting supplies, or watching the movie Woodstock in the local theater. (Apparently, that’s what was showing when the apocalypse hit and – since this is before the advent of the multiplex – it’s the only movie showing close to his home).

And of course, that’s also key – Neville must stay close to home, because he must be there by nightfall, barricaded into his abode when the zombies emerge. Led by Johnathan Matthias – once Neville’s friend – “The Family” –  as the local cult is known – are eager to get to Neville an make him just like them.

By the way, one interesting choice the producers made as far as the “Family” goes is that they are distinguishable from humans because they are all now albino, and extremely sun-sensitive. This explains their nocturnal vampire-like tendencies, while still allowing them to be killed by regular bullets, rather than having to be staked, giving Heston a chance to be a bit more of an action-hero than Price could be when her portrayed the role. Of course, the distinction also suits their different personalities and acting styles.

The Omega Man is definitely a triumph of atmosphere, as it does a good job of portraying the day-to-day activities of Neville as he lives his solitary life, though it also has its completely over the top moments, such as Neville playing a solitary game of chess against a bust of General MacArthur.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s giving away too much to state that eventually Neville finds out that he may not actually be the only human left alive, Of course this only brings in more complications partly because he has lost any real ability to relate to other actual people and because it raises the question of whether there might be some way to actually save the human race.

I’m giving The Omega Man a very high recommendation here, especially for those of you who are fans of 70s sci-fi adventure movies. No, it’s not perfect, and it’s not really that representative of Matheson’s novella, but nonetheless, it’s well worth a watch.

Now if we could just get a decent Doc Savage movie.

 

Throwback Thursday – Last Man On Earth (1964)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

A personal favorite guilty pleasure type movie from the 70s is the Charlton Heston flick The Omega Man. which I’ll be writing about soon, and which was the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. So for today’s Throwback Thursday I thought I’d revisit this article from Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest first posted Feb 9, 2010.

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Tuesday Terrors – The Last Man On Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price

lmoe1Hello?! Is there anyone out there? Oh, thank goodness. For a moment I was afraid that there was no one left but me and Richard Morgan. (Morgan! Morgan! Come out Morgan!) Who’s Richard Morgan, you ask? Why he’s the character played by Vincent Price in today’s feature. He’s The Last Man on Earth.

In 1964, Italian director Ubaldo Ragona and American Sidney Salkow set out to adapt Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend to the big screen. Hiring Matheson himself to write the screenplay (though he eventually decided he was disappointed with the outcome and had the credit changed to “Logan Swanson”) and Vincent Price to star, the duo felt they had a sure-fire hit on their hands. Unfortunately, the film was hampered by an obviously low budget and some of the Italian actors were very badly dubbed, and it wasn’t until later years that the film came to be seen as anything more than a minor Price effort. Now, however, it has a 73% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and is considered by many to be the best of the three major adaptations of the novel. The other two being the 1971 Charleton Heston starring The Omega Man, and 2007’s Will Smith actioner I Am Legend .

Set in the then-near-future time of 1968, Price stars as Dr. Richard Morgan, the last survivor of a plague that has turned most of humanity into near-zombie like vampires. Since the plague hit, Morgan now finds himself spending each day making wooden stakes, hunting the vampires, and burning them in a communal pit. Each night is a torment to be endured as he tries to keep the continually persistent vampires from breaking into his home, which has become his last refuge.

Morgan, as played by Price, becomes a very sympathetic figure as we learn that he has not only lost his daughter to the plague, but he has had to put a stake through the heart of his wife who returned as one of the vampires after he could not bear to throw into the fire pits when she, too, succumbed to the disease.

lmoe2When he finally encounters another living human, a woman, who seems to also be immune to the disease, Morgan is at first elated, but his joy soon turns to suspicion and then fear as he learns that she is hiding a dark secret. Will she be the key to helping him resurrect humanity, or will she be the final nail in the coffin of the last true man?

As you can perhaps tell from the above, this is a movie that i like a great deal. Yes, the budget was minimal, but it simply forced all involved to come up with more creative solutions to the presentation. Plus, Price injects a great amount of humanity into a role that would in lesser hands be very flat. We not only hear the increasing desperation of the character in the voice-over narration that guides us through the film, but we see it on his face to an extent that becomes almost palpable.

So, again we have to ask, how did a movie from 1964 starring one of terror-dom’s greats come into the public domain. Again, the answer is simple. Before the law was changed so that everything that is produced is automatically copyrighted, a notice of copyright had to be filed, and that was never done. Therefore, automatic Public Domain.

And here’s the trailer:

Ok, the skinny:
Title: The Last Man on Earth
Release Date: 1964
Running Time: 86 min.
Stars: Vincent Price
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Producers: Robert L. Lippert, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Harold E. Knox
Distributed by: American International Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Classic Television Thursday #020 – Playhouse 90: Forbidden Area (1956)

p90What do I need to say here? Charlton Heston, Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, Diana Lynn, and Victor Jory, all starring in a screenplay adapted by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer.

What could possibly bring all of this talent together? It’s “Forbidden Area”, the premiere episode of Playhouse 90, the acclaimed 1950s television anthology series.

Oh, and did I mention that it was broadcast live? And hosted by Jack Palance?

Yeah, I’m just going to get out of the way of this one, and let you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Classic Television Thursday #012 – 1948 Presidential Election Coverage

electionComing out of all of the coverage of the elections this past Tuesday, I thought it might be interesting to see how television covered that kind of thing back in the days before wall to wall 24/7 news channels and all the rest that make up the hubbub and clamor of today’s election cycle, so here are some highlights from NBC’s coverage of the 1948 Presidential election, which was the first in which TV really was a presence in most American homes and the networks were still trying to figure out the best way to use this burgeoning medium to cover such an event.

(And yes, this was, of course, the well-known Dewey/Truman election which spawned the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.)

 

Classic Television Thursday #011 – The Halloween Special Halloween Special

htvTomorrow is Halloween, and, like many holidays, Halloween means Halloween specials on television. Whether it’s an actual special such as 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or just a Halloween-themed episode of an ongoing series, the celebration of all things spooky has probably been a part of television ever since the medium has existed.

So today, instead of a look at one particular series or episode, I thought I’d pass along a little treat in the form of a celebration of some of these classic Halloween specials.

(Of course, I suppose I should give you fair warning that there might be a trick or two in here too. But which is which may only depend on your particular taste.)

Also, fair warning: the source for some of these shows is not always the best, as will become pretty immediately apparent, but I’ve done what I can to find the best available copy.

First up, here’s a show that up until a few years ago I was unaware that it even existed. It has quickly, however, become an absolute favorite for reasons which should quickly become apparent. Your mileage may, however, vary:

What Halloween would be complete without a visit from the late, great Vincent Price? Here he is on The Muppet Show.

Of course, we all know How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but were you aware that Halloween is Grinch Night?

Here’s one of those Halloween-themed episodes I mentioned, from Happy Days:

The Beverly Hillbillies get in on the fun with an episode from Season 7: The Ghost of Clampett Castle:

Dennis the Menace proves true to his nickname as “Dennis Haunts a House”

This may not necessarily be Halloween themed, but any excuse to watch an episode of Lights Out is good with me:

And the same is true for One Step Beyond

Sometimes all you need to know is the title, and this one is from 1972 (as it really would have to be): Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies

Tales of Tomorrow presents a live version of Frankenstein from 1952 which stars Lon Chaney Jr. According to TV legend, Mr. Chaney thought this was a rehearsal instead of a broadcast, which explains some of his odd behavior. Of course, other explanations have also been forwarded, but we’ll just go with that one:

Of course, The Monkees had to get in on the fun

And finally, does it get any more classic than The Lucy Show? Let’s wrap things up with an episode entitled “Lucy and the Monsters”

So how about you? What TV shows do you like to watch around Halloween? Any favorite specials? Let me know in the comments below.

Classic Television Thursday #006 – The Chevy Mystery Show: The Suicide Club (1960)

chev3Ah, the wonders of the interwebs rabbit hole. Just the other day I was relatively bored and decided to check out an episode of the venerable detective series Columbo. Noticing a discrepancy between the episode numbers as they appeared on Netflix and on a YouTube posting, (I was looking on YouTube because I was thinking about running one of the episodes as a feature here, which I’m certain I will do in the next few weeks) I decided to see if I could square the difference by looking at the episode list on Wikipedia.

Well, I did manage to clarify that little mystery, but I was at the same time surprised to find out that Peter Falk was not the first actor to portray the character on television, and in fact that the famed lieutenant goes back much further than I expected. I’m not going to go into the character’s literary origins right now (I’ll save that for the actual feature on his own show), but his first televised appearance was in the mystery anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was created as a summer replacement for the The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.

chev1I’ll admit beyond that I didn’t do too much digging (the Chevy Mystery Show apparently doesn’t even rate its own Wikipedia page), but what little I did do turned up this: there were apparently 18 total episodes, and ran on NBC during the 9 – 10pm hour from May thru September of 1960. There was also apparently a 1961 run, but it appears that it likely consisted of repeats from the 1960 series rather than a run of new shows, but the details of that are unclear. Most of  the episodes were hosted by Walter Slezak, but at least a couple of the last episodes, including today’s feature, were hosted by none other than Vincent Price. One reference that I found listed this episode as having been produced by famed radio writer/producer/director Himan Brown, but it is not listed among his IMDB credits (though interestingly, another episode of the series is listed there).

chev2So why, considering the fact that all of this started with Columbo, am I not sharing the episode that featured him here? Well, there are two reasons, really. First off, it appears that that episode is only available for viewing in the archives of the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles – I certainly wasn’t able to find it anywhere else. And secondly, not only is the episode hosted by Vincent Price, but it stars Cesar Romero. who most of you will of course know from his role as the Joker in the Batman television series of the 1960s, though his performance here is decidedly more restrained than his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, direct from 1960 is the Chevy Mystery Show episode “The Suicide Club”: