Sunday, 28 April 2013

Blu-ray news | Arrow Films to release The Fall of the House of Usher in the UK

The first of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe cycle of gothic chillers starring Vincent Price is getting a Blu-ray (region B) release in the UK on 26 August from Arrow Films in two versions: standard Blu-ray and limited edition Blu-ray Steelcase. 

In the US, House of Usher will be form part of a Halloween Blu-ray box-set from Scream Factory. The other titles are The Haunted Palace, Masque of Red Death, Pit and the Pendulum, Abominable Dr Phibes (all currently showing on MGM HD, and hopefuly will picked up by Arrow for a UK release) and Witchfinder General (which is already available on Blu-ray in the UK from Odeon Entertainment). More details on the Scream Factory will be available in June/July.

Standard Edition:
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Roger Corman audio commentary
• Legend to Legend: Joe Dante reflects on the Poe cycle
• Through the Pale Door: Video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns examining Corman’s film in relation to Poe’s story
• Archival interview with Vincent Price
• Original Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Tim Lucas and an extract from Vincent Price’s long out of print autobiography, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

 Steelcase Edition:
• Limited Edition SteelBookTM packaging
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation (as on standard)
• Optional English SDH subtitles (as on standard)
• Roger Corman audio commentary (as on standard)
• Joe Dante interview (as on standard)
• Through the Pale Door: video essay (as on standard)
• Archival interview (as on standard)
• Trailer (as on standard)
• Artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet (as on standard)


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Baron Blood on Blu-ray | Mario Bava gives Vincent Price's House of Wax a 1970s makeover

As a teenager, Mario Bava's 1972 horror Baron Blood was the scariest film I had ever experienced, and I have never forgotten one particularly gruesome scene in which the Baron lifts up a coffin lid to reveal iron spikes dripping with blood, gore and goo. Four decades later, director Mario Bava’s film may no longer shock me, but it still remains an atmospheric ghost train ride – with a close connection to Vincent Price's 1953 film House of Wax.

Burg Kreuzenstein in Leobendorf, Austria

Shot on location at Burg Kreuzenstein in Leobendorf, Austria, Baron Blood is probably the closet thing to a Vincent Price horror film NOT featuring the merchant of menace in residence, as it looks like a 1970s version of Price’s 1953 chiller, House of Wax (you know its the 1970s by the eye-wincing clobber, naff zooms and the Pan Am 747 cameo).

When Price turned down the film (he was probably still smarting over appearing in Bava’s terrible Dr Goldfoot sequel), Joseph Cotton (who appeared with Price in The Abominable Dr Phibes two years previously) got to ham it up as the film’s villain. The similarities between Cotton’s Baron and Price’s House of Wax character, Henry Jarrod, are plain to see. Both have been disfigured by fire, and both wear a black fedora and cape while despatching their victims. They are also both wheelchair bound when in their human disguise. There’s even a scene, in which Eva is chased through some foggy streets, that mirrors Price stalking the heroine of the 1953 film.

With the exception of a couple of gory thrills (like that coffin scene), which were removed for the American release, the style and tone of Baron Blood evokes the funereal excesses of Bava’s problematic, but deliriously wonderful, Lisa and the Devil (which has already been given the Arrow treatment). The US version also replaced Stelvio Cipriani’s soundtrack with one by Les Baxter, who did scores for Roger Corman’s 1960s Poe cycle of films, that also featured Price.

Baron Blood

Arrow Video’s R2/B release (available from 29 April 2013) features a HD Blu-ray and standard definition DVD presentation of three versions of the film: the Italian original, Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga, the European export version with English audio, and the re-edited and re-dubbed US version with the Les Baxter score. I have watched all three, and while I much prefer listening to Joseph Cotton’s fruity voice in English, the Italian version is visually superior, but hearing the Les Baxter score for the first time is a real pleasure.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Leave Her to Heaven | The 1945 melodrama is heading to Blu-ray on 14 May

The 1945 melodrama LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price and Darryl Hickman, is coming to Blu-ray in a limited edition US release on 14 May 2013.

“A ‘film noir in color’ (per Martin Scorsese) and a masterpiece of post-WW II American cinema… director John M. Stahl’s gaze remains spare and precise, very Japanese in effect, like an acidic fusion of Ozu and Naruse” The Time Out Film Guide

“[Technicolor] reached its astounding apogee in the lips of Gene Tierney, as red as a witch’s apple. Each frame of her appears to be hand-tinted, as if she had ordered it” Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

Adapted from the Ben Ames Williams bestseller, Leave Her to Heaven, was a Hollywood blockbuster whose reputation has only grown with time. A ‘juicy Technicolor melodrama’ with the shadowy heart of a film noir, it focuses on the alluring Ellen (Gene Tierney), a femme fatale whose elegant exterior conceals depths of feverish jealousy that drive her to commit a most heinous crime. Although lushly photographed (by Leon Shamroy, whose work would win him a well-deserved Oscar), the film is directed with admirable austerityby veteran John M. Stahl, and features Alfred Newman's potent score, available on this Twilight Time release as an isolated track.

The other special features will be an audio commentary with Darryl Hickman and critic Richard Schickel, Movietone new footage, and trailer.

Click here to pre-order from Twilight Time

Friday, 12 April 2013

Rare Vincent Price Watercolour Sells at the Hollywood Legends Auction

Did you know that Vincent Price was not only a huge art buff, but a dab hand at painting as well?

This abstract watercolour and ink painting measuring 7.5 x 5.5" was completed by Price in 1989. Price was influenced in his style of Henry Miller, as well as his study of art history at Yale and the Courtauld in London

The watercolour was sold to an unknown bidder for US$1408.00 at Julien's Auction's Hollywood Legends memorabilia sale in April.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Happy 60th Birthday House of Wax!

1953’s box-office hit House of Wax is 60 today. It may not be a timeless masterpiece, looking a tad clunky in today’s clime, but it did provide Vincent Price with a springboard to fame, thanks to his brilliant performance as Henry Jarrod, a sculptor who gives into the public’s appetite for shock and sensationalism following a fire that leaves him disfigured. No longer able to create wax figures with his own hands, Jarrod resorts to murder and ‘waxing’ his victims, who then become displays in his new museum, the eponymous House of Wax. 

The colourful period melodrama also featured fantastic supporting roles from Carolyn Jones (later TV’s Morticia in The Addams Family) as giggling victim and future action star Charles 'Buchinsky' Bronson as Price’s mute assistant.

Here are 10 more fun things to know about the film.

1.     It was the first 3D film from a major studio (Warner Bros Pictures), as well as the first horror film shot using in the stereoscopic process. 

2.     After 14 years appearing in a range of character roles, House of Wax established Price as a horror star.

3.     Price’s make-up took three hours to apply.

4.     The cumbersome 3D cameras resulted in the actors performing many of their own stunts. Watch out for the collapsing balcony in the opening sequence where Price narrowly escapes serious injury.

5.     AndrĂ© de Toth, who directed the film, only had one eye.

6.     House of Wax took some US$5.5m at the North American box office, mainly due to the 3D gimmick, which was used the combat a new threat, colour television.

7.     A number of 3D films followed in its wake, not the least being The Mad Magician (1954), which was written by House of Wax scribe Crane Wilbur and again starring Price.

8.     Price gave up the opportunity to pay the lead in a Broadway play, My Three Angels, in order to star in House of Wax. Regarding this decision, Price said, years later, ‘It was a great hit [the play], but it didn’t help them in their careers. Whereas House of Wax changed my life.”

9.     Bela Lugosi was hired to go on a publicity tour for the film’s release. But the two horror stars never got the chance to meet during the tour.

10.   House of Wax inspired 1966’s Chamber of Horrors, starring Patrick O’Neal, which was intended as a pilot for a potential TV series; and also the Mario Bava horror Baron Blood (1972), which is getting a new Blu-ray/DVD UK release on 29 April 2013, from Arrow.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Vincent Price's Once Upon a Midnight Scary | Three chilling tales for the young at heart

Vincent Price’s Once Upon a Midnight Scary (CBS Library/Mystery & Adventure, 1979)

In this made-for-TV Halloween special from 1979, Vincent Price dons cape and cloak to introduce three chilling tales for children: The Ghost Belonged To Me by Richard Peck, Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (with Rene Auberjonois as Ichabod Crane) and John Bellair’s The House With a Clock in its Walls.

It’s more of a nostalgic piece than classic fare, and I do apologise for the variable quality (it’s been transferred from a VHS), but hopefully it will bring back fond memories to those who remember it the first time round.

• For more great Vincent Price moments in film and TV, check out my YouTube Channel