Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Vincent Price Movie of the Week | The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

Jealousy, loyalty, and a family feud come to play in Universal's 1940 quickie melodrama, The House of the Seven Gables, loosely adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 Gothic novel.

The sudden death of Pyncheon patriarch Gerald provides his vindictive son Jaffrey (George Sanders) the opportunity to get his brother Clifford (Vincent Price) out of the way and seize the family fortune. Framed for murder and forced to leave his fiancée Hepzibah (Margaret Lindsay) behind, Clifford is sent to prison where he befriends Matthew Hargrave (Dick Foran), the descendent of the Maule family, with whom the Pyncheons have a long history of turbulence. Can the two join together to foil Jaffrey, or are the families destined to repeat the mistakes of the past and live out the curse of their ancestors?
• Director Joel May also directed Universal's The Invisible Man Returns (which came out in the US two months before this film's March 1940 release) and both featured much of the same cast and crew, including Nan Grey, Cecil Kellaway and Alan Napier (who became best known as Alfred in TV's Batman).

• Vincent Price was drafted in to take the role of Clifford when original star Robert Cummings pulled out due to illness, but he certainly 'hit is stride' as a romantic leading man, and his last film under contract with Universal proved to be his best.

• A former Yale Glee Club tenor, Price also got to sing the Frank Skinner/Ralph Reed song The Color of Your Eyes (you can hear it below).

• The fim had its world premiere in Chicago on 29 February 1940 in a double-bill with Black Friday, which starred the kings of horror, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

• In publicising the film, Universal announced that the studio's art directors had duplicated the 17th-century house at 54 Turner Street in Salem, Massachusetts, reputed to be the Hawthorne model (you can take a tour of the house with Vincent Price by watching the video below). 

• In 1963, Price took the role of Gerald Pyncheon in an abridged version of the Hawthorne story in Twice-Told Tales, which was also adapted into a colourful and now collectable Dell Comic.



In this 1990 video guide Vincent Price takes you on a private tour of 1668-built merchant house in Salem, Massachusetts that was the model for Hawthorne's tale.

I made this video presentation in May 2011 as a tribute to the Vincentennial exhibition held in St Louis which featured memorabilia, posters and emphera connected to Vincent's life, with The Color of Your Eyes from The House of Seven Gables and When Day is Done from Madhouse as the music in the background. I do hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Richard III: The Burial of the King | 'Now is the winter of our discontent!'

As Richard III, the last king of York, is reintered at Leicester Cathedral in a historic service this morning (showing live on Channel 4 in the UK from 10am, with highlights airing at 8pm), here's a reminder of Vincent Price's tongue-in-cheek take on William Shakespeare's version Machiavellian monarch, as played by his vengeful tragedian Edward Lionheart, in the 1973 black comedy Theatre of Blood.

LIONHEART: 'Well, Larding, you said my Richard III cast such a spell on the audience... "it put this reviewer in a deep sleep. And I awoke that I was spared attending the aging matinee idol's ranting and posturing." Well, let's see if we can get more rapt attention from you today. "Dive, thoughts, down to my soul, here Clarence comes".' 

LIONHEART: 'So, this critic slept through my Richard, did he? No doubt because you supped too much, you drunken hog. You may know that in Richard III, Clarence... and I do want you to try out for that part, Larding... was drowned in a vat of wine!'

Monday, 23 March 2015

Vincent Price Movie of the Week | Playhouse 90: Forbidden Area (1956)

This week's pick is an episode from the classic US drama anthology series Playhouse 90, entitled Forbidden Area.

I'm posting it because I had the pleasure of seeing over the weekend the European premiere of Tab Hunter Confidential, an inspiring new documentary (from I Am Divine's Jeffrey Schwarz) about the former 1950s teen idol and his life in the closet, whose best acting work was done for live television in series like this CBS series (his turn in 1958's Portrait of a Murderer was a career high).

The live anthology series premiered on 4 October 1956 with this 90-minute story directed by John Frankenheimer (who helmed 27 episodes), with Rod Serling adapting Pat Frank's Cold War thriller novel about Soviet sleeper agents trying to sabotage the US war effort.

Alongside Hunter, Charlton Heston, Diana Lynn, Vincent Price, Charles Bickford and a pre-Addams Family Jackie Coogan also starred. Vincent and Tab would later appear in the 1965 AIP adventure, War-Gods of the Deep, in which Price played the Nemo-esque Sir Hugh opposite Hunter's Pat Boone-styled hero. Forbidden Area, however, is made of much sterner stuff.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Richard III: The King Laid to Rest | The former monarch's reinterment at Leicester Cathedral goes live!

From tomorrow, King Richard III's coffin will tour the towns and villages around Leicestershire and be placed on public display at Leicester Cathedral before being laid to rest this coming Thursday, which will be broadcast live in the UK on Channel 4 (at 10am, repeated at 8pm).

Nearly 530 years after his death and unceremonious burial in a roughly dug grave, the coming week will provide what many feel will be a dignified and honourable burial of King Richard that was denied him all those centuries ago.

So, in honour of the much-maligned last king of York and the last in the Plantagent dynasty, here's a chance to watch Roger Corman's highly-fictionalised 1962 Poe-esque historical horror Tower of London, featuring Vincent Price as the mad 'Crookback' Lord Protector of the realm who murdered his way to the highest office of the land.

Tower of London (1962) by MargaliMorwentari

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Tower of London (1939) | When Vincent Price almost drowned - in a butt of Coca-Cola

Sixth in line for the English throne, the conniving Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Basil Rathbone) sets out to eliminate all those who stand in his way, aided by his loyal executioner Mord (Boris Karloff). But once he is crowned king, Richard must then defeat the exiled Henry Tudor (Ralph Forbes) to retain the throne…

The 1939 historical drama Tower of London was Shakespearean tragedy re-envisioned as a Universal horror film. The screenplay, written by the director’s brother, Robert, is based not on the Bard’s play as one might expect, but on ‘350 volumes of British history’, with a passing romantic story thrown in between Nan Grey and John Sutton as Lady Alice and John Wyatt. 

Heavy on atmosphere and Grand Guignol histrionics, thanks mainly to Karloff’s club-footed Mord lumbering about the tower's cobwebbed corridors, the brothers Lee used the traditional depiction of the much-maligned monarch to move their murderous monochrome drama along. It’s a creaky classic of the old Hollywood variety that's well worth a revisit.

Having had his first brush with British royalty on screen in 1938’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Vincent Price returned to merrie old England (well, the Universal backlot) to play King Edward IV's younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, who gets a most memorable death scene: being drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. 

thanks to Marie Jose Vahe for the screengrabs
Price (who was still many years from becoming the master of menace) plays his effete whiney rake to the hilt, while also sharing screen time with cinema's current kings of horror, Karloff and Rathbone (the three would later reunite – and for a last time – in 1963’s The Comedy of Terrors). 

Now here's a bit of trivia for you: Barbara O'Neil (who plays Queen Elyzabeth) was Vincent Price's former St Louis school chum and first love who he said he was 'engaged' to from the age of eight and thirty-eight.

On recounting his big scene, Price later said: ‘They fixed a handrail at the bottom of the barrel so that I could dive down and hang on to it. The liquid was water (mixed with Coca-Cola), but Basil and Boris had used the barrel to deposit cigarette butts and old bottles. I had to hold on to the rail for a full ten counts, which seemed endless, and then a couple of hefty lads opened this damp tomb and yanked me out by the heels. I got a round of applause from the crew, but I was disappointed to find my two co-stars, who had been very nice to me so far, not on the set. I thought the least they could do was lead the applause. But they appeared a few moments later with a beautifully wrapped gift - a carton of Cokes.’ 

In this episode of the video review series, Dr Gangrene revisits The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Tower of London.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

13th Annual Rondo Awards | The Vincent Price Journal nominated for a second year

Now in its 13th year, The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards will be held on Sunday 19 April, and the polls are now open for your vote and support.

This year, there are six categories in which fans have embraced the legacy of Vincent Price; with my own blog The Vincent Price Journal (aka My First Trip Abroad) being nominated a second year in a row. As it was the winner last year, I'm not expecting to win again, however if you do want to vote for me again, then I thank you so much!

As for the other Vincent Price-related nominees, I've listed them below for your consideration (the numbers represent the order they appear in the poll). Of course, you should check out the full list as there are lots of worthy treats on offer.

– The Vincent Price Collection: Volume 2 (Scream Factory).

Theatre of Blood (Arrow). Check out my review (here)

Return of the Fly (Shout!). With David del Valle and actor Brett Halsey.
Tomb of Ligeia (Shout!). With historian Constantine Nasr. 

Pit and the Pendulum: Behind the Swinging Blade (Arrow). Directed by Calum Waddell. Check out my review (here)

The Vincent Price Journal (aka My First Trip Abroad). This is my real-time travel blog based on Vincent's 1928 hand-written journal. 

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price. A chronological video review series by Dr Gangrene. 

HOW TO VOTE: All voting is by e-mail only. Simply copy the ballot (click here for the full one) and send an e-mail with your picks to, David Colton, at taraco@aol.com by Sunday night at midnight (US time), April 19.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Vincent Price Movie of the Week | The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Each week, I'm trawling through the internet to bring you a Vincent Price classic film or TV show, accompanied by some trivia and ephemera. This week it’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, in which Vincent cameos as Sir Walter Raleigh.

A rich tapestry, fusing romance, adventure, and political intrigue. Director Michael Curtiz’s 1939 historical period drama, which was nominated for five Academy Awards, was based on a play by Michael Anderson and sets the tumultuous affair between Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) and the second earl of Essex, Edward Devereux (Errol Flynn) against Essex’s powerful ambition to assume the throne of England. Having won several battles, Essex’s popularity among the people is at its zenith. Fearing his power, Elizabeth sends him on an ill-fated campaign to Ireland. When he and his troops return in defeat, Essex demands to share the throne with the heirless queen, and Elizabeth, at first, intends to marry. Ultimately sensing the marriage would prove disastrous for England, Elizabeth sets in motion a merciless plan to protect her people and preserve her throne.

Vincent Price as Sir Walter Raleigh in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Vincent Price, who left the play Outward Bound in New York to make his second Hollywood film, plays a youthful Sir Walter Raleigh. Though little more than a cameo, his brief scenes lend the epic costume drama a distinguished air. Having played the role of Essex on stage, Price found himself in a big drama of its own on set when director Curtiz threatened to replace bad boy Errol Flynn with Price if he continued to turn up late. It worked. Price also appeared in Flynn’s 1951 drama Adventures of Captain Fabian (at the end of the mercurial actor’s career), and with Bette Davis (48 years later) in Lindsay Anderson’s elegiac swansong The Whales of August. After filming was completed on the Warner Bros romp, Price returned to Universal for Tower of London, a fictional version of Shakespeare’s Richard III.


The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 1939 by Alice-Bauer

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price | Service de Luxe (1938)

Your host Dr Gangrene presents an informative video review series The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price, which has been nominated for a Rondo Award, and also features memorabilia from the collection of Collectin' Cousins Robert Taylor and Sarah Waugh (who so deserve a special award of their own).

This first episode introduces the series, gives a quick bio of Price, and looks back at his first Hollywood feature, 1938’s Service de Luxe (You can watch the film free and in full, here).

To vote for The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price in the 13th Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, click on this link to see the full ballot. And while you're there, don't forget to vote for The Vincent Price Journal for Best Blog (again!).

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Comedy of Terrors commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau | It's well worth checking out!

Film historian David Del Valle is the go-to guy when it comes to doing commentaries for these Vincent Price Blu-ray re-releases (his commentary for the Shout! release of The Return of the Fly is up for a Rondo Award this year), and he's always entertaining, with lots of candid stories about the cast and crew, many of whom he has interviewed and become friends with over the years. Rapid Heart TV's David DeCoteau, who is best known for making cheap and cheerful homoerotic teen horrors, is hugely knowledgeable about the old Hollywood days. Together they make a camptastic team on Arrow’s audio commentary about the 1963 classic, The Comedy of Terrors.
Del Valle dedicates the commentary to Joyce Jameson (1932-1987), who regarded The Comedy of Terrors as the crowning achievement of her career (she often held parties with her gay friends where she’d show the film). The actress, a favourite of Clint Eastwood, tragically took her life at the age of 54, and was also the subject of a chapter in Del Valle's memoirs, Lost Horizons Beneath the Hollywood Sign (a must-read btw). 

The cast, crew and the film’s history are all covered in great depth, with particular emphasis on Peter Lorre, whose last film this was. Del Valle relates how the acclaimed actor was dying while making the film, which required a stunt man wearing a look-a-like mask to stand-in for him. Lorre, who can be seen struggling during a dance sequence, died two months after the film was released (23 March 1964), and it was Price who delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

Unlike The Raven, whose success was based on the surprise that it was a comedy and not another Gothic horror, The Comedy of Terrors was a flop (though it didn’t lose any money for AIP). Del Valle relates how veteran director Jacques Tourneur was disappointed that no one got his ‘homage to René Clair’, despite it being a better made film than The Raven.

Advancements in digital technology have given AIP’s 1960s Poe/Price films a new lease of life on HD and Blu-ray. Closely observed, the imperfections really stand out, but they possess a nostalgic charm; while the talented artists involved have made them unique, especially art director Daniel Haller, whose deceptively opulent sets breathed lush, vivid, intricate life into AIP’s cobweb cinema. Haller gets a big thumbs up from the boys in the commentary.

Also discussed is how these 1960s AIP films weren't highly regarded by Hollywood, but are now part of film history as they marked the final curtain call for iconic horror stars like Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who all got to act together in an era undergoing great change.

Del Valle’s stories about Vincent are always priceless, and he supplies one that's particularly personal to me – and I'm sure also to lots of other fans: how Vincent believed that if people started reading Edgar Allan Poe after seeing one of his films, then he felt he had done his job as an actor. I’m one of those, so thank you Vincent.

This commentary is just another reason why you need to add Arrow's Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors to your VP library. [Read my full review, here]

* For more cult film news and gossip from David Del Valle and David DeCoteau, check out: The Del Valle Archives and Rapid Heart TV.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Vincent Price Movie of the Week | Service de Luxe (1938)

Each week I’ll be trawling the internet archives to bring you a Vincent Price classic film or TV show, accompanied by some trivia and ephemera. This week its Service de Luxe, Vinnie’s 1938 Hollywood screen debut (which he jokingly used to pronounce as his ‘day-boo’ during many of his talk show appearances).

Glamorous career girl Helen Murphy (Constance Bennett) runs the Dorothy Madison Service, that provides assistance to wealthy customers. Country boy Robert Wade (Vincent Price) is an inventor trying to secure funding for his new three-wheeled tractor. When the two meet, they fall in love. But complications arise preventing their 'getting it on' until the typical happy ending…

This bubbly slapstick romantic comedy (which was shot in August 1938 and released in the US in October of the same year) was a major vehicle for Hollywood darling Constance Bennett (who was a big name in the 1930s - both on and off the screen), and marked the beginning of Vincent Price’s Hollywood screen career.

Vinnie is certainly suave, charismatic, and showed great comic skill, but Universal really didn’t know what to do with the character actor who had cut his teeth treading the boards following his 1935 Broadway debut in Victoria Regina – which ran for two engagements at New York's Broadhurst Theatre, ending in 1937. After completing the screwball comedy, Price returned to the stage for a revival of Outward Bound on Broadway – at the Playhouse Theatre – which ran for 255 performances from 22 December 1938 to 22 July 1939.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Coming Soon ! | The music of the films of Vincent Price podcast from El Diabolik!

Very excited about hosting a special tribute podcast dedicated to the music of the films of Vincent Price for El Diabolik's World of Psychtronic Soundtracks. Hoping you all tune in. As soon as I known what date it will be going live, I'll let you know. Until then, why not check out El Diabolik's website by clicking on the link.