Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Catch Masque of the Red Death on Saturday 4 June at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival

Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe used to live in Stoke Newington, north London? Well, in honor of the former N16 resident, a day of celebrations is being held on Saturday June 4 to coincide with the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

Highlights of the day that is being organised by the Flicker Club film society include a bust of Edgar Allan Poe being unveiled by Stephen Berkoff at the Reformed Fox pub on Stoke Newington Church Street (the site of Manor House School which Poe attended from 1818 to 1820 which he was aged nine), and a panel discussion on the American writer’s work and his legacy led by award-winning authors Stephen Jones, Christopher Fowler, Pat Cadigan, Nicholas Royle and Kim Newman.

Other events include a screening of Steven Berkoff’s Tell Tale Heart introduced by Berkoff himself, an exhibition of Poe memorabilia at the Stoke Newington Town Hall, and a rare screening of Roger Corman’s 1964 classic horror, Masque of the Red Death, as a tribute to the film’s star, Vincent Price, on the centenary of his birth. Those attending the film (which starts at 9pm at the Town Hall) will also get the chance to lay their hands on copies of the specially recreated film poster featured above, which has been designed by artist Emma Molony.

More more detailed information, check out The Flicker Club website.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day Seven | Victoria Price's Reflection from a Daughter

I'm skipping to Day Six of my stay in St Louis for the Vincentennial because last night was truly a wonderful, emotional and important time for me.

On the 100th anniversary of her father's birthday, Victoria Price reflected on her dad's life to a packed audience at the Missouri History Museum in St Louis.

Sharing very personal family photos and video testimonies from her step-brother Vincent Barrett, Victoria gave us a moving, inspirational portrait of Vincent - not only as an actor and cultural icon, but as a caring, loving dad.

I would like to share with you just a few snippets from this engaging presentation in which Victoria introduces her talk, with help from her step-brother; tells us why she doesn't like horror movies; and shares her thoughts on how Tim Burton gave Vincent a new generation of fans.

Thank you Victoria.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Vinnie!

11pm, Sky Classics (Sky 311, HD 311/346; Virgin 411)

Yep! It's finally here. Vincent's 100th birthday and the centennial celebrations are well underway in St Louis, Missouri where the actor was born and raised.

For UK viewers wanting a Vinnie fix, Sky are showing Return of the Fly in horrifying HD tonight at 11pm as part of their Creepy Classics season.

Here's a gallery of stills from tonight's offering.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day Five | Meeting Victoria Price

Back in 1987, LA journalist and film historian David Del Valle sat down with Vincent to record an hour-long interview that has since become available on DVD as Vincent Price; The Sinister Image.

Filmed just after Price had made The Whales of August, the interview was Price at his most candid as he discussed his long and varied career. During the course of the interview Price observes that three days hence would be Boris Karloff's 100th birthday. Two decades later, Vincentennial organiser Tom Stockman has flown David Del Valle into St Louis to recreate the interview. His guest is Victoria Price, Vincent's daughter to his second wife, Mary Grant.

For me and all those Price fans who attended last night's discussion (despite a tornado warning that almost shut down St Louis earlier in the day), this was a very personal affair as Victoria is a living link to our idol.

Like her dad did back in 1987, Victoria's answers to David's questions were witty, sharp and very heartfelt. Victoria also went on to tell us why she now holds the torch to his legacy, which was a real taster to the multi-media event that she plans to conduct at the Missouri History Museum this Friday.

Afterwards, I got the chance to chat with Victoria myself, and with David Del Valle, whose new book Lost Horizons: Beneath the Hollywood Sign is a damn-fine compulsive read about the many actors and actresses he has befriended during his years in Tinseltown. It really is the Hollywood Babylon for the 21st century.

Here's a snippet from the discussion, in which Victoria talks about one of her greatest memories of her dad, which took place at the Pere Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day Four | Tracking down the Legacy of Vincent Price Exhibit

After Monday's screening of Laura and Dragonwyck, and a very informative Q&A from Washington University media studies professor Gallen Studlar, I headed out yesterday to St Louis' Grand Center area to track down the Legacy of Vincent Price Exhibit.

After drooling over the beautifully ornate Fabulous Fox Theatre on Washington Boulevard, I headed into the Sheldon Art Galleries where the carefully selected exhibit is being housed until August. Historical artefacts, movie memorabilia and ephemera assembled from the collections of Price aficionados, Robert Taylor, Rick Squires, Jenni Nolan O'Dell and Cortland Hull (the grandson of Henry Hull, who appeared opposite Price in Master of the World) come together for the first time to honor the life and career of the great man.

Being a collector myself, I recognised many of the artefacts on show. And although I possess similar items, I still found myself smiling with glee (or is that envy?) at some of the items - especially those that had been signed by Price and people like Roger Corman and Barbara Steele.

The big draw here, however, are the historical items that have been sought and secured by Robert Taylor. Vincent's baby book, a lock of his hair, and a most wonderful drawing by Price of Helen Hayes when they appeared on stage in London in the 1930s are truly unique.

Another surprise are the life-size figures of Dr Phibes and Professor Jarrod from House of Wax. I really could not believe that the Jarrod figure was wearing the actual costume Price wore in the film.

Visiting the exhibit on a work day was a real bonus, as I had the place practically to myself. What a treat! This Friday, Robert Taylor will host a talk at 2pm about collecting Vincent Price ephemera. It's open to the public, so all are welcome.

For a short tour of the exhibit, have a look at my YouTube video.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day Three | Thunderstorms can't stop me visiting St Louis' Walk of Fame

Following a leisurely breakfast and a goodbye chat with Roger Corman before he left for the airport, I braved a sudden thunderstorm on day five (my day three) of the Vincentennial to visit the St Louis Walk of Fame on Delmar, where Vincent's plaque can be found (at 6509) along with a number of other famous St Louisan, including Phyllis Diller, Betty Grable, Josephine Baker and Buddy Ebsen. Vincent was inducted here on June 25, 1989, the year the Walk was established, but was too ill at the time to attend. Instead a niece, who has since passed away, came in his place.

Across the road, at Star Clipper comics, I discovered a fascinating display of graphic art featuring the great name himself, including work that has appeared on the covers of the Vincent Price Presents range of comics. All for sale, I was very tempted into buying the lot. But, at least, I have this gallery of images as a fond memory of the excellent exhibition.

Sky Classics premieres The Invisible Man Returns in HD tonight

Tuesday 24 May, Sky Classics (Sky 311, HD 311/346; Virgin 411)

Vincent Price appears for just one minute of screen time before turning into a disembodied voice for this 1940 sequel to Universal's The Invisible Man.

Price plays Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe, a man who is sentenced to death for his brother's murder Michael, a crime he did not commit. Dr Griffin, the brother of the original invisible man, injects Radcliffe with an invisibility drug, which allows him to escape in a bid to hunt down the real killer. But withthe drug slowly turning him insane, time is running out for Radcliffe to uncover the truth and find a cure to his malady.

Showing as part of Sky Classics season of Universal Horrors in glorious HD.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day Two | Seeing Roger Corman and my fellow Price fans was a real Hi-Pointe

Screenings of The Raven and The Abominable Dr Phibes at the Missouri History Museum and House of Usher and Masque of the Red Death at the Hi-Pointe were the focal point of the fourth official day (my second) in the Vincentennial.

Apart from the fabulous prints of the two Poe films that the folks at Hi-Pointe were able to screen (the Masque of the Red Death print was Joe Dante's personally-owned copy), there were a few treats in store for Vincent Price fans. Tim Burton's Vincent was screened, and Roger Corman himself was in attendance with his wife and partner Julie (she's the one to thank for Syfy's OTT Sharktopus). Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas was the perfect choice to interview Corman on stage about his very long career. The Hi-Pointe cinema filmed the interview, so hopefully it will become available in the not too distant future.

It was real thrill to be able to hear Corman talk, but I got a bigger thrill when Vincentennial organiser Tom Stockman pointed me out to the attendees as having come all the way from London for the event. The round of applause that followed was quite heart-warming. Thanks everyone for making me feel so welcomed, especially Cliff and Brian at Hi-Pointe.

The event was also a chance to catch up with my fellow Vincent Price fans, including Rick Squires, the curator of the rather fantastic Vincent Price Exhibit, Danny Fulce (who luckily bagged Corman's autograph), and Jonathan Malcolm Lampley, the author of Women in the Horror Films of Vincent Price (which sold like hot cakes after the screenings).

What a day. May the celebrations continue.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Vincentennial: Day One | Magic Smoking Monkey's Dr Phibes...in 3D spoof had me in stitches

Spoofing a tongue in cheek comedy was always going to be a gamble, but Magic Smoking Money Theatre's effort really paid off.

After a gruelling 16-hour journey from London to St Louis, Missouri via a 5-hour wait in Chicago, I arrived for the Vincentennial (now on its third day - but my first) and thought I'd fall asleep during the performance. But I didn't get the chance as the theatre troupe's comic take on Vinnie's cult film had me in stitches.

Taking their cues from the film's original script, which I know word perfect myself, MSM throw in all manner of comic touches (some inventive, some cliché) in a tightly-constructed production that clocks in just at just over a hour and 15minutes.

Having some knowledge of the film is a bonus, as much of the comedy comes from parodying the film's original performances. No more so that Luke Lindberg's Vesalius. His take on Phibes' nemesis, played by Joseph Cotton in the film, is joyously hammy, perfectly capturing the original film's tongue-in-cheek nature. Meanwhile, Jaysen Cryer gets my vote for the evening's most OTT performance. As Vesalius's son Lem, he reminded me of a pre-adolescent version of Glee's Kurt suffering from Attention Defective Disorder. Another worthy mention is Scott McMaster who plays all the victims (his big-breasted Nurse Allen was a real audience favourite).

The deaths are pure pantomime, with some working better than others. My favourite was Kitai's death by rats (actually cute hand puppets), while Nurse Allen's cockroach-infested face (I got one on my lap) was a scream.

Having pulled this production together in just over a fortnight, MSM should be commended. With a little more tweaks and a few more dashes of the surreal (Cryer's man in a bat suit doing a lap dance on Dr Dun-Woody [chuckle] was a taste of that), this production could have a life outside this week's Vincentennial celebrations. Tone down the swearing and it could even be taken into local schools. Now that would a great way to celebrate a cult classic and the memory of Vincent Price. Thanks guys (and girls) for a great show.

If you love Price, Dr Phibes and spoofs, then don't forget to also check out Vincent Resurrectus: Riddle of the Maps, another fan-made homage that's available to watch on YouTube.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Sky's Creepy Classics season in glorious HD

Those of a nervous nature, look away now... Everyone else, prepare for nine sleepless nights as Sky Movies Classics peeps through trembling fingers at a different vintage frightfest every evening at 11pm between 21-31 May.

Crawling with ancient menaces, unholy ghouls and genetic abominations, the season includes The Invisible Man Returns on Tuesday May 24 and Return of the Fly on Friday May 27, marking what would have been the great Vincent Price's 100th birthday.

To get you in the mood, here's a gallery of shots from The Invisible Man Returns.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Les Baxter's score for House of Usher gets a welcome release

Being a huge collector of the soundtracks to any Vincent Price film, I was excited to hear that Les Baxter's score to House of Usher is finally available on CD through Intrada.

Here's the blurb...
Les Baxter was well known for writing in a diverse set of styles. And while probably most famous for his classic lounge music albums, his work on the AIP Edgar Allen Poe films is probably equally famous. Few of Baxter's original session tapes survive from this period. “We went in a hurry, monaurally recording directly to the soundtrack,” Baxter recalled in 1981, “and nobody really thought of or took much interest in running off a quarter-inch protection. Neither did anyone think of preserving the original tapes for any sort of purpose. As soon as the film was recorded and the music tracks dubbed in, then they were erased or dumped into the garbage can." A true tragedy, which until now seemed to have also applied to his most famous AIP/Poe effort -- the 1960 adaptation of the Poe tale House of Usher (alternatively known as The Fall of the House of Usher).

Nonetheless, a music editor's cut of the music surfaced, in pristine, mono sound quality. While the sources presented the music as assembled in the film, with some volume adjustments to allow for dialogue (many of which were removed during the restoration for this album), it is none the worse for wear and presents a glorious listen to this classic score. The score features an elegantly multifaceted theme that binds the film together, and the score squeezes every possible bit of the Gothic scale, haunted hallway suspense, macabre terror, and melodramatic romance out of the horror genre. The most overtly ghostly presence on the score belongs to the vibrato wailings of an adult chorus—the cursed spirits of the Usher dead. “[James Nicholson] gave me absolute carte blanche,” Baxter fondly reflected. “I had an old castle, and Vincent Price with a strange disease where he hears things from the dungeon and is sensitive beyond belief to touch and sound...What more could I ask for? It was a composer’s dream...Usher was very sensitive for a horror film...The music was very much on the sensual side—in some scenes, almost to the point of passionate.”

This release is limited to 1200 units. For track listing and sound samples, please visit the Intrada website.