It’s our Frightening Flix Horror Titans of Yore come to celebrate our HorrorAddicts.net anniversary!
It’s our Frightening Flix Horror Titans of Yore come to celebrate our HorrorAddicts.net anniversary!
The Haunted Palace is a Creepy Little Treat.
By Kristin Battestella
In all my Vincent Price, Roger Corman, AIP, and Poe celebrations, it’s been quite tough to find The Haunted Palace again. Though this 1963 tale borrows much more from Lovecraft than it does Poe, all the creepy, freaky moods and twists are here in fine form.
In the 18th century, Arkham townsfolk burn the warlock Joseph Curwen (Price) for using the Necronomicon and local women in sadistic experiments- but Curwen vows to return and curses the village descendants. 100 years later, Charles Dexter Ward (also Price) and his wife Anne (Debra Paget) inherit Curwen’s mansion and return to the New England ruin. Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell) informs the couple of the town’s twisted history, but the rest of the villagers fear Ward as local strange occurrences and bizarre deaths increase. They use their deformed children to frighten Anne, and she begins to suspect the spirit of Curwen is indeed trying to take over her husband. Unfortunately, their caretaker Simon (Lon Chaney, Jr.) knows more than he’s saying…
Writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone, Premature Burial, The Masque of the Red Death) teams with director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) for this Lovecraftian adaptation that got unfortunately shoehorned into American International Picture’s Edgar Allan Poe cycle. Yes, it’s based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward more than any reaching at Poe titles or poetry- which might automatically put off the Poe faithful or the Lovecraft purists alike. However, the spooky moods and sinister atmosphere are here from the onset, with great traditional jumpy moments and heck, it’s actually scary in some scenes. Even if you expect the smoke and mirror twists, it’s still dang suspenseful as the sinister past increasingly takes hold. Indeed, the Necronomicon back story and Cthulhu allusions could be better explained, and the revenge plotlines are similar to later films like The Abominable Dr. Phibes. There’s reused fire filmmaking for the finale and the end is somewhat abrupt, too, but overall, this is an entertaining and scary little picture.
Naturally, the resemblance between Curwen and Ward is uncanny! Our Man Vincent differentiates the two men nicely to start, allowing a slow possession to brew. The naughty implications, man handlings, and great outbursts build perfectly as the Victorian gentleman Ward becomes increasing overtaken with the ruthless warlock Curwen. The tender scenes and inner torment as Ward realizes the takeover is happening are well done, too. Again, I don’t see any over the top acting. Price’s subtle inner conflict and physical alterations are quite the opposite in fact. The pacing on the possession is good, but I do wish the film were a bit longer, as Debra Paget (The Ten Commandments with Price) as Ward’s wife Anne does become a bit typical. She’s active, suspects, and doesn’t scream too much, but it just seems like they ran out of time in developing her suspicions on Curwen overtaking her husband. Of course, Paget looks wonderful- and looks good scared, that’s not always an easy thing to master. The Wards also sleep in the same bed, whoa! Anne ends up the good little woman, but their tender relationship and its explosive breakdown are well done, and it adds an extra personal dimension to the twistedness at hand.
Instead of the usual stock company throwaways, the supporting village men in The Haunted Palace lift up the horror here. Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man) is perfection as the creepy and most definitely not so innocent caretaker Simon. Of course, he knows more about Curwen than he lets on to the Wards, and his scary introduction is great. Frank Maxwell (Our Man Higgins) does fine work as the would be voice of reason among the otherwise superstitious townsfolk, but again, I wish there were more of his Dr. Willet and town scaredy cat Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, House on Haunted Hill). Leo Gordon (McLintock!) is also a lot of fun, as are the weird, deformed, and disturbed village descendants. Oh, girls with no eyes or freaky eyeless men and worse shouldn’t be so scary, but when used in full force here, it’s downright frightening.
Although the Cthulhu- like tentacles and dungeon scenery leave something to be desired, the other period styles and designs establish The Haunted Palace wonderfully. The spider web motifs over the credits will be dang freaky for arachnophobes, and the opening colonial mayhem looks on form. The fog and lightning create all the atmosphere needed, and eerie music tops off the titular mansion’s décor, red candles, and sweet candelabras. Those dungeons, however, are a little too dark to see- even when its daylight. Of course, the video is due some restoration, and the matte paintings supposedly providing scope are fairly poor, but that is to be expected. Thankfully, the Victorian standards, ornate frocks, and wispy nightgowns more than make up the difference.
Unfortunately, The Haunted Palace is dang tough to find. Netflix is mum and its double bill DVD release with Tower of London is downright elusive. For Price Fans, Corman completists, and old school horror fans, however, The Haunted Palace is well worth the hunt. Catch it whenever you can or delight again on a spooky late night whenever you need that hint of Lovecraft. Or Poe for that matter, hehe.
Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz (and a special feline guest) discusses new appreciations in revisiting the short fiction of Edgar Allan Poe including The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell Tale Heart in addition to comparing and contrasting the Vincent Price and Roger Corman Poe Film Adaptations.
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The Oblong Box Along and Scream and Scream Again Dated, but All in Good Fun
By Kristin Battestella
The Vincent Price fest is never over, so along comes The Oblong Box and its double bill with Scream and Scream Again. Though not as special as some of Price’s previous Poe and Corman collaborations, this duet celebrates not one horror master, but two. Vincent Price, meet Christopher Lee.
Julian Markham (Price) has returned from his family’s African plantation with his cursed and deformed brother Edward (Alister Williamson) – who Julian keeps locked in an upstairs room. Despite the mysterious behaviors at his estate, Julian hopes to marry the young and beautiful Elizabeth (Hilary Dwyer). The Markham lawyers Samuel Trench (Peter Arne, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and Mark Norton (Carl Rigg, Marked Personal), however, plot Edward’s escape and cure along with African witchdoctor N’Galo (Harry Baird, The Italian Job). Unfortunately, Edward is accidentally buried alive in their scheme. Once rescued by Dr. Neuhart (Christopher Lee) and his grave robbers, the masked Edward romances the pretties and plots his revenge.
He may be top-billed, but there’s not as much of our beloved, over the top Vincent Price (The Tomb of Ligeia, House of Usher) in 1969’s The Oblong Box. Although he’s less than a decade removed from the early success of American International Pictures’ Poe series, Price looks a little old for his leading lady Elizabeth. Fortunately, outside of these quibbles, there’s still plenty to love. Julian looks the worn, conflicted English noble. Can he dare to hope while he’s also walking a deadly line of guilt and destruction? Price makes the most of his given scenes, both as a disturbed brother and a charming husband. Again Hilary Dwyer (Wuthering Heights, Hadleigh) seems a little young, but this works in her tender relationship and naivety with Julian. Likewise, Sally Gleeson (Bless This House) looks and acts the pretty -if a little naughty-maid.
Hammer Horror alum and Lord of the Rings veteran Christopher Lee also doesn’t have as creepy a role as I might have liked, but his mad doctor is a high brow mad doctor. He pays slick swindlers to steal the bodies of the recently deceased for his research, but Neuhart does his doctoring while wearing a silk tie and waistcoat. He gets down and dirty with cadavers in the name of science, but Neuhart objects to Edward’s blackmail and murderous revenge. There isn’t much time for this stylized ambiguity in The Oblong Box, but Lee’s presence and voice command your attention in all his scenes.
Price, yes, Lee, lovely- but The Oblong Box is Alister Williamson’s (The Abdominal Mr. Phibes) picture. Yes, the masked man who’s true face you never even see and who the voice was actually dubbed steals this picture. It would have been intriguing for Price to play both brothers-or even Lee take a turn under the crimson hood- but the voice and style of both men are too easily recognized. Williamson and his Edward are mysterious, unknown. What does he look like under that hood? We know he’s been wronged and wants to see Edward find justice, but how far will his revenge go? Which side of the law is he on -and why do the ladies find him so irresistible? This is England, 1865 as only 1969 could recreate. Williamson gives Edward charm and tenderness with some ladies, then rapacious violence with others. He’s naughty, nice, misunderstood, and vengeful-not bad for our unknown, unseen, and unheard actor, eh?
The cast keeps The Oblong Box charming, but this very loosely Poe inspired adaptation from Lawrence Huntington (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents) and Christopher Wicking (Murders in the Rue Morgue) isn’t as strong as it could be. Director Gordon Hessler (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) spends too much time on the stereotypical mistreatment of colonial Africa and blaxploitation-like zooms and voodoo montages. If you want to talk about the unjusts of slavery, set the entire picture in Africa and let the actors go to their scary depths.
Thankfully, the visual mix of the sixties and Victorian styles ties The Oblong Box together. The color and costumes are great even though Americans might be a little confused by the English style. When we see 1865 on tombstones, we think hoop skirts and Civil War extravagance ala Gone with the Wind. Here, however, the ladies “be-bustled” in a more mid to late 1880s style. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of bawdy English taverns and cleavage bearing working girls. The outdoor locations are also a treat, and there are even a few daytime graveside scenes- a rarity in these old horror flicks.
The Oblong Box isn’t perfect, but there are a few filmmaking strides here, too. The early, up close, claustrophobic deaths are from the askew killer’s point of view. We want to look away, but can’t. Despite the story’s thin execution, the charm and classic stylings of the cast win out -along with the mystery at hand. We can’t help but watch just to see if our hooded killer is caught and unmasked. Freaky faces, scares, voodoo, and violence -we just can’t help ourselves, can we?
Thankfully, Hessler, Wicking, Price, and Lee reunited the following year for 1970’s Scream and Scream Again. Who could they possibly add to up the horror ante? Why, Peter Cushing, of course!
Superintendent Bellavur (Alfred Marks, Albert and Victoria) and fellow officer Sylvia (Judy Huxtable, The Touchables) investigate a string of vampire murders. Each victim has ties to local scientist Dr. Browning (Price) and his nurse Jane (Uta Levka). Before Bellavur and morgue assistant David (Christopher Matthews, Scars of Dracula) can solve the case, Intelligence commissioner Fredmont (Lee) must strike a deal with torturous foreign dictator Konratz (Marshall Jones, Crossroads), who wants the files detailing the vampire case. Konratz has overstepped Major Benedek (Cushing) and taken control of a very grim conspiracy that has its subjects screaming and screaming some more.
Vincent Price is another year older now, and his old style presence and charisma is a little out of place amid fast-paced Brit coppers. The juxtaposition of all these young go-go folks would make Price seem past his prime -even though we know he has another thirty years of solid work ahead of him. His scenes are few and far between, but his Dr. Browning is so slick. He proves his worth against the hip stylings with suave answers for our detectives and high Frankenstein ideals. He’s a mad scientist with the best of intentions and Price leads us to Scream and Scream Again’s big finish. If the body stealing doctor with the vat of acid isn’t our bad guy, that’s scary.
Well, our man Dracula, aka Christopher Lee, as a good guy police minister-surely this can’t be? Again, there’s not nearly enough of him in Scream and Scream Again, but it’s a treat to see Lee young, modern, besuited and fedora wearing! Fremont has all the lines and politicking needed, using Konratz and Browning to his advantage. Who will come out on top? Who’s really behind all our slim and shady? In the end, Lee’s dominating presence is delightful, as is the freaky style of Uta Levka, another alum from The Oblong Box. This nurse’s devoid eyes and lack of lines would make any patient shudder.
Fellow Hammer Horror veteran and Sherlock Holmes star Peter Cushing doesn’t appear for the first half hour, but it’s no surprise that he would be the Major in charge of a Nazi-esque dictatorship successfully taking over a small European country. Unfortunately, his suave class and control over such ugly business is all too brief for Scream and Scream Again. I don’t know who the rest of the people here are and I really don’t care -and it seems the marketing folks who put Price, Lee, and Cushing in bold print knew that. Don’t Wicking and Hessler realize we can handle Price, Lee, and Cushing at the same time-nay we want to see them, we have to see them, we need to see them in more than these briefities! Forget the teenyboppers and bell-bottoms already!
It’s annoying and misleading, yes, as it has little to do with the film; but you have to admit Scream and Scream Again is a crafty title. There’s a nice chase sequence ala Bond as well, but is this so titled flick hip action or horror? Scream and Scream Again has a very interesting concept of realistic, multiple storylines amid scares and fast pacing. Unfortunately, the non-linear and jumpy approach disjoints and unravels any strides made. Each story could have been its own film, and each isn’t given its full deserving depths here. The swanky 1970 music and British contemporary style are very dated now. Scream and Scream Again might have been served better as a traditional period piece, but that probably wouldn’t have worked with Peter Saxon’s source novel. Fans of the cast’s other horror work might feel a little alienated by these vague thoughts on science and conspiracy, and Scream and Scream Again spends too much of its time trying to be hip and avant-garde with its pop music and interweaving trio of storylines.
I’ve been critical of the dated styles and misdirection of Scream and Scream Again because it’s a lost opportunity to do something really spectacular with our trio of horror masters. Having said that, it is still a scary and freaky film-psychotic and experimental doctors, cops chasing pseudo-vampire killers, maniacal governments torturing its subjects. When you look at Scream and Scream Again like that, well, then any fan of old school horror should be all for it!
Although these double billed DVDs are an affordable, quick and easy bang for your buck; most of them are a little older, and often double sided. It’s kind of a pain to flip the disc, but it’s better to have these gems digitally restored than not at all. (Insert rant here about how half the films made before 1950 no longer exist and that all the classics that aren’t available on DVD should be restored before any more Disney Direct to Video drivel comes out, thank you.) There are subtitles here at least if no features beyond trailers. What’s really unfortunate for Prince and Lee fans? Their next collaboration with Peter Cushing-and John Carradine- 1983’s House of the Long Shadows, is not available on DVD. Thankfully, The Oblong Box is viewable online.
Though seriously flawed and imperfect by modern standards, both The Oblong Box and Scream and Scream Again make for a fun night of horror and camp. Both may be too bawdy or uninteresting for the kids, but horror enthusiasts and fans of the cast can have a fun, quick marathon for Halloween or any time of the year.
Dragonwyck A Spooky and Charming Little Old Film
By Kristin Battestella
I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this 1946 title starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, for I had never heard of it before. Based upon 1944 novel by Anya Seton, Dragonwyck is a creepy little gothic tale of frightful mansions and murderous tendencies.
Miranda Wells (Tierney) dreams of bigger things than her family’s Connecticut farm, much to the chagrin of her devout parents Ephraim (Walter Houston) and Abigail (Anne Revere). When a letter arrives from Abigail’s distant and wealthy cousin Nicholas Van Ryan (Price), Miranda takes the offered opportunity to serve as companion to Nicholas’ daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) at the Van Ryan’s legendary Hudson Valley estate Dragonwyck. Once at the mansion, however, tales of hauntings, local unrest, and the uneven relationship between Nicholas and his wife Johanna (Vivienne Osborne) can’t deter Miranda from falling in love with Nicholas. But of course, he is married, and spends far too many nights in his secret tower room…
Though not a horror movie or thriller per se, Dragonwyck has many fearful moments and suspense-filled sequences, largely due to the simplest suggestions of intrigue. The black and white cinematography, creepy angles, spooky lighting, and haunting score by the famed Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won, The King and I, Camelot) give just the right amount of suggestion that not all is well at Dragonwyck. Screenwriter and first time director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra) makes great strides in giving us the basis of the novel’s complex time and place, but some sequences in Dragonwyck do seem ill edited. Quick references to a change of time and place aren’t enough to indicate the move-sometimes it seems like you’re watching a film ‘edited for content and cut to run in the time allotted.’ Thankfully, performance and story win out with the help of great costumes and gothic sets.
I don’t know much about Prince Aly Khan, except that he seemed to mentally ruin not one, but two Hollywood ladies- Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. Perhaps more well known today for her many romances, Tierney (Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Leave Her To Heaven) was pretty and she could act. Maybe her beauty draws the viewer in, but Tierney’s expressions of innocence, naiveté, and love keep us interested in Miranda. We want her to find joy and happiness-even if the high society life at Dragonwyck clearly spells doom. Likewise, parents Walter Huston (Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre) and Anne Revere (National Velvet, The Song of Bernadette) are stern and respectable parents with only the best interests at heart. Observant viewers will also see a young Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) as Peggy, the crippled Irish maid with a good heart.
It’s pretty plain to see that the ‘low’ farming folk have more values and morals than the ‘high’ Hudson folk, but Vivienne Osborne (Tomorrow at Seven) earns a piece of sympathy as Nicholas’ wife Johanna. She seems chubby and more interested in food than her daughter, but we feel that in some ways, this snotty style is not her fault. Her callous upbringing and lack of attention from her deceitful husband help blur the lines between this detailed look at the early Victorian lifestyle and Hudson society. But of course, Vincent Price (The Ten Commandments, The Pit and the Pendulum) plays a man who is not always what he seems. He’s thinner and more subdued than what we expect from the maniacal old horror maven to come in later films. Price’s Nicholas looks the waistcoat and top hat society man, we believe he can be respectable and a good love for Miranda-and yet we should know better. Price shows his range through Nicholas’ love, flagrant callousness, addictions, and other… nefarious… tendencies.
Dragonwyck is not a perfect film, and it is a little dated in some respects. Mankiewicz’ inexperience as a debut director also hampers some scenes. Nevertheless, gothic lovers and fans of classic suspense can enjoy Dragonwyck. Younger audiences may not understand some of the historical back-story about patroon landowners keeping tenant farmers in feudal like arrangements, but the spooky air is just right for a youthful scare or two. But of course, the DVD edition of Dragonwyck is now out of print. Thankfully, fans of Vincent Price can pick up a copy in several horror sets. It’s a strange placement, but fans of the cast and viewers who love a little bit of Bronte suspense will enjoy getting their hands on Dragonwyck. I’m tempted to find the book now, too!
Vincent and Me
By Garth Von Buchholz
I wanted to meet Vincent Price. In the late ‘80s, Vincent was in his ’70s but still famous to my generation as for all his kitschy horror cameos in music, movies and TV. His voice was heard in Alice Cooper’s music, he narrated the early Tim Burton animated film Vincent, and he even appeared on Scooby-Doo cartoons, Sesame Street and TV commercials, such as the one for the bug zapper device. His last major film role was the Inventor in Edward Scissorhands. Vincent was everywhere, and all his tongue-in-cheek, campy horror, carried off with a metaphoric wink of the eye and the chilling laugh, made him into an iconic pop culture personality.
To most people, Vincent was no longer scary. He didn’t start his career trying to be scary. In the ‘40s, he was a handsome leading man in gothic romance potboilers such as Laura (1944) and Dragonwyck (1946). By the ‘50s he was doing television roles and appearances, then began his descent into the maelstrom of pop horror by starring in such classics as The Fly (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), and, of course, the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations by Roger Corman (1960-64). He brought his old world Hollywood gravitas to these sensational flicks, but even though he was creating a niche for himself, he was also losing credibility as a serious actor. Hollywood proper wouldn’t come calling until years later when Tim Burton wanted him.
By the ‘60s, Vincent was already becoming parodied, and in fact, he helped parody himself to the younger generation in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)and in his famous role as Egghead in the old Batman TV series (1966-67). By the ‘70s, Vincent was everywhere, a true journeyman actor. He appeared in the brilliant monologue series An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972), the black comedy Theater of Blood (1973) and even on an episode of The Brady Bunch (1972) and The Love Boat (1978). Clearly, Vincent liked to work, had no pretensions about himself as an actor, and had a very dry sense of humor. He simply wanted to pay the bills and earn enough money to support his two true loves: his wife, Australian actress Coral Browne, and his extensive art collection.
As a fan of Poe, I had tremendous respect for the work he did on An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, which you can still see in clips on YouTube. When I heard that he would be appearing in my city to perform poetry by Edgar Allan Poe on stage, accompanied by live music, I decided I had to meet him. As a young writer and journalist, it wasn’t difficult for me to arrange complimentary tickets and a backstage pass to meet him before the show.
On the night of the show, I was ushered backstage to his dressing room. He was sitting at his dressing room table applying stage makeup under the bright globe lights above the mirror. When he caught sight of me, he turned with a broad smile and stood up, like a gentleman, to shake my hand.
“Hello, I’m Vincent Price,” he said, as if an introduction was necessary. His skin pallor was very pale because he had not completed his makeup yet, but his eyes were remarkably clear, and he was a tall, elegant man who stood more than six feet in height (I am six feet tall). It was like meeting a crown prince or duke from Europe. He was the personification of noble grace and elegance. I felt like a thick-tongued commoner in his presence.
I gave him a copy of my own book of poetry as a gift and an introduction (how unembarrassed I was to do that shameless bit of self-promotion!) I explained that I had been a fan of his for many years, and loved his work in the Poe stories. He said that he very much enjoyed doing them as Poe was a wonderful writer. He told me he was looking forward to his performance that evening, although it would require some effort because he had to modulate his voice so the orchestra would not drown him out during some key moments.
As I knew he was preparing to go on stage soon, I thanked him profusely and bid him farewell so that I wouldn’t be in the awkward position of having the stage manager appear to shoo me away. His performance that evening was breathtaking, made even more voluptuous and dramatic because of the orchestra’s choice of atmospheric works such as the spooky Night on Bald Mountain. I can still recall him intoning the words from Poe’s Alone, The Raven and The Conqueror Worm, the last of which made the greatest impression on me. Whenever I re-read The Conqueror Worm, I can still hear his voice.
A few weeks later, the venerable Mr. Price sent me a postcard with a contemporary painting on the front and a few words on the back, thanking me for my book of poetry. This correspondence was an unexpected pleasure, a final goodbye from a famous acquaintance who had endeared himself to me not only for his talent, but for his gentility and generosity. Did he actually read the book or simply toss it on a pile in his library? I believe he did read it. There was an honesty and forthrightness in his reply.
Vincent Price died on October 25, 1993, after completing his final work—ironically, it was voiceover work for an animated movie called The Princess and the Cobbler. He never lived long enough to see how the World Wide Web would become a new medium to perpetuate his legacy as an actor, performer, entertainer, and pop culture persona.
No need to say goodbye. Your ghost is still with us, Vincent.
Garth Von Buchholz is an author of dark fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction. His new book of dark poetry, Mad Shadows, was published in June. Garth is the founder of the Dark Fiction Guild (http://DarkFictionGuild.com) and Poe International (http://PoeInternational.com). He is also the Editor and Publisher of Dark Eye Glances, the eJournal of dark poetry. Garth lives on Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast. Visit his website: http://VonBuchholz.com
Horror Addicts Episode# 126
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich & Stacy Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe
writer workshop winner | valentine wolfe | tomb of liegia & an evening with poe
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Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Surprisingly Good
Several months ago, I saw an interview with Cassandra Peterson-aka Elvira-discussing Tomb of Ligeia, one of her favorites in the American Pictures International’s Poe series by director Roger Corman. Unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t recall having seen this final adaptation starring Vincent Price. When the 1969 film came on out on a double billed DVD with An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I gave the set my full attention. Perhaps it’s not a total shocker since I like the rest of Corman’s Poe series, but Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe are surprisingly good.
Verden Fell (Price) vows that his late wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) will defy death. He becomes reclusive and keeps away from sunlight with his dark colored glasses-until the beautiful Rowena (also Shepherd) erroneously comes to his ruined abbey. The couple falls in love, despite Rowena’s previous attachment to Verden’s friend Christopher (John Westbrook). They marry, but Rowena is ill at ease in Ligeia’s former home. Ligeia’s Egyptian antiques are everywhere; her spirit seems to linger over Verden during the night, and there’s a nasty black cat about that makes her displeasure known.
Director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) takes a few departures from his earlier Poe films by brightening up Tomb of Ligeia with natural locations and a little more romance than usual. Adapted by Robert Towne (Shampoo, Chinatown, Tequila Sunrise) from Poe’s short story, the analysis of mind and will power over death itself weaves the film together with ancient Egyptian allusions and plenty of ambiguity towards black cats. Each plot resolves satisfactory, but Poe’s twists and Corman’s interpretations leave the viewing thinking longer than prior pure shock conclusions.
Even though this is the last of the Poe pictures, Vincent Price looks younger here. His Verden is a little more sympathetic than his earlier, often evil roles. Not only is Price not as over the top as we love, but he’s actually sad sometimes, even pathetic with his dependence on his little glasses. But of course, Tomb of Ligeia does have the bizarrity we’d expect, including some ambiguity about necrophilia. Ew! Thankfully, Price looks good with Elizabeth Shepherd (Bleak House, Side Effects, Damien: Omen II). Any age difference doesn’t seem to factor in; they match well, and have nice, genuine chemistry. The more romantic tone between Verden and Rowena isn’t so tough to believe amid the scares. Nice as it is to have the sweet emotion amid the creeps; Shepherd is freaky in the duel bits as Ligeia. It’s obvious it is she, of course, but the showdown with Ligeia and the dream sequence with the ladies are well done. John Westbrook’s (The First Churchills) Christopher is in the odd middleman position in this love triangle, but his outside, sane perspective helps the audience balance out some of the horrors.
While not as stylized as its Poe predecessor The Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia has some beautiful natural locals and production. There’s a hefty amount of daylight scenes here-and they all work in the spooky, gothic, Early Victorian setting. There are some great ruined abbeys, the English countryside, and even a romantic stroll through Stonehenge. You might think these pieces don’t go together, but the morbid set interiors match the abbey in gothic look and spooky tone. The Victorian costumes are also early in style, alluding to a bit of the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. And of course, there’s a very disturbing classic Corman dream sequence that scares better than some of the stranger, more bizarre visual dream trickery previously done.
Side B of our set offers more Vincent Price in a one-man show called An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price showcases four tales from Poe in various stage settings, beginning with “The Tell Tale Heart.” I imagine you’re familiar with the tale, and Price is delightfully over the top here. His crazed style suits the story. The production here looks a little low and bare, but theatre fans can certainly enjoy this spirited Poe dramatization. “The Sphinx” is actually a Poe story that’s new to me. Price changes his looks and time period for each tale, strengthening his suave approach to the audience. He is clearly enjoying the punch line here, and this tale is better dressed than “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some might think a one-man production is stale and boring, but swift camera movement keeps things fresh. Not the crazy angles and dizzying modern zooms, but there’s just enough cuts and close ups to create the illusions needed.
So, that’s how “The Cask of Amontillado” is pronounced! I was never quite sure. The older Price is made up even older here for this unusual interpretation. You’d expect to see this one played out, not in effect told as perhaps “The Tell-Tale Heart” can only be. Price, however, does the voices of both men involved, playing on the amusement of the story and the unreliable status of the narrator. The camera again moves with him, cutting from several sides and using duel tricks almost like Gollum and Smeagol in The Two Towers. It’s a simple maneuver, but it works with the very handsomely dressed dining room stage.
It’s strange that director Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) would do “The Pit and the Pendulum” here in 1972 when Roger Corman did the feature length film ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Price looks the old and crazy part. Each tale has progressed his age, the time period, and the story’s deceit. This short here is more abstract and dream like than Corman’s back story filled movie. The fire and brimstone effects in this Pit go for more frights rather than a Twilight Zone twist ending. You would think Vincent Price effectively reading books line for line onscreen would be boring, but no. The stories dramatized in these readings are all told in the past tense with Poe’s great unreliable narrator telling his askew interpretation to the audience. Even though it may look old or too theatre to modern audiences, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for Vincent Price fans, film students, or literature teachers looking for a short and sweet visual accompaniment for the classroom.
The DVD set of Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is relatively simplistic, with only a commentary of Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. It’s a little slow in pacing, but fun and informative for the die-hard fan. The subtitles for Ligeia are great, too. Fans of the previous Poe pictures or sixties horror films can enjoy Tomb of Ligeia, but period piece and gothic fans should tune in, too. However, hardcore viewers looking for a blood fest and straight horror should skip these stylized tales. Likewise, I also don’t know about cat lovers enjoying Tomb of Ligeia. Feline folks will delight in the pesky cat scenarios, but cat enthusiasts won’t like some of the black cat bashing, either. Ah, it’s the beauty of Poe, something for everyone!
Madhouse and Theatre of Blood A Twisted Good Time!
By Kristin Battestella
Give me an excuse to watch some more Vincent Price!
In the 1974 murder and mayhem tale Madhouse, Price is Paul Toombes, the aging star of the Dr. Death horror movies penned by Toombes’ longtime friend and former actor Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). Flay has coaxed Toombes out of semi retirement for a new television show produced by the sleazy Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry). Unfortunately, the suspicious murder of Toombes’ young fiancée and the time he spent institutionalized thereafter continues to haunt ‘Dr. Death’. Cast and crewmembers on his new series are soon found dead in copycat crimes styled from the Dr. Death films, and Toombs slowly succumbs to a returning mental instability. Can he solve the crafty murders nonetheless? Is he the killer or Dr. Death’s next victim?
Oscar winning editor turned director Jim Clark (The Killing Fields, The Innocents) opens Madhouse with a fun use of footage from The Haunted Palace, solid pre-title festivities, and a juicy crime. In many ways, Clark’s crafty editing experience is perfect for the task at hand. The visual blending of Price’s earlier AIP films, old production photos, nods to other film work, and their intercutting use for this Amicus co-production wonderfully establishes Madhouse’s neat premise. Where does the actor Toombes’ reality end and the fictional killer persona of Dr. Death begin? Are we watching a film about Toombs or the Dr. Death TV show? Did these two great titans of horror “need the work” onscreen and off perhaps? This sly touch of dark comedy and ability to laugh at one’s genre comes across beautifully, and the intermingling with killer viewpoints, seventies zooms, and extreme angles keeps the lines between actuality and stability appropriately askew. It’s not overdone as we lay it on today- there’s just the right amount of stylized play within a play identities, illusions, and good fun. After all, we’re seeing a horror show within a horror film supported by clips of other horror movies like The Raven, Tales of Terror, and The Pit and the Pendulum. Madhouse doesn’t take itself so seriously, and neither should we. One should probably be a fan of Big V’s film catalog to appreciate such shrewd killer use of stock footage, yes. The seventies mixing and sixties styles will seem dated- even obvious in revealing the killer as the picture goes on. The more that you think about the scenes of the crimes; plot holes and confusions become apparent, indeed. Fortunately, the traditional horror film design, tight photography, and simple smoke and mirrors work their best. The death scenes are first-rate, with creative uses of the set within set themes. The film splicing, fade ins and outs, and great uses of sounds effects and screams from both within the used footage and the film itself create a complete drive-in or late night film experience. I’m not sure that the title has to do with anything, and the logistics of Madhouse’s inept Scotland Yard men will make your head hurt if you think too hard on it, but who cares?
Naturally, Our Man Price is the classy old pimp we expect, oh yes. He begins Madhouse as a suave Hugh Hefner-esque silver fox with young Bond Girl blonds abound. Today we might expect this sexy mismatch in horror, but it’s a true guilty pleasure to see Toombes taking down the dames here. Although Price plays the degrading sanity seriously, there are hints of that over the top innuendo and tongue planted firmly in cheek design. Certain scenes are both personal parody and honest homage to his earlier scaries, and we’re meant to enjoy the self-reverent ride. It’s as if the character of Dr. Death is more alive that the aptly named Toombs. He’s older, sympathetic- we feel for this terrorized former star- yet the Dr. Death scenery is no less suspicious or sinister in quality. Besides, many viewers would presume Price himself was spooky onscreen and off, creating another blur between the actors and personas within Madhouse. These dual imageries and creepy soliloquies create quite a haunting portrayal indeed.
At only ninety minutes, fellow horror mavens Peter Cushing (must I?) and Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) don’t get too much time to steal the show, but their spooky support is spot on nonetheless. Cushing is so suave, a slick, classy ex-actor turned writer that’s almost too good a friend to be true. Likewise, Quarry is the perfect greasy television executive looking for dames and dollars. Both men also wear vampire costumes at a celebrity party- again playing on the theme with Quarry’s Yorga and Cushing’s Helsing personas. Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff are credited for their stock footage uses, which is kind of strange but also a fitting tip of the hat for the bent reality that is Madhouse. Natasha Pyne (Father Dear Father) is also an interesting and unexpected touch as TV assistant Julia. Blonde and seemingly insignificant like the other ladies, but again, nothing in Madhouse is what it seems.
Adrienne Corri (A Clockwork Orange) is also wonderfully disturbed and loads of fun. Those spiders of hers, shudder! Madhouse looks both swanky with modern mid-century design and Old Hollywood with fallen graces and decrepit sets. The creepy British locales add on lots of candles, statues, and spooky gardens. Old film projectors, flat phonographs, eerie sixties scoring, ironic music cues sang by Price himself, and a few scary storms layer the frame within a frame nostalgia nicely. Hip London cars, debonair accents, mod turtlenecks and ascots add some flair, too. Not to be outdone of course, 1973’s Theatre of Blood sets its scene with demented and dirty vintage London locations. Believed dead after his suicide attempt, Edward Lionheart uses thespian facades and Shakespearean inspiration to seek revenge on the critics association who denied him ongoing review praise and their top year-end award. Inspector Boot (Milo O’Shea, Romeo and Juliet) and the police question Lionheart’s daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) as one by one Horace Sprout (Arthur Lowe), Chloe Moon (Coral Browne), and the rest of their circle meet their theatrical ends. Will critic Peregrin Devlin (Ian Hendry) be able to stop the deranged actor and his meth drinking street troupe before he’s Lionheart’s next victim?
Unfortunately, the low and uneven voices- it seems like no one’s microphones worked- create a poor and dated feeling for Theatre of Blood. If you’re expecting high horror production, the wasted, worn, and depressing dressings can look like a sub par play made on the cheap. Compared to the whimsical homage of Madhouse, Theatre of Blood appears more like a straight crime thriller; and in some ways, I wish it did have some deserving, grandiose, even gaudy psychedelic Corman color. Longer at almost 1 hour 45 minutes, director Doug Hickox (Brannigan) works with the similar themes of fallen actors, stage facades, play within a play styling, and flashback frameworks. The fun, ye olde silent film opening credits montage suggests the dark humor that is to come, too. However, Theatre of Blood feels slow to start, with standard stuffy Brit types and more bungling policemen who shockingly don’t realize the Shakespearean connections to the crimes. Some of the foreboding is obvious as well, and revenge kinship to The Abominable Dr. Phibes is evident. The editing and cutting styles do build suspense, but some of the early death scenes aren’t as theatrical as they could be. The first hour’s melodrama lacks creativity, and these deadly theatre politics can seem too pompous and dry to be believed. All this just because they gave him a few bad reviews and no trophy?
Theatre of Blood isn’t that scary and feels hollow enough for those expecting a major horror film to turn out. We always see Lionheart in character and don’t get the essential pieces to his motivation until flashback exposition later in the picture. Frankly, these lovely over the top establishments should have been the opening to Theatre of Blood, and the poor choice to stick character importance so late can even create some player confusion. Thankfully, there’s a great ironic use of classic music, and what may appear to be a bland and dark tale slowly builds into a farcical delight. The fun here is in guessing who is going to die next and in what Shakespearean method. The abnormal build up to the humor, farce, and intentionally exaggerated theatrics increase masterfully as Theatre of Blood goes on, complete with wit, panache, and a hysterical Othello twist. The low values and weak start may seem like a faulty execution not worth the viewing, yes. Theatre of Blood does take half of the picture to get to it, indeed. Fortunately, once it does step up the mayhem, Theatre of Blood does so wholeheartedly- literally!
I would say these reduced budget faults necessitate a proper nuHammer remake- if not for the simply irreplaceable Vincent Price that is! Lionheart begins white haired and crazy- an entertaining, once upon a time high thespian with a marked disconnection from reality. Some of the makeup is iffy, but most of the disguises are great genius. Price’s voice, position, and stature may give him away, but the joy is in seeing what warped Bard plan he has next. The demented Shakespearean soliloquies are- I must pun- Priceless. We shouldn’t doubt that Big V could do a straight high-class film by any means, but his pseudo Shakespeare intensity steps up as Theatre of Blood goes on. The multi-layered performance is laced with wit, sadness, class, and sociopathic grace. Oh, the sweeping music and forehead dabs as the faux doctor goes to work! Price is clearly having fun with this man of a thousand faces gone awry, and you can see why this is one of his personal favorite performances. Love it or hate it, Theatre of Blood is almost worth the ‘Price of admission’ just for the kinky Othello scene! I mean, he even sports a fake afro- Bob Ross meets Carrot Top, anyone? Yes, I’ll say it- that burgundy velvet pimp suit is to die for! Price’s nuanced and well faceted portrayal is both spot on and perfectly ironic. I love the Inspector’s “It’s not a comedy!” claim right before an Austin Powers-esque inept police pursuit and the simply exceptional Titus serve-uppance. Oh, yes.
She’s up to the challenge and Diana Rigg (The Avengers) looks good, of course; but we don’t see her prettied up much for Theatre of Blood. Her “amateur actress” Edwina begins dry as well, with some seemingly unimportant playful seduction. Fortunately, her position as the good daughter becomes more ingenious as Lionheart’s plans unfold. There’s not a lot of the famous Emma Peel innuendo to bounce off, naturally, as we have no overt attempt for a sexy young thang here. Rigg fans, however, will certainly enjoy her almost see through white mini skirt and sans bra potential. The victimized cast- including future Mrs. Price Coral Browne (Auntie Mame), Arthur Lowe (Dad’s Army), Ian Hendry (Get Carter), Robert Morley (The African Queen), and the rest of the somewhat interchangeable critics – create a very uptight, pompous, and annoying board, indeed. That is partly the point of their latent villainy- they’re asses- but not all of their motivations are explained. We can hate them one by one or enjoy their deaths because we are bemused by Price as Lionheart. Otherwise, the critics aren’t that interesting in themselves, and the audience isn’t given much reason to care. Perhaps there’s supposed to be another level of sinful humor or irony at work- that would be the opposite of the meaningless, unending buffet of blondes and bosoms usually being diced up in horror film today. However, the secondary support in Theatre of Blood just comes off as too lightweight and underdeveloped. The be-furred meth drinking hepcats working with Lionheart are also just too stupid and weird; the flashback explaining their presence comes too late. Although, I do confess, I did fall for one of Theatre of Blood’s now fairly obvious twists on my first viewing!
Uninhibited Shakespeare fans can have a jolly good tongue in cheek viewing with Theatre of Blood, indeed. Study how the seventies deaths mirror the plays, or test up on Bard Quotes and Know Your Will games. It may see meandering to start and too low quality for anything to matter, but this one is definitely worth the viewing investment. The Netflix streaming subtitles are absolutely necessary in catching all of Price’s stage glory, and a dual DVD edition of Madhouse and Theatre of Blood is available for further warped comparisons. Yes, longtime horror viewers will spot the errors in Madhouse and some predictable twists in Theatre of Blood- some audiences may even be confused by the witty, double play finale in Madhouse or Blood’s OTT ending. Nevertheless, classic horror and kitschy Price fans can delight in the solid mystery fun and thespian mayhem in both Madhouse and Theatre of Blood.
My Life My Horror:
On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies
You can say I am old school when it comes to the genre of horror.My thing was the old Universal movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. A love for Hammer Studios,with their naughty but classy out put of films during the late 1950’s up until their fall back in the 70’s were stuff of legend.William Castle, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine were the go to guys when it came to macabre reruns for me as a child growing up in New York in the late 1960’s. Not understanding why the six o’ clock news would show soldiers shooting into jungle brush in a place called Vietnam, people holding card board placards protesting civil rights, stop the war, and definitely the day my family gathered in our living room to watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral (seeing my parents cry together the first time) horror strangely enough, sports and more extensively science fiction was an escape. Like a drink I like my horror neat not too bloody. But reality caught up to me one Summer night in 1969. I am changing the channel back and forth on our floor model black and white television between Creature Features, a television show that showcased horror and science fiction, (other cities had their version) on WNEW channel 5 and what other network I can not remember. The Bride of Frankenstein is on, and then I ask myself, “Why are there no people like myself in these movies?” The period piece movies like The Bride I could understand things were not good for our people in the 19th century and before, but what about now (1969),progress was slow.
Fast forward to the fall of 1971, it’s a Friday night moms asleep, dad has gone to hang out with his buddies after work,my brother Barron is god knows where as a member of the Reapers Bronx street gang it’s a round midnight and I’m hanging out with my big sister Brenda and her husband Allen, they are spending the night in the Bronx then will head home to Brooklyn in the morning. They are channel surfing. Which back then consisted of me being the remote control, you know getting up and change the channel, yes a channel knob, we also had three networks, three local stations and public TV. Back then we thought we were brand new! Any way my sister is going through the TV Guide and lets out a oh wow !
“ What babe?”
“ Night of The Living Dead!” my sister said.
“ Nice!” Allen said in his best cool jazz head voice.
“ Whats that?” I ask nothing for nothing.
“ Oh your going to like it.” my sister said with a sly look on her face.
“ But what…” I say.
“You not going to be scared are you ?” Allen asks.
“ No I ain’t no chump!” I say not trying to be a afraiddy cat. The lights are turned out and I turn to WABC Channel 7, by coincidence the mood is set by the howl of the wind rushing through the building hallways from an open roof door on the 14th floor of our building in Bronx River Houses which was to become years later one of the Meccas of Hip Hop, but that’s another story. We all know the opening sequence with Barbara and Johnny in the cemetery of this classic by George Romero, I slowly getting hyped, Barbara Duane Jones as the hero/protagonist just blew me away!
Keep in mind this picture had made its delayed premiere Back in 1968,I say delayed because according to Mr. Romero the week they wanted to showcase it at a grind house on Time Squares in New York was the same week of Dr. Kings death.That night I found myself engrossed in this movie and also grossed out, but that’s the fun of horror the fear of mortality and the feeling of beating out death, or at least knowing we can leave the movie theater or get up from the couch knowing its just a movie, cheering on the hero or shero as he or she fights the good fight for existence to save the human race,or thyself.Seeing thebrother go through all the issues of trying to survive and be the anchor to a bunch of people who would have been zombie food had it not been for him was euphoric for me.The only other horror movie I could recall seeing, with another black character before Night of The Living Dead was a B movie titled The Killer Shrews (1959)starring James Best,in it the black character “Rook Griswald” a ships mate to Best’s character played by Judge Henry Dupree lasts,maybe ten minutes in to the movie, before he’s shewed up by mutant shrews.Back to Duane Jones,he fought the good fight to the end, but in the end which I later viewed as a metaphor for being black in America ,Duane’s character gets shot in the head mistaken for one of the living dead. No matter what we do America screws us in the end, a feeling and opinion that has ebbed and flowed with me over the years I would submit to the reader,that for some time back then African-Americans did not gravitate to horror not only because of neglect by the movie industry, but also the everyday life,of horror just trying to make it through the week goes on even now in different configurations.
The Blaxploitation boom, of the early to mid 70’s or BJ (Before Jaws)showed that yes a black audience was out there. Blacula (1972), Scream Blacula Scream (1973),Blackenstein(1973),Ganja & Hess (1973) starring Duane Jones and remade as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus in 2014 by Spike Lee)Voodoo Black Exoicist (1973),Abby (1974)and J.D.’s Revenge (1976)which featured black stars such as William Marshall,Pam Grier and Carol Speed among others showed promise. But in 1975 the original Summer block buster and movie game changer JAWS premiered and the black horror movie as a stand alone genre dried up. The 1980’s saw black characters reduced to token parts in the horror movie genre. In my DVD collection I have the rare Blood Tide(1982) featuring James Earl Jones as an ethics challenged relics Hunter.Keith David did show hope for black folk surviving to the end in The Thing(1982)remake and in my opinion whether you call it a short film or a long video Micheal Jackson’s Thriller featuring Vincent Price did some good for people of color in horror. The struggle to scream continued. The same feeling I felt back in 1971 I relived in 1992 watching Candyman the first of a trilogy of movies(1999,2003) starring Tony Todd,while his body of work is not as extended the legendary Mr.Price he still earns the same level of respect in my book. Today even with the recent Oscar’s awards lack of color, with effort we do not have to look to the Hollywood powers that be to be creative Spike Lee’s executive producing of Tales From The Hood(1995) and the use of the INTERNET for web series like Alex Fernandez’s vampire saga Dawn (2015).We are in historic times for horror with the flow of books , INTERNET ,movies, wo etc… the struggle to scream continues.
Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories
by Kristin Battestella
For those Addicts unaware, dear old Kbatz was born on February 7 – the same day as Charles Dickens! No, not in 1812, of course, but I don’t need further excuse to embrace some classic Victorian bleak and holiday macabre. Woohaa!
Bleak House – This 2005 BBC mini series adaptation boasts a dynamite looking Gillian Anderson (Scully), Denis Lawson (Wedge), Anna Maxwell Martin (Poppy Shakespeare), Carey Mulligan (Shame), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Hugo Speer (The Full Monty), and many, many more. The high-end decor, low looks, and to the hilt HD style are great- complete with a brewing, spooky atmosphere and sharp editing. Instead of spending visual time on lavish scenery and scopes, numerous up close shots and tight photography keep the focus on Dickens’ players as they chase fortunes and vices while the legalese profits from it all. The decidedly not quick, full 8-hour serial format works superbly for the hefty source material-which seems slightly less well known, but is just as complex. This is both dark cinematically, with a lack of bright and colorful Victorian cheer, and saucier thematically, with slightly obvious but nonetheless juicy and illicit soap-esque twists. If only we had ongoing miniseries like this again on American TV instead of reality junk or unintentionally short and mislaid fluff with no attention to detail. It’s bemusing to see such a large cast interconnected and inescapably tied to the system- entire lives and families rise and fall on the espionage and law here. But of course, we should not be surprised how those vile at the top use legality for their gains in the same way the unscrupulous at the bottom lean upon the establishment. The unforgiving societal consequences come to the forefront with great mystery and crime plotting just to keep things interesting, too. For as the characters themselves say: lawyers…villains…same thing!
The Christmas Carol – I stumbled upon this 1949 half hour on one of our new retro channels- love them- and wow, found two of my favorite things together: Vincent Price reading Charles Dickens! Price is so young indeed for this very early television production, but he’s animated, suave, and even cheeky during his onscreen transitions. He’s clearly enjoying this little holiday dramatization! Though black and white, there’s also a fittingly aged, green patina to the video, which retroactively creates a further vintage. Arthur Pierson’s (Hometown Story) adaptation has all the quintessential dialogue and memorable iconography even if the acting is the dated with the expected but put on British-ness. The direction feels stilted as well, with bare bones sets, awkward cues, some choppy editing, and simple camera filming. However, most of this is forgivable considering the budding television concepts and infancy of the medium post-war. Though few, the ghostly effects are surprisingly well done for the time. With such a short time frame, the work is considerably condensed, too. The unusual looking Ghost of Christmas Past and subsequent two ghostly visitors only receive one essential scene each. Thankfully, fun music accents the paired down design, and the quick simplicity makes this one just right for the Dickensian classroom.
Great Expectations – Magwitch Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Miss Havisham Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix), and Mr. Jaggers Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) go Dickens 2012 with Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), and Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class). The old time fog, bleak, and cold are felt here with threatening, dirty, up-close convict dangers and poor cruelty at home, creating a jarring juxtaposition against the potential for Christmas kindness and holding fast to doing what is right despite difficult times. Will we be rewarded at some time unknown or is there always one ready to deceive and take advantage of the goodhearted? People treat one differently when society raises him and we pretend to be something we are not. Would be lovely greenery and estates marred with decrepit cobwebs and decay accent the harsh nature and bitter nurture at play – although the chemistry between the young leads falls flat with repetitive dialogue and a Dickens-lite, Young Adult tone. Perhaps Bonham Carter seems too quirky as Miss Havisham thanks to her Burton associations, but her madcap, warped pain would be fitting if it wasn’t presented as unevenly gothic and comical – the fire scene, I hate to say it, is laughable. Big, junky jewelry and ugly hairstyles are iffy, too. Brief CGI cityscapes and modern digital saturation are unnecessary compared to appropriately crowded London streets and cramped period interiors, the score is too generic, and flashbacks on Miss Havisham’s marital cause and the Magwich back-story feel too…music video. The pace drags in time away from the elder cast, but these 2 hours move fast over the well known plot. There are better, fully envisioned adaptations – perhaps this release was simply too blink and you miss it soon after the 2011 television version – but the paired down style, elder ensemble performances, and the tough to beat story lend their appeal to contemporary eyes and a classroom discussion.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Dickens’ final incomplete tale seems to have garnered new attention with recent stage and literary off shoots- even if it is perhaps impossible to conclude this murder and romance plot befittingly of Our Man Charlie. However, this fine 2012 television attempt has the proper mood lighting and cinematography, a shadowy Victorian underbelly style, and a few twisted villainous personas for good measure. The cast- including properly pissy Tazmin Merchant (The Tudors), stuffy and fun Ian McNiece (Rome, Doctor Who), and a creepy freaky Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) – does solid as always in these imported PBS/Masterpiece period projects. There are some intriguingly modern suggestions from Dickens, with opium-addicted choirmaster Jasper and his lecherous looks upon young ladies easily garnering a shudder or two. Even with such thematic darkness, screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes adds darker complexities and contemporary suspense designs, and the approach simply isn’t as taut or interwoven as work straight from The Man Himself. The conclusion here takes what seems to be a fairly easy way out- the 21st century twist rather than Victorian happenstance, justice, and irony. Fortunately, the very unfinished circumstances that can hinder any Drood adaptation also make this one a worthy witness for any Dickensian fan or scholarly seminar.
The Masque of The Red Death and The Premature Burial Make for a Spooky, Smart Double Feature
By Kristin Battestella
In my never-ending search for quality horror, I often turn to the classics. I was pleased to find that two of my favorites The Masque of Red Death and The Premature Burial were available on one DVD. Corman, Poe, Price- Horror Heaven!
Ruthless and satanic Prince Prospero (Price) takes crops from the local villages and burns those carrying the dreaded Red Death plague. He abducts the lovely, devout peasant girl Francesca (Jane Asher) and takes her back to his castle. Other nobles are also gathering at the castle under Prospero’s offer to wait out the Red Death with evenings of pleasure, masquerades, and debauchery. Part of his entertainment includes the diminutive Hop Toad (Skip Martin, Circus of Fear) and his little ballerina Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw, The Six Wives of Henry VIII), but Prospero’s satanic mistress Juliana (Hazel Court) has no time for dances or Francesca-as she is preparing to become a bride of Satan. These demonic delights are all going to Prospero’s plans-until the Red Death incarnate crashes his decadent party.
As you can tell, I’ve seen my share of spooky flicks and Price pictures. Perhaps not as well known today, The Masque of The Red Death is my favorite of the Poe series from director Roger Corman. This 1964 treat has all the big budget looks one could ask for. It’s gothic, dark, demonic-yet the candle light, colors, and castle sets are a real treat. The costumes look perfectly medieval-the men as well as the ladies. I could say The Masque of The Red Death is a costumed, epic spectacle if not for the macabre subject matter.
Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) and R. Wright Campbell (Man of a Thousand Faces) skillfully weave Poe’s tale of disease, death, and comeuppance with a touch from his lesser know ‘Hop-Frog’ tale and create a charming and yet dreadfully spooky movie. Poe is well known for his obsessions with death and burial, but the core of The Masque of The Red Death is unique. These prideful and gluttonous subjects fear death, sure-but that doesn’t stop their cruel and deceitful, devilish ways. Religion is only touched upon briefly, but the iconic notion of Death itself entering among the naughty and taking its tally strikes the audience on multiple levels. Do we really see Death when we are so close to it? Do we all walk such a finite yet intimate line with disease and punishment? Visually desensitizing, slash and sex and gore, modern horror can’t compare with Corman’s visual interpretations of Poe.
I know Vincent Price has a reputation for being over the top-as in The Pit and the Pendulum for example; but he’s relatively suave and subdued here. We’ve seen him in many periods and styles, but the outlandish hats, plumes, and color still look good on Price. He doesn’t seem out of place amid demonic castles and masked parties. We believe his Prospero is kinky, vicious, and deadly-but we’re awed when Death comes along and steals the show. Perhaps Price has more famous roles; but for my money, he is his best here. Likewise, Vincent’s vixens look devilishly good. Horror queen Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) shows her bosom and her satanic ways with a bizarre mix of charm and grace. We shouldn’t like the dark lady doing nasty rituals and marrying the devil, but Court’s beauty and ethereal style are delightful. Not to be outdone, angelic ex-Paul McCartney flame Jane Asher (Alfie, Crossroads) rivals Court with her white gowns and youthful devotion. We want her to keep her innocent naiveté, but we also don’t expect her righteousness to win out.
The Masque of The Red Death is a rarity in horror pictures because it achieves serious social commentary about the corrupt aristocracy, death, and how the evil get their due- all this along with plenty of scares and onscreen mayhem. Some might be offend by the devilish imagery, but horror fans and classic enthusiasts need to love this macabre, yet idealistic picture. Of course, 1962’s The Premature Burial is by no means merely the back end of a double bill. Technicalities at American International Pictures unfortunately leave us without our regular Poe man Vincent Price, and I think The Premature Burial is a little unloved because of this. However, Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell (The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) again craft an intellectual analysis from Poe’s tale of death and fear.
Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) fears his family history of catalepsy and builds a complex and technological tomb to prevent himself from being buried alive. His wife Emily (Hazel Court) and sister Kate (Heather Angel, Suspicion) disagree in how to support Guy’s fears, yet stop his building obsessions. Guy turns away from his involved tomb so Emily won’t leave him, but death and family history soon catch up to him.
More than a fine, if surprising, substitute, Oscar winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, Markham, It Happens Every Spring) is delightful as the intelligent Victorian gentleman who becomes obsessed with being buried alive. His extreme, exhaustive precautions are understandable, logical, and well thought out; but somehow, we still know this is all askew, maniacal, and preposterous. Milland is quieter than Price, never quite boiling over as we expect him to. In away, his buttoned performance is bound, trapped inside the coffin Guy so desperately fears.
Once again, Hazel Court is lovely and charming as Guy’s ambiguous wife Emily. We believe she cares for Guy’s state of mind-and yet she’s too lovely and youthful to put up with his deadly ideas, isn’t she? The Premature Burial gives us more exceptional dresses-but this time we are bespectacled with hefty hoop skirts and Victorian delicacies. Though black and white, Corman gives us a fine production of mood and atmosphere. We don’t often see such proper costumes in a low-end horror picture, but all the creepy graveyards, fog, smoke, and mirrors make their presence known, too.
The Premature Burial is again a picture that might not be fore everyone. It’s slow, deliberate examination of death might be frustrating and too close to home for some. Even though we’re beyond the days of rampant plagues erroneously burying people alive and Victorian occultists trying to cheat death, this is still an understandable, real fear not so far removed from society’s psyche. Both The Masque of the Red Death and The Premature Burial serve up a fine cast, intelligent scripting, period piece atmospheres, and plenty of spooks. These flicks have plenty of old time scares, but nothing majorly offensive- unlike today’s sex and slash flicks.
The dual DVD of The Masque of the Red Death and The Premature Burial is affordable enough, but again a little old and a pain to flip. Thankfully, we’re treated to a few nice conversations with Roger Corman chatting about this pair of Poe pictures. Horror enthusiasts and classic film fans should adore these two complex, scary tales each and every year.
Garth Von Buchholz writes poetry and essays and has been featured on the Horror Addicts podcast before. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life Garth wrote two articles, One is called “Vincent and Me” which is about the time that Garth got to meet Vincent Price. The other one is called “How To Become An Immortalized Author Like Poe” where Garth gets into how you can become as well-known as Edgar Allan Poe. To read Garth’s articles along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Recently Garth was nice enough to tell us what he likes about horror:
What do you like about the horror genre?
I like how the core of the horror genre is metaphysical. Horror stories or films are modern myths about something that terrifies your very soul, and they may or may not involve actual violence and death. For example, to a person who is claustrophobic, being locked into a confined space is horrifying, even though that scenario may not end in their death. And there’s a difference between horror stories and real life horror. The tortures, rapes and beheadings in the Middle East right now are just horrible — brutal, tragic and inhuman — but they are not “horror stories” until they are mythologized, e.g. as a tale about how a spirit of evil is at work in our world.
Everything by Poe. He’s the master. And I’m a fan of William Peter Blatty (Bill, why haven’t you responded to my fan letter?). I love The Exorcist and Legion, the novel that the Exorcist III film was based on. You know, I met Linda Blair in person at a film festival and she looked great and was really cool. Also, I have mad love for another lesser known William Peter Blatty novel and film: The Ninth Configuration.
Although I’ve read many Stephen King novels, I’m a huge fan of The Stand, so I’m excited about the upcoming movie trilogy. As for TV, I’m not into zombies and The Walking Dead, but I’ve read and watched The Game of Thrones series, which has some chilling horror elements…dragons, torture chambers, whitewalkers. Okay, I guess the whitewalkers are zombies.
In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?
American International Pictures and director/producer Roger Corman took their low budget horror productions to the next atmospheric, macabre level with this 1960 Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, the first of eight delightful, demented Poe-isms.
Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) arrives at the gloomy Usher estate to inquire upon his ill betrothed Madeline (Myrna Fahey). Though longtime family butler Bristol (Harry Ellerbe) is kind to Philip, Madeline’s elder brother Roderick (Vincent Price) fears for his sister and the engagement thanks to a history of family illness and vice. The siblings suffer from several afflictions and sensibilities, and marriage, life in the outside world, and having children is out of the question as far as Roderick is concerned. Nonetheless, Philip wants to take Madeline away – but the Usher lineage and the crumbling mansion itself threatens them all…
Corman’s (The Little Shop of Horrors, A Bucket of Blood) big CinemaScope color spectacle may be a little slow to start for today’s viewers, but this deliberate build sets the bizarre, melancholy tone and let’s the audience know something’s afoot. The would-be marital conflict is immediately established on top of the decaying house fears, sleepwalking tendencies, and deathly obsessions. Much of Poe’s spirit is here in that chilling Twilight Zone feeling thanks to screenwriter Richard Matheson’s expansion on The Fall of the House of Usher. More back story is added, names and new characters are fleshed out to lengthen the short story to 80 minutes of material, but the designs are largely faithful and appropriately demented. Hints of the decadent family history, past excess, and religious sins of the father upon the children questions help explain or make excuses for this current sibling crazy. Can their house itself – physically capable of causing destruction in its crumbling state – actually embody the Usher vice and vile? Or is it all a bad case of hypochondria and self fulfilling prophecy? It is fun to be a fan of Poe or at least be familiar with his work before seeing House of Usher in order to fully enjoy all the twists on the big screen, however, new audiences can certainly come into a viewing cold and enjoy the kickers all the same.
“Peculiarities of temperament” aside, Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum) is simply rocking the swept back platinum hair in House of Usher! The style really brings out his eyes as the crazy mounts – it’s a wonder he didn’t keep the look for all his other loony characters. Of course, Roderick is just a little too creepy and overly attached to his sister. Today’s viewers will certainly be thinking of something more incestuous or scandalous that couldn’t be out rightly stated in 1960 or even directly by Poe, and with those acute senses and other disorders on top of this weird, there is definitely an uncomfortable feeling in the titular household. You wouldn’t want to visit this guy and no wonder he wants his sister to remain at home. Ironically, Roderick’s opinion of marriage and family legacy is understandable – the viewer never doubts his smart, refined, classy sensibilities – but the fatalistic attitude, looming doom and gloom, and almost casual acceptance of illness and death is off putting to say the least. Again, is Roderick being prophetic and unnecessarily fearful or is there really a sickness? After such a lineage of bad apples, it’s reasonable that one might wonder what kind of saving grace he could put on the legacy. It’s easier to succumb to it, however, and Price is perfect in this crazy, moody, melancholy. I really don’t seen any of this supposed over acting for which Price is allegedly so famous. He’s just wonderfully bent, crawling out of his skin, and spot on here.
There are a few questions and even plot holes as to how or why Mark Damon’s (Black Sabbath) Philip meets Madeline, granted, and it is a touch awkward the way he just shows up and storms in looking for his supposedly soon to be wife. Some of the fifties lovey dovey between Damon and Myrna Fahey (Zorro) as Madeline is also a bit much and too forced amid the creepy in one of the deviations from Poe’s original unnamed narrator. Philip’s a tad annoying in his not taking the hint about his girl and his touchy, clingy style, too. Fortunately, he becomes the relatable anchor compared to this freaky family – the character even stands out visually by wearing blue suits and coats amid the other decidedly burgundy, moody designs. The viewer didn’t see their supposed happiness and Philip may be just as much to blame for Madeline’s condition, yet the audience needs to believe in the possibility that this couple might just make it. We want alls well to end well, but we should know better! Harry Ellerbe (Desk Set) is also a kindhearted edition as Bristol the long serving, loyal butler. He’s aided the family despite its faults but must now be nice to this, well, Philip is almost an intruder, isn’t he? Fahey makes for the perfect fair, ethereal, yet appropriately feeble Madeline, too, and her obsession with death and crypts crescendos wonderfully in House of Usher – those eyes, that bloody trail, classic!
Although the picture may look slightly flat or not as crisp as we spoiled audiences today expect, House of Usher is still a luxuriously dressed and good looking movie for its time and budget. From the great smoky, foggy, barren, and thorny approach to the Victorian creepy of the titular house itself, red candles and candelabras, antiques, top hats and capes, and scarlet frocks add a sinister elegance amid the shadows, cobwebs, and decrepit. The gothic styled mansion sets are surprising warm as well thanks to carpets, tapestries, and classic woodworks, and a hazy, eerie, tinted, and bizarre dream sequence adds to the surreal feeling. We know when and where this is taking place, but it all seems like an abstract purgatory or increasing nightmare as the scale gets smaller and more claustrophobic. Some of the voices are too soft or the music uneven, but thunder and lighting pop as the foundations literally crack. Fire tops off a morbid finale of dust, destruction, and building perils. All this happens in House of Usher, and yet I’d live in this house, dang straight!
Strangely, the DVD editions of House of Usher seem elusive – Netflix is Save Only at best – but the new Vincent Price Collection blu-ray set is brimming with interviews and commentaries. Due to its fifties sensibility over the contemporary, scary, sexy, scandalous, and more or less weaker Usher adaptations, this rendition is classroom friendly whilst still capturing the right demented and moody atmosphere. House of Usher proves all you need for great film is the right cast, a good story, and an eerie stage. Fans of Roger Corman, the ensemble, Edgar Allan Poe, and gothic horror surely know and love this adaptation already, and if you don’t, for shame!
Horror Addicts Episode# 101
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini
138 days till Halloween!
ann wilkes, murder weapons, lee, cushing, price
vincent price, baycon, horroraddicts.net panel, laurel anne hill, j. malcolm stewart, ha facebook page, buffy the vampire slayer, christopher lee, peter cushing, vincent price, horror addicts guide to life, look back in horror, j. malcolm stewart, a treasury of recipes by mary and vincent price, fashion avatars, world goth day, hr giger, band poll, end of the world radio, murder weapons, perish, even hell has standards, chantal noordeloos, tim lichtenberg, zombie nights, 60 black women in horror fiction, sumiko saulson, camp 417, web of deceit, smothered, deep like a river, tim waggoner, ghosts of punktown, jeffery thomas, events, halloween, jamie lee curtis, michael meyers, lost boys, goonies, joel schumacher, buffy the vampire slayer, joss whedon, kate beckinsale, wesley snipes, dead mail, not for norms, writer’s block, flash fiction friday, anne wilkes.
Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net
Murder Weapons, “Perish”
Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…
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I’ll tell you what I did. I grabbed it up, without looking at the price (it was extremely affordable), without looking at the recipes (who cares, it was by Vincent Bloody Price!) and bolted to the register, cash in hand.
Take. My. Money!
That was how this gorgeous cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (1978 Printing), came into my possession.
So, what exactly is in this cookbook? Probably not what you might expect, especially if you think it would have a bunch of campy, horror b-movie inspired recipes.
Rather, it has exactly what the title suggests: great gourmet recipes. In this case, from great restaurants from around the world. You see, Mary and Vincent were foodies themselves and thanks to his fame and fortune, they traveled a lot and enjoyed many world-class gourmet restaurants. They befriended many of the owners and chefs and collected recipes from those restaurants. They tried many of the recipes themselves, and their favorites are published in this aptly named Treasury. So not only is this a fine collection of vintage haute cuisine from the best and most famous restaurants around the world — but you also get quaint anecdotes and cooking advice from — yes, yes — Vincent Freaking Price!
Even still, it’s not like I’m going to pick just any recipe from this cookbook. I mean, I could go the campy route and share their favorite Bloody Mary recipe (p. 416). No, instead, I decided now was the perfect opportunity to explore a gourmet “quinto quarto” meal. It was not hard to find one, either.
I chose a French recipe called “Ris de veau à la crème”, which means “veal sweetbreads in cream”. This classic gourmet French recipe came from The Red Carpet restaurant in Chicago.
For those unfamiliar with the term, sweetbreads are definitely not bread nor are they very sweet. Sweetbreads are an organ meat, specifically the thymus and pancreas glands of an animal. The rounder pancreas gland, or “noix” in French cuisine, near the heart or stomach has a more delicate flavor and smoother texture than the tubular thymus throat gland, called the “gorge“. Other forms of offal, like the tongue, sometimes also get lumped in as sweetbreads, but they aren’t the same.
As the recipe calls for veal sweetbreads, this right off the bat requires a gourmet butcher. Some stores might carry lamb (ris d’agneau) instead. You might find pork or beef, but unlike kidneys, if you are going to eat glands, why not go for the best? If you can find them.
Preparation time: about 8 hours to overnight
Cooking time: 25 minutes
3 pairs fresh sweetbreads (about 3 pounds)
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
flour to dredge (about 1 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, fresh ground
1/4 lb bacon (4 oz), chopped
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups cream
1 Tbsp minced parsley
Two baking sheets or casserole pans
Saute pan or skillet
Optional – plastic wrap and paper towels
Prepare the Sweetbreads
After conceding to a viewing of the original House on Haunted Hill a few Octobers ago, my husband agreed to watch two more horror classics starring the silver screen’s dark prince Vincent Price. Being a dutiful horror enthusiast, I presented House of Wax and The Pit and The Pendulum.
In the 1953 fright fest House of Wax, Price stars as obsessive sculptor and historian Henry Jarrod. His museum partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts, Gunsmoke, McHale’s Navy) presses Jarrod to abandon his educational approach and sculpt the shocking; but when Jarrod refuses, Burke burns down their museum for the insurance money. Thinking Jarrod dead, the now wealthy Burke woos Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones)-unfortunately, Jarrod survived the fire. Deformed and maimed, Jarrod and his new sculpting team will do anything to make their macabre House of Wax museum a success-including a little help from the dead.
I’m not a fan of modern remakes, but several of the fifties spectacles are fine updates of earlier films-The Ten Commandments, anyone? Director Andre de Toth (Springfield Rifle, The Gunfighter) takes the mystery and suspense of 1933’s The Mystery of the Wax Museum and ups the anti for glorious Technicolor and 3-D hysteria. Of course, several nearly unnecessary scenes designed specifically for the 3-D fancy look a little silly now. Why are we watching a guy with a ping-pong paddle and can-can girls shaking their petticoats? Though these moments are stalling today, House of Wax’s carnival and Victorian atmosphere add to the fun and the horror- finely dressed and fainting debutantes, the museum delights, scandals of murder, nudity, and mayhem! You can’t help but enjoy the mix of turn of the century with fifties production values. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ladies’ screams and decrepit waxworks.
Fine production is one thing, but Vincent Price (Laura, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Edward Scissorhands– to name a few among his one hundred and fifty plus credits!) and his classic, campy horror style make House of Wax. I love old films, but I must admit fast pace modern viewers might pass on many a good classic show if they tune in for some bad acting and a silly story. Price, however, is special. We believe him as the moral artist unjustly wronged, yet delight in his masterful- if twisted- plan to serve his enemies their comeuppance. Price can be over the top sure, but he gives us a complete, slick takling, multidimensional Jarrod to root for.
Likewise, our Victorian scream queens match skill and beauty with Mr. Price. Famous for her role on The Addams Family, here Carolyn Jones is the complete opposite of her goth Morticia. Shrill, blonde, sassy, ridiculously corseted and lovely- Jones’ pivotal role proves she’s more than a one trick actress. Phyllis Kirk’s (The Thin Man) serious Sue Allen is also more than just the object of Jarrod’s wax obsessions. Jarrod may be charming, but Sue suspects what no one else is willing to imagine. She’s supposedly little more than a delicate Victorian flower, but the audience relates to Sue and wants her to unmask Jarrod and his schemes.
Unfortunately, as henchman go, House of Wax serves up little. Of note, of course is Charles Bronson (The Dirty Dozen, Death Wish) as the mute strongman Igor, but boyfriend Scott Andrews (Paul Picerni, To Hell and Back) and Lt. Brennan (Frank Lovejoy, Strategic Air Command) and his cops look like they just walked across the street from the set of Dragnet. They serve their parts as annoying policemen and solid good guys, but that’s not where the flavor of House of Wax is at. Thankfully, the creepy wax figures and brightly colored décor balance House of Wax’s high-end scares and fifties values far better. It wouldn’t be a classic if we didn’t have a wooden, fedora wearing copper, now would it?
Made in 1961, Roger Corman’s (House of Usher, Children of the Corn) big screen adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum is similar in low budget production but different in mood and style. Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson lengthens the freaky, gothic feeling of Poe’s short story, developing a psychological examination of torture and death-not exactly the carnival atmosphere of House of Wax, but exceptional in its own right.
It’s the 1500s and Francis Barnard (John Kerr) travels to Spain after the mysterious and sudden death of his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele). His distraught brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Price) provides precious little and then suspicious information about Elizabeth’s death. Nicholas’ sister Catherine (Luana Anders) and Doctor Leon (Anthony Carbone) are very protective. When ghostly scares keep the family up at night, Nicholas fears Elizabeth may have been buried alive. As Nicholas’ breakdown progresses, the torrid and torturous Medina family history is revealed-creating deadly consequences for the current house guests.
The Pit and The Pendulum may start slow for some, but the medieval setting, isolated castle, and remnants of the Spanish Inquisition set up a very moody and eerie picture. The castle sets are perfectly dressed with candelabras, cobwebs, dungeons, and lush velvet. It’s beautiful and scary at the same time. You’d visit here perhaps for the novelty, but you wouldn’t want to spend the night. Corman and Matheson smartly flesh out their cast and add naughty history in the spirit of Poe. The latter half of the picture may become a touch too comical, but the editing and pacing of the titular pendulum is masterfully done.
Once again, Vincent Price steals the show in The Pit and The Pendulum. We can understand Nicholas’ pain-a horrific childhood, a beautiful young wife lost. We feel bad and yet delight in the slow mental decay as Nicholas snaps over his family’s toys-the rack and the iron maiden among them. I suppose not all modern audiences can enjoy such an over the top performance, but Price proves he’s the master of horror camp here. He’s famous for his fanatical onscreen horror personas; and after spending the night with The Pit and the Pendulum, you believe Price is really a freaky, horrific kind of guy.
Keeping up the heart pumping psychological suspense are a fine John Kerr (South Pacific) and Luana Anders (Dementia 13). Kerr is perfect as the voice of reason amid these hesitant and secretive people, and Anders is charming as the damsel wanting to tell all, but too fearing and careful to take the plunge. Despite the neck rolls, Anthony Carbone (A Bucket of Blood) is also slick as the doctor with all the answers. Sometimes such manly men can look a little silly in good old puffy pantaloons, but each actor looks the Old World part.
Anders’ gowns and costumes are lovely as well. You believe in ghostly ladies with all these flowing veils and rustling silks trailing along the spiral staircases. Her onscreen time is brief, and her few lines are dubbed, but Barbara Steele (Shivers) starts her scream queen status early in The Pit and the Pendulum. The costumes are dynamite, and her scares and twists are top notch. Her big finish here might be small and obvious today; but the naughty performances, enchanting costumes, and scary sets are well worth the titular action and twist ending in The Pit and the Pendulum.
Despite our high tech modern sensibilities, there are a few scares to be had in both House of Wax and The Pit and the Pendulum. I wouldn’t recommend super youngins take a viewing, but there’s actually precious little blood, gore, skin, and language to seriously offend. Price and his horror classics may be low budget and old to us, but there’s also something highbrow as well. It says a lot when we’re still talking about scary stories and crafty movie-making fifty years later. House of Wax and The Pit and the Pendulum don’t need desensitizing sex, drugs, and rock and roll to keep us in their spectacular, twisted, and macabre worlds.
Fortunately, such delightful film is cheap to come by today. Both House of Wax and The Pit and the Pendulum are available on DVD in several editions and sets -usually including a double bill with other Vincent Price gems. Check your video store’s bargain bins, rental options, or online viewing for classic scandal and mayhem this Halloween.
Today when one looks at upcoming movies it’s not too difficult to find a film that is being released in 3D. However, back in the early 1950’s this was not the case as 3D was a beginning film genre. Vincent Price was the star of one of these early films called, House of Wax.
The film was released in 1953 and those behind early 3D saw it as a gimmick to try and pull movie goers back to theaters after some new fangled technology called television was leading to a decline in movie attendance. House of Wax was the film that Warner Brothers released during this period and it stared not only Vincent Price but also a young Charles Bronson.
The film opens with us finding partners Henry Jarrod (Price) and Mathew Burke (Roy Robert) arguing over the wax museum the two own. Jarrod is worked hard and poured his heart and soul into the masterful pieces of art that fill the museum. However, Burke wants to expand the museum and wants Jarrod to create more horrific pieces to draw in more paying customers. The problem is, Jarrod does not want to do this and thus Burke sets the building a blaze. We witness Jarrod’s plight as he tries to stop the fire and save his creations. One could even feel sorry for the man as so much of his beloved creations are being destroyed in front of him.
Several years pass and we find Jarrod back in within a wax museum with a whole new set of creations. This time the work is more horrific, and some could say ripped from the headlines of the period. The works are just as masterful as before and some may even be found to strike a resemblance from people from Jarrod’s past. Jarrod is found to also have a mute assistant (Bronson) who assists in the care of the museum. The question becomes were did Jarrod come up with the designs and who is this scarred beast that is found following people and possibly killing them as well.
House of Wax is a film that highlights the acting ability that so many have come to love from his movies. I would almost argue that this is Price’s best acting role as you at first find yourself sympathizing with the man when his early creations are destroyed. We witness the pain and agony the man goes through as the fire rips through his first museum. It’s then that we can understand how he becomes mad and later does the things we witness throughout the film. The supporting cast from Bronson on down ads to this remake.
Yes, I did state that House of Wax is a remake as the first telling of this film was done in 1933, but many horror fans will tell you this has to be the best version. The story did get another remake later in film history and the story can be seen in other films as well.
The film was shot for an early 3D movie industry and there are going to be scenes and credits that will look odd to viewers when watched in 2D. However, it is hard to get past the fact that the film was shot in a manner that it took advantage of the setting and most of all the acting. Price is able to pull a viewer into a film, an event and a scene with just a simple look. A raised eyebrow or menacing look is enough to send chills down the spine. So all of these elements combined create a great horror film that viewers should enjoy.
The film Shock, gives us an insight into one of the possibilities to my queries. One Janet Steward (Anabel Shaw) is staying at a hotel and she hears a loud argument taking place. As most people would, she takes a moment to look and see what the heated argument is about. She witnesses a horrific sight as she sees a man murder a woman. Janet is later found by her war veteran husband in a complete comatose state. She is taken to a mental hospital where she will find herself treated by Dr. Richard Cross, played by Vincent Price.
Fans of Vincent Price will automatically come to see him as the villain in this film as most know that was the type of role he was best known for. Shock is a film that will not disappoint Price’s fans as we get to see a master of his art portray his character in a great way.
We get to watch as this masterful actor finds ways to make all those attached to Janet believe she has truly lost her mind. Dr. Cross is aided on this quest by Nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari) who just happens to be the good doctor’s lover.
Shock has a short running time that modern movie viewers may not care for, but even with it’s shorten span, the film packs a great punch. The film is a thrilling twisted tale as we get to witness what the good doctor is able to get away with, within his own asylum. The rest of the cast also turn in some great roles and that includes actor Frank Latimore who plays Janet’s husband, Lt. Paul Stewart.
Vincent Price fans will greatly appreciate this film as it captures Price at the peak of his acting career. Those who love psychological thrillers will also find the film quite engrossing. Another factor is that we get an idea of some of the old medical practices that were used to treat those with psychological issues. It is one of these methods that help to bring the movie to a climax, but not quite to the ending. As any Price film, the film ends in such away you may find yourself asking questions.