EPIC & Peter Cushing's 100th Birthday: CFQ Spotlight Podcast 4:21

Amanda Seyfried (right) gets natural with Aziz Ansari in EPIC.
Amanda Seyfried (right) gets natural with Aziz Ansari in EPIC.

IRON MAN 3: Done it. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Done it. FAST AND FURIOUS 6: Not really genre (‘though we wish). THE HANGOVER PART III: Uh, no. Genre or not, no thank you. That leaves… oh shoot, EPIC, a CG animated fantasy that’s about as oh shoot as they come. This is doubly disappointing since it represents another cinematic betrayal of master children’s storyteller and illustrator William Joyce, but this time with visuals that, while lush, don’t do much to carry Joyce’s distinctive style to the screen. Cinefantastique managing editor Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons weigh the relative value of those sumptuous visuals and the film as a whole, and then San Francisco bureau chief Lawrence French joins the discussion to commemorate Peter Cushing’s 100th birthday and explore the actor’s contribution to the world of fantastic film. Plus: What’s coming to theaters next week.

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Dracula Cries – Japanese Ending of Horror of Dracula

Dracula Cris from Horror of DraculaIt was only yesterday that I was waxing enthusiastic about the restored conclusion of HORROR OF DRACULA, available on a Region 2 Blu-ray disc that incorporates previously missing footage rediscovered on an old Japanese print in an archival vault in Tokyo. Now, I am starting to have reservations, thanks to a YouTube post showing the last reel of the film as it appears in the Japanese print – revealing that the Blu-ray restoration is not complete. One or two of the effects shots seems slightly longer, but that is not the tragic omission. That would be the alternate take of Christopher Lee (as the Count) with tears of defeat welling in his eyes as Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) forces him inexorably into the sunlight that will disintegrate him.
Why was this shot omitted? I cannot say. It was certainly well known that the restoration would not use the complete reels from the Japanese print, which was heavily damaged (as you can see from the video). Instead, the restoration used a previously available print and inserted only a few seconds of missing footage from the Japanese version, the image of which had to be carefully tweaked. This led to timing issues: the sequence had to remain the exact same length so that the picture would stay in synch with the musical cue on the soundtrack.
Still, this hardly explains the omission. The sequence of cuts remains the same; there is a reaction shot of Lee in the place where the missing footage could have been inserted as a replacement. Something similar happened with Cushing: one of his reaction shots from the censored version (which, strangely, was a repeat of a shot seen a few seconds before) was replaced with a restored reaction shot that better displayed Van Helsing’s revulsion at the sight of Dracula’s destruction. Why a similar service was not performed to restore Lee’s performance is a mystery.
And a sad one, too. Lee has always been vocal about trying to retain a faithful concept of the character as written by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel, which ends with Dracula displaying an expression of peace on his face just before his body dissolves into dust. The condensed story-telling of HORROR OF DRACULA allows little leeway for subtle characterization, but in this one shot we see Lee inject a startling moment of humanity into the Count. The grizzly special effects lose their “ain’t-it-cool” visual abstraction as Lee turns the scene into a credible depiction of a sentient being’s horrifying death.
And it hurts! Not just Dracula – it hurts the viewer as well. For a brief moment, Lee (an actor too often dismissed one-dimensional) engenders a little sympathy for the devil.
Update: The YouTube video referenced in this article appears to have been deleted, presumably for copyright reasons.

Horror of Dracula – the Restored Ending


At last, fright fans – here it: the restored ending of HORROR OF DRACULA! The sequence was eviscerated by the British film censor back in 1958, when the film came out, but the recent Region 2 Blu-ray disc has finally restored the missing footage. No word yet on when a Region 1 Blu-ray will come out in America (hey, Warner Brothers – get on the ball!), but you can see the scene courtesy of this YouTube post.
The footage looks a bit blue-ish (a complaint among some who have seen the disc) and also a bit dark (which I assume is a matter of YouTube compression and/or whatever process was used to rip the footage from the Blu-ray disc). I’m sure the photography will look much better when (if?) WB gets around to release a disc for U.S. consumption.
Tim Lucas discusses the Region 2 Blu-ray disc in the CFQ Laserblast podcast here. You can read about the history of the censored footage and its rediscovery here. And check out a sequence of frame grabs here.

Richard Gordon, R.I.P.

 Richard Gordon, producer of a number of lower-budget sci-fi and horror favorites passed away November 1st. He was 85.
Richard Gordon and his older brother Alex were British-born film fans who made their dreams of becoming filmmakers come true. 

Richard Gordon & Bela Lugosi - Set of VAMPIRE OVER LONDON
Richard Gordon & Bela Lugosi - Set of VAMPIRE OVER LONDON

Moving to New York in 1947, he and his brother met Bela Lugosi, and would later be somewhat involved in his career.
While Alex headed off  to Hollywood, Richard Gordon stayed in New York and former Gordon Films, which imported British and other European films for distribution in the American market.
He helped arranged a UK stage tour of DRACULA for Bela Lugosi. When this did not lead to success, Gordon used some connections he had in the British film industry, and came up the story idea for using Lugosi in one of the “Old Mother Riley” comedy films  VAMPIRE OVER LONDON (1952, aka MY SON, THE VAMPIRE) .
While successful at distributing others’ films, Richard Gordon still felt the urge to make some of his own, as Alex was doing at AIP. Starting out with the World War II thriller THE DEVIL’S GENERAL (1953) and continuing with UK-lensed crime thrillers, Gordon eventually turned his attention to the genre productions for which he’s best remembered.
Often working without screen credit, he began with THE ELECTRONIC MONSTER (1958, aka ESCAPEMENT), a sci-fi thriller involving mind-control, directed by Mongomery Tully, and starring American actor Rod Cameron and Mary Murphy.
His  next project, GRIP OF THE STRANGLER (1958) starred Boris Karloff, as did CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958).
FIEND_FACE_AttackFIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958) was a wild ride, with intially invisible “thought monsters” materializing as stop-motion animated brains, with strangling, snake-like spinal columns,  A vivid and unforgettable sight, the creatures have entered sci-fi movie iconography. 
Marshall Thompson starred in that film, as well as  FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959), another sci-fi/horror original.
ISLAND OF TERROR (1966) was directed by Hammer regular Terrence Fisher, and starred Peter Cushing and Edward Judd. The human-devouring “silicates” made memorable monsters in this clastrophobic entry.
Projected Man_LTHE PROJECTED MAN (1966), starred Bryant Haliday (who would appear in several of Gordon’s films) as the ill-fated scientist Dr. Paul Steiner, victim of a matter transporter gone wrong.
Other genre offerings include DEVIL DOLL (1964),  CURSE OF THE VOODOO (1965), NAKED EVIL (1966), BIZZARE (1970), TOWER OF EVIL (1972, aka HORROR OF SNAPE ISLAND), and  HORROR HOSPITAL (1973, aka COMPUTER KILLERS).
In 1978 he produced the remake of  THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978), which starred Honor Blackman,  Edward Fox, Wilfred Hyde-White, Olivia Hussey, Carol  Lynley, and Michael Callan.
horror-planetHORROR  PLANET (1981 aka INSEMINOID ) was directed by Norman J. Warren and starred Judy Geeson,  Robin Clarke, and Stephanie Beacham. It was  a particularly gruesome (for the time) low-budget take on ALIEN, filmed in actual caves in England, which add to the oppressive atmosphere. Not actually a good film, but still with some effective  moments. The premise itself, of forced alien reproduction, is taken to an unsettling level, as suggested on the poster (right).
In recent years Richard Gordon stayed active, writing good-natured letters correcting genre magazine articles, and sharing his recollections of films, filmmakers and actors. He appeared at a number of Horror Movie conventions, recorded commentaries for DVDs, and became something of a fan favorite among those with fond memories of 1950’s-80’s cine fantastique.

Fox Developing 'Caves Of Steel'

Caves-of-steel-doubleday-coverDeadline reports that 20th Century Fox, is developing  a live-action feature film version of adaptation of Issac Asimov’s 1954 novel The Caves of Steel.
Simon Kinberg,  (X-MEN writer) is producing via his Genre Films production company, based at Fox. Henry Hobson is attached as director, with John Scott 3 (yep, that’s his moniker)  set to write the screenplay.
 Hobson is know primarily as a titles designer for films such as SHERLOCK HOLMES and RANGO, while Scott 3 works with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Seems like an odd pairing, but the two are first collaborating on a teenage Zombie film entitled MAGGIE.
Asimov’s The Caves of Steel was first published as a serial in Galaxy Magazine in 1963, and quickly picked up as a novel by Doubleday.
The tale is a murder mystery sent on an over-populated Earth about three thousand years in the  future. Here agoraphoic humans live in domed cities and rarely if ever see the outside world.
The rich and powerful Spacers’ (people whose ancestors left Earth for other planets) ambassador has been murdered and police detective Elijah Baley is forced to work with their chosen investigator,  the humanoid robot R. Daneel Olivaw.
This is a double-edged insult, as the Spacers are generally too disdainful and suspicious of Earthmen to spend time in their presence, and robots are equally distrusted and restricted on  Earth. Bailey and R. Daneel slowly come to bond during the potentially explosive investigation.
The book was a great success, and lead to the sequels  The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn . The  characters have ties to Asimov’s Robots series and, more loosely to the Foundation series.  
THE CAVES OF STEEL was previously adapted for live action on BBC televsion in 1964 starring Peter Cushing as police detective Elijah Baley and John Carson as R. Daneel Olivaw. That version, directed by Peter Sasdy, with a teleplay Terry Nation (DOCTOR WHO, BLAKES 7),  is considered lost, with only a few fragments remaining.

John Carson, Peter Cushing  BBC Televsion
John Carson, Peter Cushing BBC Televsion

RIP Jimmy Sangster, Writer/Director

Jimmy-Sangster_BBCJimmy Sangster (James Henry Kimmel Sangster), one of the major creative shapers of Hammer Studios’ horror output and the 1950’s-60’s British horror boom,  passed away August 19th. He was 83
Starting as a teenager in WWII England the Welsh-born Sangster worked on the production end of the film business before becoming a screenwriter.
 At Hammer Studios he moved from Producer’s Assistant to Assistant Director before taking up screenwriting. Challenged to create a “Quatermass-style” sci-fi horror script after Nigel Kneale declined,  James Sangster came up with X: THE UNKNOWN, which proved quite effective.
He was also given the screenwriting assignment on a script by Milton Subotsky (later to co-found Hammer competitor Amicus Productions) for a new version of Frankenstein. Jettisoning much of the rough screenplay, Sangster delivered a sly and decadent take on the old story, which director Terrence Fisher turned into a full-color tour-de-force, starring television star Peter Cushing and a little-known actor named Christopher Lee.
CURSE_FRANKTHE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) changed the little studio into a major player in the field of home-grown UK productions, and helped kick off a second life for horror films as main features world-wide.
Soon to follow for Hammer and other independents were HORROR OF DRACULA  (1958), THE CRAWLING EYE (1958) ,adapted from the television serial THE TROLLENBERG TERROR,  JACK THE RIPPER, THE MUMMY (1959), BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), DRACULA:  PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), and the Bulldog Drummond spy mystery DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967).
Jimmy Sangster also took a few turns in the directors’ chair, helming THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), a misguided attempt to re-make CURSE as a sexy horror-comedy (with future Darth Vader David Prowse as a bald, semi-traditional flat-headed version of the monster).  Sangster fared better as a director with   LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and the thriller FEAR IN THE NIGHT.  
Jimmy Sangster  also directed a few American  television shows, after leaving for a stint in Hollywood.  Night Stalker_Heights
Genre shows he wrote for included CIRCLE OF FEAR / GHOST STORY (1972-73), THE MAGICIAN, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WONDER WOMAN.
The episode of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER that he penned, Horror In The Heights, is perhaps the best episode of that short-lived but beloved series.
Sangster wrote the TV movie  GOOD AGAINST EVIL (1977),  feature film THE LEGACY (1978), and the story for the  Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould starring Disney comedy,  THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN (1981).  
Jimmy Sangster essentially retired from the movie/TV industry in the 1980’s. His autobiography “Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?” was published in 1997.

Memories of Vincent Price for his Centennial Celebration

Master of Menace Vincent Price as the abominable villain in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN.
Master of Menace Vincent Price as the abominable villain in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN.

To celebrate the lasting legacy of  Vincent Price in his centennial year, here is a collection of  fond memories and  a few letters  from a selection of his many friends and co-workers.

CHRISTOPHER LEE


L to R: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing & Vincent Price in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.
L to R: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing & Vincent Price in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS was my last film with Vincent.  It was the first time Vincent, Peter Cushing, John Carradine and myself were all together in one film. I would have liked to done more with pictures with Vincent, but alas, it was not to be. In all, we only did three pictures together. The first was THE OBLONG BOX, followed by SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. Peter was in that one as well, but we didn’t have any scenes together. I was very fond of Vincent, and had great respect for him as an actor. We always had a lot of fun and joshing on the set. At the end of Scream and Scream Again I pushed Vincent into a vat of acid, to pay him off for the mistakes he has made with his experiments. Well, the yellow tinge of the acid made it look like Vincent had suffered some terrible natural mishap on a grand scale, so the first take we did was completely ruined by our both laughing as we fought to the death.
Vincent did so many wonderful pictures. THE RAVEN was a charming picture. I would have loved to be in that. THE COMEDY OF TERRORS was very funny. I remember laughing until my sides ached. Vincent and Peter Lorre as two drunken undertakers and Boris as the old man without any teeth.  I have a wonderful picture at home, which Vincent sent to me.  Peter Lorre is playing the piano, and Vincent, Boris and Basil Rathbone are standing behind it singing. Vincent wrote on it, “To Christopher, from three great gentlemen and Vincent Price.” I reproduced that in my autobiography and underneath it I wrote, “Correction: four great gentlemen!”
What a marvelous man he was. I shall miss him dearly.

**********

Peter Cushing (right) with Vincent Price in MADHOUSE.
Peter Cushing (right) with Vincent Price in MADHOUSE.

PETER CUSHING
This is a letter Peter Cushing wrote to Vincent Price in 1973, thanking him for his birthday card:

26  May  1973
Dearest Vincent:
Thank you so much for your card today.  And the sweet message your wrote.
I much appreciate it.
I also want to thank you for my birthday treat.
I just returned from seeing THEATRE OF BLOOD. How excellent your are in this film, dear fellow. I particularly liked your reactions to the way the syringe was handed to you, and the basin, – in the decapitation sequence. So did the whole audience.
Christopher sent me a cable from Spain and asked me to give you his love and respect for the 27th as he doesn’t have your address.
My card to you should have reached you through Dennison Thornton’s office — and I do hope you spent an enjoyable day in Manchester.
I look forward to the rest of our filming enormously.  I’ll be finished with “The Zoo Gang” by Tuesday next – except for post- synching.
May God’s blessing be with you always.
In all sincerity,
Peter

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SIR LAURENCE OLIVIER
Lord Laurence Olivier wrote this letter to Vincent Price during the tryout run of Jean Anouilh’s Ardele in Brighton, before the play opened at the Queens Theatre in London.  Sir Laurence apologizes for not being able to make it to one of Vincent’s performances in Brighton due to illness and wishes Vincent and Coral Browne well in their run of the play when it opens in London.

4 Royal Crescent
Brighton Eng
Tele 0273 61015
Sun June 15, 1975
Oh my dear, dear Vince,
How dreadfully you must think I neglected you. Do please forgive me. I fully intended to come to the show here in Brighton and get Coral and you back here for supper. The fatted calf has been looking at me reproachfully for months, saying, “I know, I’m being saved for that Vince.”
I was really quite ill with a viral flu and wasn’t allowed out of the house and I continue to feel a great sense of deprivation not to have given you a great hug of welcome to take your place in “the tightly woven tapestry of our island historie” more welcome still upon our banks and still in our midst.
I hope you have the happiest success and I wish you and Coral most lovingly, and I shall come round the Queens as soon as I possibly can, but I am not now up to going out evenings in London yet, but we must have some supper all together as soon as possible – maybe.
All great thoughts, strong wishes and held thumbs for last night,
Ever, as ever,
Larry

**********

Cathie Merchant (right) with Lon Chaney Jr and Vincent Price in THE HAUNTED PALACE
Cathie Merchant (right) with Lon Chaney Jr and Vincent Price in THE HAUNTED PALACE

CATHIE MERCHANT
Cathie Merchant appeared with Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s THE HAUNTED PALACE, playing his assistant and lover, Hester Tillinghast.

I had a crush on Vincent Price from the time I was a very young girl. I thought him the epitome of sophistication, because he was so very handsome and debonair. Indeed, when I met him in person playing Hester Tillinghast in THE HAUNTED PALACE, he was all those things and so much more!
Vincent had a wonderful sense of humor and sometimes it was quite naughty. He made many funny remarks about the monster in the pit that was going to mate with Debra Paget and most of them are unprintable!  However, what I recall most of all,  is how very kind and thoughtful he was to me as a newcomer.  He was always helpful and concerned for other people. I think one reason he was so convincing in his roles is that he immersed himself in the character and he really believed what was happening in the moment. That really made him very effective in the last frames of  THE HAUNTED PALACE. Interestingly enough, we did shoot a scene for The Haunted Palace that wasn’t used. Roger’s brother, Gene directed it.  It showed Lon Chaney, Milton Parsons and myself, pulling the portrait of Joseph Curwen out of the big fireplace before it burned up. I think Roger cut that sequence, as it made Vincent’s final scene in the film far less ambiguous.
Vincent was quite unique and has given us many, many moments of pleasure and will continue to do so for many generations to come through his wonderful film performances.

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Vincent Price with Tim Burton (left) and Johnny Depp on the set of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
Vincent Price with Tim Burton (left) and Johnny Depp on the set of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

TIM BURTON

If there was a image that helped me though my early life, it was Vincent Price. For some reason I was always likening the Edgar Allan Poe movies to my own life. Vincent was like my psychologist. He helped me get through the abstractions of those early years. The characters he played (Roderick Usher, Nicholas Medina, Verden Fell) would always go through some grand, dark, catharsis. Vincent was usually plagued by some sort of abstract demons, was overly sensitive and often on the verge of insanity. Strangely enough, I found I could relate to that in a very meaningful way. Those kinds of stories were my form of therapy. His characters really spoke to me. In the same way that when you read fairy tales, you get a real visceral response, well that happens with the Poe films. You get a real emotional response. That’s what I really loved. That extreme imagery that was really symbolic for something else.
Later on, I did some drawings for a children’s book which eventually became VINCENT, my first short film. Vincent Price was the first person I really met from Hollywood and he turned out to be such a wonderful guy. Just incredible! He was interested in all sorts of things and he gave me a great deal of hope when I was starting out. He was a tremendous inspiration to me. Vincent really shaped my early life.  Then, when he played the inventor in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS it gave the part an emotional weight that made it very strong for me. It was very thrilling for me to be working with him again.  If you look at all the movies he’s done, you see he has such fun with them. He so obviously enjoys what he’s doing, that it can’t help but be a little contagious to the audience.
I was lucky to film a little conversation with Vincent, which we did in his art gallery at East L.A. College. He donated this incredible art collection for the students to look at and I found that to be one of the most admirable things you could do.  You know, most people who do something like that splash it all over the place, but Vincent didn’t make any big hoopla about it. He just did it and I found that pretty special. Everybody has someone they admire. For me it was an actor named Vincent Price.

**********

Valli Kemp as Vulnavia in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN.
Valli Kemp as Vulnavia in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN.

VALLI KEMP
Valli Kemp appeared with Vincent Price in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, playing his beautiful and ever resourceful assistant, Vulnavia.

Vincent was my mentor and friend from day one when we met on the set of DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN. He was really like a father to me and he would even send me food by cab to make sure I was eating properly. He was so very thoughtful. Vincent was always making me laugh, as I recall in the scene where I was playing the violin after we discovered the tomb in Egypt.  He took a grape from the fruit bowl and put it in my mouth,  and then he took another grape and put it in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow them, because if I did,  I knew I would burst out laughing and ruin the shot.  Then Vincent picked up a pineapple and motioned as if he was going to try and put that in my mouth as well, but he shook his head when he realized it was too big.  That was all in the film and it was hysterically funny, because I had no idea that Vincent was going to do it! Vincent improvised it all while we were shooting.
Vincent had a serious side, as well. He cared about other people and one day after he heard I was also a painter, he asked me to show him some of my paintings. He loved them and arranged for an exhibition of my work where I sold 30 paintings in only  two hours! Vincent was so kind, I miss him dearly, especially when I used to paint him and I could feel his presence.

**********
RICHARD MATHESON

I have a number of pleasant memories about Vincent Price, who, I have said in all interviews, was truly the nicest man I ever met in my days in Hollywood, a perfect gentleman and a most genial friend.
I recall one specific incident that occurred on the set of HOUSE OF USHER. As a preliminary to the anecdote, I would like to speak of the number of times I saw Vincent talking with visitors on the set. Invariably, he was pleasant and generous with his time and, equally invariably, he always had a little quip to make before leaving his visitors to return to work on the film. One time, Vincent and I were talking about the paintings of the Usher family done by Burt Schoenberg. They were as grim a collection of characters that ever hung on a wall. Vincent shrugged before leaving me and said, “Oh well, they’re just plain folks.”
Another incident that took place during HOUSE OF USHER was when Mark Damon came charging into Roderick Usher’s room with an ax (fortunately, not a real one) in his hand and after threatening to hit Roderick with it, gave up in disgust and slung the ax aside before charging out to look for Madeleine. Mark, I gathered was an advocate of  “the Method,” as he used to run in place before a scene, huffing and puffing to work himself up, while Vincent merely chatted with someone and then went right into the scene  and would be far superior in every way. When doing the scene, Mark did not think about where he was slinging the ax and it bounced off  Vincent’s shin with some force. I heard, at that time, the only epithet I ever heard Vincent utter and he immediately left the set and walked around its entire perimeter, in pain and shaking his leg. By the time he returned to the scene, he had totally regained his composure and was, once more, the same genial, kind, charming man he always was. To my knowledge, he never berated Mark for what he had done, but simply accepted it as an accident of the game.
Not long before he passed on, I had the foresight to write Vincent a thank you note, in which I told him how much I had enjoyed working with him and how I appreciated the quality of his work in the scripts I’d written for him. I also send him a copy of my book The Path and told him how much I admired him as a human being. Needless to say, even ill and weak, he wrote back a lovely note thanking me and expressing his pleasure at working with my scripts.
What a wonderful man. I hope he enjoyed every pleasure that life has to offer and very much suspect that he did.

**********

Mark Damon with Vincent Price in HOUSE OF USHER
Mark Damon with Vincent Price in HOUSE OF USHER

MARK DAMON
Mark Damon co-starred with Vincent Price in HOUSE OF USHER and wrote this letter to Price on February 9, 1960 before the film had opened.

Dear Vincent:
This is an “actor-to-actor” note before the picture has been released. My comments are therefore not on your performance, which I don’t have to see on the screen to appreciate, but on your off-screen behavior, which has taught me much.
You remember, I asked you if you had learned anything working on this picture, and you told me that you had.  I didn’t tell you what I had learned. I learned just how gracious, cordial, and warmly human a star of your caliber could be. You set an example I hope I may follow through the rest of my acting career. Thank you for that.
Thank you, also, for your advice, your help, your unselfishness, and for all the wisdom you imparted to me. I have benefited greatly by working with you, and I am very grateful to you.
I hope I will have the pleasure of seeing you again very soon.
Your good friend,
Mark

**********

Roger Corman and Vincent Price on the set of THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
Roger Corman and Vincent Price on the set of THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

ROGER CORMAN

I cast him in our first film together, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, because the character of Roderick Usher was very close to his own persona:  handsome, educated, cultured and sensitive. In the Edgar Allan Poe story, Roderick Usher is a gentle, aristocratic man who progressively descends into madness. My feeling was that the audience should be frightened of this character but not in conscious reaction to his sinister features or brute strength. Instead, I envisioned a refined, attractive man, who’s intelligent but tormented mind operates in realms far beyond the minds of others, and who therefore inspires a deeper fear. In Vincent I found exactly the man I was looking for.
Only once do I remember Vincent being puzzled by my film making requirements. In THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, he was asked to speak the line, “The house lives. The house breathes.” He came to me and asked in great bewilderment, “What does that mean?”  It seemed that the good folks at American International Pictures, the company providing our financing, were worried that this was a horror film about a monster. To win them over, I had promised that the house itself would be our monster. Now I had to make good on my promise. Once this was explained to him, Vincent said, “I understand totally.” He went on to deliver the line with a subtle intensity that became for me one of the high points of the entire film.
Aside from his powers as a dramatic actor, Vincent was surprisingly adept at humor. His abilities along these lines were put to the test in THE RAVEN, a film intended to combine horror with comedy. Vincent’s contribution of jokes & comic bits to the shooting script added greatly to the picture’s overall humorous effect. On the set of  THE RAVEN, Vincent had to adjust to the presence of two veteran co-stars, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff, as well as a new young actor, Jack Nicholson. He showed extraordinary flexibility in working harmoniously with Jack (trained in the Method), Boris (schooled in the English classical style) and Peter, who did anything that came into his mind at any given moment!
Peter Lorre’s great talent was for improvising, which he did with great wit and panache. This on-the-set spontaneity did not sit well with Boris Karloff who was nearing the end of a long and distinguished career, and expected to do his scenes precisely as written. Inevitably, there was some friction between these two strong personalities. Fortunately for me, Vincent was able to strike a balance in his own acting style, adapting to Peter’s looseness but also playing scenes with Boris that were models of the classical approach. His personal graciousness in bending to the demands of two conflicting egos was a great help to me in what could have been difficult circumstances.
Vincent had a well-deserved reputation as a host and a gourmet chef and I was privileged to attend several dinner parties at his home. The food, the wine, the décor, everything was planned in the most exquisite detail. And he had the gift of eliciting sparkling conversation from his guests, so that it was a joy to sit at his table. I suspect that by inviting me to dine, Vincent was trying to improve my eating habits, which tended toward the Spartan back then. In fact, in our film making days he used to joke about sending me CARE packages to keep me from starvation.
There is no question that Vincent Price was a remarkable actor and a remarkable man. His friendship enriched my life, and for that I will always be grateful.

Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi's Epic Failures: CFQ Podcast 14:2.3 – Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast

Tombs of the Blind Dead train sequence
The unfortunate result of a failed rescue attempt in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD.

Take a trip past the event horizon and dive into the Black Hole – the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast, that is. Join Cinefantastique correspondents Dan Persons, Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski as they embark on the debut episode of this new podcast, spun off from the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast. This week’s prime topic is the Most Epic Failures in the History of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films. We’re not talking about box office failure; we mean the best laid plans of mice and men that go horribly awry on screen. Was stopping the train really such a good idea in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (ask the passengers – if you can find any alive!)? Was opening the Ark of the Covenant really such a good idea in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (ask the Nazis!)? And was creating an artificial being really such a good idea in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and its sequels (ask the Baron!).
Also this week, chit-chat about various topics, ranging from HANNA TO HYENAS. So sit back with a glass of Romulan ale and enjoy the smooth swinging sounds of Outer Space in the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge.


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Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi's Epic Failures: CFQ Podcast 2:14.3 – Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast

Tombs of the Blind Dead train sequence
The unfortunate result of a failed rescue attempt in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD.

Take a trip past the event horizon and dive into the Black Hole – the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast, that is. Join Cinefantastique correspondents Dan Persons, Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski as they embark on the debut episode of this new podcast, spun off from the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast. This week’s prime topic is the Most Epic Failures in the History of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films. We’re not talking about box office failure; we mean the best laid plans of mice and men that go horribly awry on screen. Was stopping the train really such a good idea in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (ask the passengers – if you can find any alive!)? Was opening the Ark of the Covenant really such a good idea in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (ask the Nazis!)? And was creating an artificial being really such a good idea in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and its sequels (ask the Baron!).
Also this week, chit-chat about various topics, ranging from HANNA TO HYENAS. So sit back with a glass of Romulan ale and enjoy the smooth swinging sounds of Outer Space in the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge.


[serialposts]

RIP Roy Ward Baker – Genre Director

Roy_Ward_BakerRoy Ward Baker, UK film director best known to genre fans for his Horror and Science Fiction films for  Hammer Studios, passed away Tuesday October 5th, 2010.
With a long career in the British film industry, beginning as a ‘tea boy’ or ‘gofer’ at Gainsbourgh Studios, Baker’s first film was THE OCTOBER MAN, a murder mystery starring John Mills as an amnesiac suspect.
His best remembered work is likely A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958), a very well-received version of the sinking of the Titanic.
Roy Baker (as he was sometimes billed) moved into television, directing episodes of THE AVENGERS and THE SAINT. THE FICTION MAKERS (1968)  was made into a feature film from two of Baker’s episodes of  the Roger Moore series, an amusing caper film that spoofed the Bond movies. THE CHAMPIONS, MY PARTNER THE GHOST (Randal and Hopkirk, Deceased) and DEPARTMENT S were among his TV genre credits.

FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH

In 1967, he directed FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (aka Quatermass and The Pit), based on Nigel Kneale’s SF/Horror multi-part television play. This is one of the true classics of the genre, made by Hammer Films.
His next SF picture for Hammer was the “space western” MOON ZERO TWO (1969), which featured Catherine Schell (SPACE: 1999).
He then directed the horror films THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, SCARS OF DRACULA, and DOCTOR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE for the British studio.
For their rivals Amicus, he helmed the horror Anthologies ASYLUM,  THE VAULT OF HORROR, and the gothic feature AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS.
Back with Hammer, he directed the English language scenes of THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974, aka The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula), the studio’s last-ditch effort to continue their Dracula series by mixing it with Hong-Kong style Kung Fu action. This was Peter Cushing’s last performance as a Van Helsing.
Cushing & Mills in THE MASKS OF DEATH
Cushing & Mills in THE MASKS OF DEATH

In 1984 he would work with Cushing and Sir John Mills as Holmes and Watson in THE MASKS OF DEATH (aka Sherlock Holmes and The Masks of Death) for Tyburn Films, with  several other ex-Hammer individuals such as Anthony Hinds also involved. It was released as a theatrical film in a few areas, but as a TV movie in others.
He continued to work in television into the 1990’s.