House of Usher: A Celebration of 1960 Review

House of Usher (1960)Although many younger television and movie fans may think that the 1970s represent an archaic time in entertainment, there were certain advantages to growing up during this period. One was that television was all about local markets, and this made it necessary for local stations to find programming that would keep the viewer’s attention. One reservoir often tapped during this period was horror films, not only as late night fare, but also as afternoon and weekend entertainment. This television broadcasting circumstance worked to my advantage as a young fan of the wondrous and horrific: it opened a world of horror cinema that is hard to find today, short of rare videos at specialty stores or online. One such film that holds a special place in my heart is HOUSE OF USHER, which I knew by its alternative title in the U.S. and U.K. (as well as on the DVD cover I hold in my hand as I write this article), THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
I first saw this film as a teenager, and it came with a sense of great anticipation. At an early age, I had gravitated toward all things fantastic and the horrific, and this included the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. I developed a habit of searching each week’s TV Guide and circling the fantasy, science fiction, and horror film, so that I could watch as many as my parents would allow me to see. In past programming searches, I had learned of a series of horror films based upon Poe’s writings. I had already seen THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), and enjoyed those immensely. Now HOUSE OF USHER was soon to air, and I was sure it would deliver the same cinematic frights. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

Phillip (Mark Damon) demands that Roderick (Vincent Price) allow his sister to leave the House of Usher
Phillip (Mark Damon) demands that Roderick (Vincent Price) allow his sister to leave the House of Usher

HOUSE OF USHER tells the story of Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon), who has traveled to the house owned by the Usher family in search of his fiancé, Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). He is anxious for her to leave with him in order to be married, but Madeline’s brooding brother, Roderick Usher (Vincent Price), desperately desires that she stay in the home. He is convinced that she is tainted by the family curse, which Roderick feels he shares as well, as does the Usher house that is literally fracturing around them. After some conflict between these characters over Madeline’s fate, she apparently dies following an argument with her brother and is buried in the family crypt, located in the basement. Winthrop eventually discovers that Madeline was buried alive, with the full awareness of her brother, but has escaped her tomb to prowl the grounds as a mad woman intent on seeking vengeance for her death. Eventually, the last two remaining Ushers meet their tragic end, as does their house, fulfilling the alternative title of this film both metaphorically and literally.
Much critical analysis has been devoted to director Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations, often to the neglect of his other films, but this is not without good reason. Corman had himself been inspired by Poe as a young person, and was able to adapt this source material for a popular audience of the period. Although the Poe films were produced on modest budgets, Corman was able to maximize the investment in order to produce atmospheric and frightening films without recourse to lavish special effects or gory makeup, which would become popular in the 1970s and which dominate contemporary trends in horror.
British poster (note the X certificate) with the film's full title
British poster (note the X certificate) with the film's full title

HOUSE OF USHER, and the other series of Poe films directed by Corman, have the distinction of being part of the brief revival of American gothic horror that had been fueled by television broadcasts of the Universal Studios horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the fresh interpretations of these classics by Britain’s Hammer Films. While this classification has some merit, HOUSE OF USHER may also be understood as a hybrid in keeping with another trend in horror from the period. HOUSE OF USHER is in a sense Gothic, in that it takes place against the backdrop of a mansion that appears at first glance to be a haunted house; however, it is not haunted in typical supernatural fashion by ghosts or poltergeists. Instead, the haunting of the Usher House takes place through the troubled psyches of the homeowners who wrestle with their family legacy. In this sense it is similar to another classic of 1960 cinema, PSYCHO, which signaled a shift from supernatural horror in the 1930s and 1940s, and the science-fiction-horror of the 1950s, to an internalization of horror (horror is not the supernatural other; it is us) that would later take a quantum leap forward with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
HOUSE OF USHER was well received by audiences in 1960. One of the “fun facts” included with the DVD release, as part of the MGM Presents Midnite Movies series, states that it “scored among the top 5 box office hits of 1960.” But how well does it hold up today? That depends upon what one is looking for in a horror film. If one is a fan of much of the drivel seen in contemporary horror cinema, then you are likely to find HOUSE OF USHER disappointing. Fortunately, if you have a broader appreciation for horror, you will likely find this film of continued value.
Roderick (PRice) at the funeral of his sister Medline (Myrna Fahey)
Roderick (PRice) at the funeral of his sister Medline (Myrna Fahey)

Beyond the rich atmosphere emodied by the Usher House, and the great performance of Vincent Price (who would continue to build on his work as the horror actor successor of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff), HOUSE OF USHER provides something for viewers who want to probe a little more deeply into horror. One of the film’s interesting facets is its treatment of the struggles of personal identity within the context of family legacy, particularly a dysfunctional one. Roderick Usher is convinced that he is doomed by the Usher curse, and that neither he nor his sister can escape. Rather than engaging in a flight of fancy and illusion by trying to flee, he has consigned not only himself but also his sister to what he sees as an inevitable outcome. Contemporary audiences are perhaps more aware of the dysfunctional nature of all families (to some degree) than were audiences of the 1960s, and this self-awareness – coupled with the realization that, despite a problematic family history, it may still be possible to transcend the “curse” of the lineage and the past – makes this film relevant for the present day, and an item for self-reflection.
If you are a horror fan who hails from my generation, then a new viewing of HOUSE OF USHER will provide a nice trip down memory lane. If you are a younger fan interested in considering a solid piece of horror filmmaking now celebrating its 50th  anniversary, then this film is worth adding to your library.

Birthday Greetings to Christopher Lee, Vincent Price & (belatedly) Peter Cushing

Christopher Lee (back left), Vincent Price (back right), Peter Cushing (front)
Christopher Lee (back left), Vincent Price (back right), Peter Cushing (front)
Cinefantastique celebrates the horror stars’ birthdays with retrospective interviews regarding their work together on HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, THE OBLONG BOX, and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

Horror and fantasy acting legend Christopher Lee (the STAR WARS prequel trilogy, LORD OF THE RINGS) shares a May 27 birthday anniversary with the late “Merchant of Menace” Vincent Price (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, HOUSE OF USHER); their frequent co-star, the late Peter Cushing, was born on May 26.  To celebrate their 100th (Vincent), 98th (Peter) and 89th (Sir Christopher) birthdays, here are some of the comments that Lee and Price made in the mid-eighties about their last film together, THE HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.  The movie was something of a horror milestone as  it also featured horror star John Carradine (HOUSE OF DRACULA); unfortunately,  despite the teaming of  these four horror greats, the picture was very poorly conceived and executed, so it was no big surprise that it was never released to theatres in America.

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click to purchase

MGM recently made the film available as a bare bones DVD-on-demand through Amazon; apparently the quality of the transfer makes the film completely unwatchable.  George Reis at DVD Drive-In calls it “probably the worst looking product ever to bare the MGM logo, with a far inferior transfer than the one used for the old VHS release!
This is rather a shame, since the joy of seeing Price, Lee, Cushing and Carradine acting together in even a badly written and directed piece of claptrap like The House of Long Shadows would be a real delight for classic horror film fans.  The DVD might also have been made more memorable if MGM had done the right thing and released it as one of their “Midnight Movie” DVD’s and included a few extras, such as the beautifully narrated Vincent Price trailer, the video press conference that Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and John Carradine held to promote the film at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, or even an audio commentary with Sir Christopher Lee!
Interestingly enough, when I talked to Christopher Lee on his birthday in 1984, he felt the film was “most entertaining.”  Apparently he has drastically altered his opinion since then, as he wrote in the 2003 edition of his autiobiography, The Lord of Misrule, that The House of the Long Shadows was billed as the four masters of the macabre and there wasn’t a single marvelous speech to share between us. The direction was a blank and we agreed with the critics who shredded the film.”  Perhaps, as Vincent Price told me, the film was ruined by a woman editor at MGM who apparently “took an axe to the film.”


House of Long Shadows (1983)LAWRENCE FRENCH: You haven’t done a Gothic thriller like The House of the Long Shadows for quite some time.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, my involvement is less and less these days. Until somebody comes up with a good story, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy or shocker. Whatever you want to call it. I’m just waiting for somebody to give me a film in that area, which is very worth doing.
LAWRENCE FRENCH:  What was it about The House of Long Shadows that tempted you back to making a terror film? Was it the chance to work with your three co-stars, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, it was primarily the cast. I’ve made pictures with Vincent, I’ve made a great many pictures with Peter, and I had done one picture, called Goliath Awaits, with John Carradine. I had never worked on a picture with all three of them. I don’t think any of us had worked together in the same picture before. This was a first. Hopefully, not a last, but certainly a first. When Vincent, John and I were being interviewed for television, at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, somebody asked Vincent if we would be doing more pictures together, all four of us. He said, “Yes, we’d be delighted to, but they better hurry up!” (Peter was not there, as he lives in England, and hates to travel).  So it was the cast, then it was the story. I thought the story was most entertaining, most amusing, with its adequate share of thrills and chills, and there is a remarkable twist in the story, which nobody quite expects, that I think gives it its major value. The one thing about this picture that is of the utmost importance is that the audience should know before they see the film, what kind of picture they’re going to see. If they think they’re going to see a 100% terror movie, they aren’t and I think that should be made clear. If they think they’re going to see a 100%  comedy, they aren’t, and I think that should also be made clear. I think, for lack of a better phrase, it should be described very clearly beforehand as a black comedy, which is exactly what it is. Audiences from my experience, don’t like to go and see films expecting one thing and then getting another.  The film ran for a very short time at a theatre in London and was taken out because the theatre concerned was already booked with its next film. Apart from that very short run, it’s never been seen, except at film festivals. One in Spain, one in France, and I think one in Germany.  In every case it has been extremely well received. The public enjoyed it immensely, because they knew what kind of picture they were going to see.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Were you aware of the reputation of director Pete Walker? His past films (such as House of Whipcord and Schizo) are not very good and are quite graphic and gory.

House of the Long Shadows: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price
House of the Long Shadows: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price

CHRISTOPHER LEE:  No, I didn’t know this. Having not seen any of his previous films, I can’t comment on them. But I didn’t know that until some months afterwords, somebody told me that he had done some very violent pictures and even did some softcore films, or something in that area.  However, that’s not quite the point. If you have a competent director, a good crew, and the crew was excellent, a cast which certainly knows what they’re doing in this particular area, as well as other actors, like Richard Todd and the very delightful ladies who are in the film, and everyone works together in a story that is amusing, exciting and, at times, very scary, I think you have the recipe for a very good film, which is what we ended up with. I saw it at a private screening in Rome, nearly two years ago and I thought it was most entertaining, and worked as well as I could possibly have hoped it to do. The people who have seen it at the festivals, knowing what they were going to see, a black comedy with an unexpected twist and the veterans at work, have been absolutely delighted with the picture. Why it isn’t being shown I have no idea. All I can tell you is that at the (1984) Cannes Film Festival my wife asked Yoram Globus, one of the heads at Cannon Films, what had happened to the picture and he said it was going to come out on cable TV in October.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When I talked to Cannon’s publicity people in 1983, they told me the film was going through marketing tests.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: I’ve never been able to find out what a marketing test is! I mean do you get people who sit around a table with rows of figures in front of them, or strange mystic symbols, who then make obtuse calculation in a room, saying this film will appeal to this audience, and it won’t appeal to that audience, then come up with an answer and say, “yes, we will show it,”  or  “no, we won’t show it.”  I understand the value of this, but there’s also that imponderable that really nobody knows until the public get a chance to make up its own mind. You cannot calculate the public’s reaction by sitting around a table and talking figures.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Apparently they put the figures they had into a computer which came up with a projected gross that wouldn’t justify the cost of  releasing the film.
CHRISTOPHER LEE:  A computer! That really just proves what I’ve been saying. I’m not going to take issue with these gentlemen, because it’s their job, and I know very little about it. I’m merely a creative person. Yet, when you say a computer makes the decision, you’re into the realms of fantasy. Real fantasy, as opposed to film fantasy!  How can a machine possibly predict what a man and a woman, or a boy and a girl are going to like or not like? We’re talking about the reaction of the public watching a film. To me, the fact that this sort of thing is fed into a computer is a disastrous sign for the future of the film industry. It’s like the famous “Q” rating which exists in television, where they feed the names of actors and actresses into a computer, and the computer tells them whether that actor or actress is significantly popular to warrant putting them in a series. Ask the public, don’t ask a computer!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: I would think that the combined value of your four star names alone would justify releasing the film.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I quite agree. It’s a mystery. I firmly believe that if this film is given a proper promotion and representation to the public, it would do extremely well, because it’s a very entertaining movie. Together we have made a considerable number of pictures. We worked it out one day, and I’ve made over 150 now, Vincent’s done about 120, Peter’s done 110 and John said he’s made 430 pictures! That’s quite possible, because when he started out, you made two or three pictures a month. They were very quick in those day, jumping from one studio to another.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: During the filming of your death in the movie, Vincent was apparently watching and was quoted as saying, rather gleefully, “I just love to see Chris bleed.”
CHRISTOPHER LEE:  Yes, that’s typical of Vincent and his humor.  Indeed, all of us would have said the same thing about each other. One must maintain a very relaxed attitude towards this kind of film. If you’re making a film with people whom you respect enormously as actors, and people whom you’re very, very fond of as individuals, then one is bound to have a lot of joshing and fun on the set. That’s the best way to make a picture of this kind. So he may very well have said that,  it wouldn’t surprise me at all.  If he did, I certainly go along with it, because I certainly would have thought of something similar to say at the time of his demise in the film. I think that’s a very funny line and very appropriate.
Vincent Price goes into the acid.
Vincent Price goes into the acid in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Of course, you did get to push Vincent into a vat of acid in Scream and Scream Again.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, that’s right and 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. The three of us were in that as well, but not in the same scenes. I played the head of British Intelligence, who was an alien.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You were supposed to be an alien? I didn’t realize that when I saw the film.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Oh yes, I am an alien. I have this very responsible job as the head of British Intelligence. Vincent’s character was an alien, as well.  He is one, and I’m another. I’m really there to pay him off for all the mistakes he’s made with his experiments. If that wasn’t clear, it was either in the cutting or the story, because that indeed was meant to be the solution. It is a fault that lies, not with us, but elsewhere–in the way the film was put together.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It was made for Amicus and producer Milton Subotsky who always liked to tamper with his films in the cutting room.  Later on, didn’t Milton Subotsky ask you to appear in The Monster Club?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I got a message from my agent asking me if I would like to do a picture with Milton Subotsky and I said, “Yes, after all these years, what does he have planned?” So he told me he’s going to do a picture called The Monster Club. I said, “That’s enough. We need go no further!”
LAWRENCE FRENCH: That’s funny, because Peter Cushing also turned him down, but Vincent said he thought it was a funny script and decided to do it, as did John Carradine.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, people do what they want to do, or what they enjoy doing. If Vincent wanted to do it and it was a story which appealed to him, fine, then do it. It might have been, for all I know, a marvelous script, but a title like that would put me off immediately. I hated the title of a picture I did with Milton, called  I, Monster. I thought it was a dreadful title, and I never stopped telling him that. It was an absolutely absurd title, because it was the story of Jekyll and Hyde. In that respect, it was very good, because what we did was very close to Stevenson’s story.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Except you were not called Dr Jekyll.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, they changed it to Dr. Marlowe and Mr. Blake, while everyone else had the correct names from the Stevenson story. Don’t ask me why. I’ve long since ceased trying to fathom the mysteries of why people do certain things in this business. But I thought it was an appalling title, and Milton, on the other hand, thought it was a very good one.  He said it was a good marquee title, so we agreed to disagree.


House of the Long Shadows (1983)

LAWRENCE FRENCH: You got to act with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine for the first time in The House of the Long Shadows, and although I felt it could have been a much better film, Christopher Lee told me he thought the film was quite entertaining.
VINCENT PRICE: I did too, we all thought it was good, until this woman took an ax to it! It has to be recut. I really don’t know what she was doing. She called me up and said, “will you go out and promote the film”, and I said, “If you show the film that we shot,” because it’s just not the same film. She cut out all of the comedy payoffs to everything. As you know, we were all hired actors to scare Desi Arnaz, Jr. out of the house, people who just came in to do a job. After everything that happens in the house, Chris Lee getting killed, and all the other things, suddenly we all come out and take a bow, and it is revealed to Desi that we are all actors. We had these marvelous comments on all the things that happened, and that was all cut out. They tried to turn it into a horror picture and destroyed it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When I saw it the bows you all take at the end are still in the film.  It reminded me of the Fritz Lang film, The Woman in the Window.
VINCENT PRICE: That’s the way it should have been done, so maybe they’ve put it back together. But I think there was way too much of Desi Arnaz in the beginning, and it does take too long to get into the story, so I don’t quite understand it. I don’t know if it was Golan and Globus (the producers) who wanted it to be a horror picture, or what. If they did, then why did they shoot it as a comedy?
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Is it true that you were watching Christopher Lee’s death scene, and said, “I just love to see Chris bleed.”
The Oblong Box (1969)
Price and Lee share a single brief scene in THE OBLONG BOX.

VINCENT PRICE: (laughing) Yes! We’re great friends you know.  We both find each other hysterically funny. Before we met I heard he was very pompous, and I was really worried about meeting him.  It was on The Oblong Box, the first film we did together. Well, we took one look at each other and started laughing.  We spend our lives screaming and laughing at each other and having a wonderful time. I’m really devoted to him.  I think he’s really one of my few very good friends in the business.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: I imagine that’s one reason why you wanted to do the picture, even if it wasn’t first-rate material, because you got to work with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine.
VINCENT PRICE: Oh yes, absolutely. It was like a marvelous class reunion. John is an adorable character, who I’ve known for about 40 years now. Peter is unfortunately, a little gloomy, because of his wives death, but he’s still a sweet man.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It’s too bad about Peter Cushing, because Christopher Lee was telling me how’s he’s really just waiting to join his wife, Helen.
VINCENT PRICE: I know, it’s like, “are you kidding?” It’s very sad.  He’s just waiting to die, but he’s going to have to wait a long time. He’s going to live to be 100 years old, but Peter and I have done a lot together.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What else, besides Madhouse?
VINCENT PRICE: We did a marvelous radio show in England called Aliens of the Mind (broadcast in six parts in January, 1977) and we were in a picture called Scream and Scream Again.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Yes, but you never appeared in any scenes with Peter Cushing in Scream and Scream Again. Peter Cushing was only on screen for about two minutes!
VINCENT PRICE: Yes, and Chris Lee was in that one, as well.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: One of things Christopher Lee fervently believes in, is the reality of evil and the dark forces. You’ve played several very evil characters, from the Satan-worshipping Prince Prospero, to Satan himself.
VINCENT PRICE: Satan is the ultimate hero.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: But do you believe in evil or the occult?
VINCENT PRICE: I don’t believe in the occult, but I do believe there is a power of evil.  How do you read the Bible?  It is divided equally between good and evil.  You can’t have good without evil, because there’s no conflict.  One of the lectures I do is basically that; trying to explain that the role of the villain has a definite part in the history of drama.  He is the fellow who creates the suspense and the conflict.  You can’t have drama without suspense.

Vincent Price on "The Great Mouse Detective" – now on DVD!

Ratigan enjoys his moment of triumph over Basil of Baker Street and Dr. Dawson
Ratigan enjoys his moment of triumph over Basil of Baker Street in THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE.

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986) has just recently been re-issued on Disney DVD in an all new digital restoration and the movie now looks better than ever.  It was one of the first animated films to emerge from the studio after Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney took over  and brought new life to Disney animation, as can be seen in Don Hahn’s current documentary WAKING SLEEPING BEATTY. In fact, Don Hahn was the  production manager on THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE, which was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, who would go on to great animated success  with THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, and most recently THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.
The Great Mouse Detective also marked the first and only time Disney asked Vincent Price to voice a character in one of their feature animated films.  Glen Keane who was supervising animator for the character of Ratigan related how Vincent Price came to be cast in the film:  “We found the voice for Professor Ratigan while watching the 1950 movie Champagne for Caesar. We originally decided to view the film since it starred Ronald Colman, and we were considering his voice as a possible model for Ratigan’s. Vincent Price played the villain in that movie and as soon as he came on, we realized we had found the perfect actor for the role.  Price’s expressive voice and attitude inspired us to further redesign the character.”
Originally Ratigan had been designed as a thin and wiry rodent, but as Glen Keane notes, Vincent Price’s magniloquent rendering of Ratigan’s voice led the filmmakers to turn the part into a much larger and more powerful character.  Below are some of Vincent Price’s comments made in 1985, when the film was still titled Basil of Baker Street.
Q: How do you feel about the musical scores in your movies? Boris Karloff felt that background music sometimes got in the way of an actor’s performance.
VINCENT PRICE: It all depends on how well it’s done. Laura has one of the most famous scores ever written and I never felt it got in the way at all.  When we all went to see Laura on opening night, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson, Dana Andrews and myself, we had never heard the score! That was written long after the film was finished. So we sat there and thought, “isn’t that marvelous.”  We also watched ourselves, as well.  Sometimes though, the score does get in the way. I must say with some of those Alfred Newman scores, you often felt that the orchestra was swelling behind you, but nothing was swelling on the screen. For the most part I think the scores have fit very well. David Raksin, who did Laura was really a very good composer.  I just recorded a song a few weeks ago with Henry Mancini, who is doing the score to a full-length animated Disney feature called Basil of Baker Street.  Henry Mancini wrote two songs for me and one of them is done like a big Busby Berkeley production number called The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind.
Ratigan, voiced by Vincent Price
Ratigan, voiced by Vincent Price

Q: You play the arch-villain?
VINCENT PRICE:  Yes…  naturally.  He’s really Professor Moriarty but he’s called Ratigan, because although he’s a rat, he likes to think of himself as just a large mouse.  It’s a Sherlock Holmes story, but Sherlock is a mouse called Basil.  Strangely enough, I seem to be overrun with Sherlock Holmes these days because every week I introduce a new episode of Sherlock Holmes on (The PBS-Television show) Mystery.
Q: You’ve done animated films before this, although this is the first time you’ve done a Disney animated feature.
VINCENT PRICE: Yes and Disney is really a magical name to me. They had never offered me one of these parts before, so I really wanted to do it because when you’ve been around as long as I have what you look for are new challenges and voicing Ratigan was a real challenge!  Of course I’ve always been visually minded and a big fan of animation, but when they first asked me to do it they wanted me to audition. If anyone but the Disney people had asked me to do that I would have been offended. I was actually in a state of real terror, because I didn’t know what they wanted. In the end it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. I loved doing it because I got to see the behind-the-scenes process of making an animated movie. The artists showed me hundreds of character sketches they had already made for Ratigan and they gave me the freedom to expand on that, because they wanted my interpretation of the character. So I was a part of the creative process. They ended up basing a lot of Ratigan’s personality on my gestures and movements, because while I was recording the dialogue in the studio they videotaped me. It was wonderful, because in the final movie you can see the character taking on your humanity, which is what they like because the more human the mouse or the rat is, the better it is for the picture.
Q: Do you play Ratigan with a sense of humor?
VINCENT PRICE: Yes, he’s got a  huge sense of humor about himself, although he is deadly serious about crime.  Ratigan is a real larger than life villain, so I did the part by exaggerating it. Besides being a great villain, Ratigan is also a great actor who plays at being a great villain in the story, which all great villains should be. This is his theory and it’s mine, too.  A hero is just a hero, but a villain has to fool you all the time. He has many more facets to his character. He has to be charming, witty, decadent and funny. Everything is going on at the same time, so he’s much more fun to play.
Q: I understand that the animators screened your old movie Champagne For Caesar thinking they could use Ronald Colman’s voice as a guide for Ratigan and when they heard your voice in the film they thought you would be a good fit for the part.
Vincent Price
Vincent Price with the titular bird in CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR

VINCENT PRICE:  Well, you know Champagne For Caesar is one of my favorite pictures. It was one of the funniest scripts I’d ever read and my favorite actor of all the actors I ever saw on the screen was Ronald Colman. I really worshiped him. When I was a beginning actor, I made my first movie,  Service DeLuxe (1938)  and it was a disaster, because I didn’t know how to do movie acting.  So I went to a woman, Laura Elliot, that everybody in the theater who came out to Hollywood went to. Helen Hayes and so on, they all went to her to study the technique of film acting. It involved learning how to control your face, because when you are thrown up on a huge screen, and your face is 20-feet high, when you start to talk it can suddenly look like your eating the screen, and a lot of actors do! So she taught us how to control our face, so we don’t mug, because actors in the theater tend to mug a bit. She was invaluable, and we learned a great deal from her. One of her recipes for all of us, was to go and see two actors. She said, “I would recommend that you go and see any film that you can, whether it’s a new film, or an old film, with Charles Boyer or Ronald Colman.” So I went to see every film of theirs that I could to learn and I found that Ronald Colman was the master of his craft. He never really eye-contacts anyone, it’s always a sort of lower case thing, so you wonder who’s he’s talking to. Then one day I found out I was being cast by my friend (director) Richard Whorf in Champagne For Caesar with Ronald Colman.  Ronnie was one of the most charming men in the business and I did his last picture with him, a little fantasy called The Story of Mankind that was a dreadful picture! A reporter came into the dressing room while Ronnie, Cedric Hardwicke and I were sitting around and this interviewer said, “Mr. Colman, where did they get the story for this picture?” He said, “from the jacket of the book!”

The Great Mouse Detective – DVD Review

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On Tuesday, April 13, 2010 Walt Disney Pictures re-released THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE on DVD. This one’s called the Mystery in the Mist edition, but it’s not quite clear why. Aside from the new digital transfer and a couple of new short features – granted, one involves solving a cookie jar theft (the misty mystery?) – there is little “new” under the sun. And you won’t find it on Blu-ray either. Frankly, aside from the digital transfer, it may almost be preferable for some to go for the 2002 DVD release instead because it offers several animated shorts that the latest version does not (and yes, the older release includes the ‘making-of’ documentary found on the new DVD).
So, why the relatively simple release and no Blu-ray edition? It couldn’t be because Disney figured the movie wouldn’t generate all that much interest, could it? All right, that’s just a subjective speculation, but for the sake of those who purchased the new DVD we hope that Disney isn’t planning some ultimate (Blu-ray) edition a year or so down the line.
Perhaps the aforementioned observation betrays a slightly negative attitude toward the movie that rests mainly with this reviewer rather than the majority of folks. After all, its standing on has it resting quite comfortably at 80%. However, one should take a look at the number of reviews from which that statistic arises; it’s a mere 15.
Still, the film was received fairly positively during its initial release and it is said that its moderate success gave the then new heads of Disney enough confidence to go ahead with a more ambitious project called THE LITTLE MERMAID. Well, we all know what happened after that, so if THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (dubbed THE ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE during a theatrical re-release) led to the precious slate of Disney releases that followed it, then I bow deeply to it on that count.
Yet, I must admit that the apparent charms of the film left me somewhat unmoved. It’s one I never had that much interest in during its initial release (thus, I missed it) and nothing really drew me to it over the years (so I never made an effort to watch it until this new digital release popped up). And to be wholly honest, I can see why. If THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE were produced – just as it is – today, then I would argue that it would find itself on the Disney Channel rather than in theaters. Aside from the current CGI movement, it simply doesn’t seem hold the punch necessary for a successful theatrical run. Oh, it’s a sweet enough little piece, I suppose, but it feels a little stilted when compared to today’s current crop of animated films. You may not call it fair to compare it with more recent animated projects, but remember, I had the same attitude toward it in 1986.
The whole thing feels a bit watered down. It may be that the fact that it had four directors and no less than 10 credited writers had something to do with softening its feel and pace. Too many cooks with their own particular palate to satisfy? It felt – and to some degree even looked – like a higher-end traditionally animated Rankin/Bass production more than it did a Disney feature. Now, that’s not meant to be too much of a slight. I like most Rankin/Bass productions. However, it does make THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE seem less…theatrical.
Here’s just one example of what I’m pointing out here: The very accomplished Henry Mancini scored the film, but his music is surprising listless. It plays more like simple background music and accompanies moments in which is not needed, which only adds to the feeling that it is more filler than anything else.
One might argue that this score came a mere eight years before his death and that he was winding down. But, in 1992 he would score TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE and that entry into his aggregate of work would be considerably livelier. So again, it makes one wonder whether there were too many cooks in the kitchen, requiring less spice in order to serve a more general type of viewer. At any rate, the Mancini point is indicative of the trouble with the entire movie.
Still, the idea is a cute one. Based on a series of children’s books by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, it takes the world of Sherlock Holmes (that character known here as Basil of Baker Street and voiced by Barrie Ingham) and shrinks it down to the rodent arena. A young mouse (Susanne Pollatschek) witnesses the kidnapping of her father (Alan Young, sounding more than ever like his character in 1960’s THE TIME MACHINE) by a somewhat handicapped bat who works for an evil, power-hungry rat named Ratigan (who is the equivalent of Holmes’ arch nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, and is voiced by the always pitch-perfect Vincent Price). Soon after the game is afoot. The problem is that the game is rather bland.
Nonetheless, it served co-writers/co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker well; it and previous effort THE BLACK CAULDREN (which didn’t do well and received poor reviews) helped get their feet wet and honed their skills. Proof is in the pudding, as they say, because they went on to take leading positions on THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, HERCULES, the underrated TREASURE PLANET, and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Burny Mattinson – one of the ten writers – went on to work on the stories for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING, the also underrated HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, MULAN and TARZAN.
Another interesting tidbit is that THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE was the first Disney film in which its animators incorporated computer-generated imagery into their traditional cell animation. The clock tower sequence involves a deadly chase through the gears of London’s giant Big Ben clock. The mice and rat are traditionally rendered, but the gears and the angles we see as the chase ensues through them are generated via computer, offering angles and a rollercoaster type of view that might not be possible otherwise. This technique would later be put to greater publicized use in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LION KING, etc.
Watching animator Phil Nibbelink describe the process and its effect in the ‘making-of’ short feature on the DVD is almost as fun as any scene in the movie itself. His “animated” demeanor and obvious excitement over the new creative tool is infectious. It’s a joy to watch his pleasure in connection to what he does.
There are a couple of other features on the DVD worth noting too. There is the standard Disney sing-a-long, of course, but there is also a nice history primer in relation to the profession of detective work. It’s a quick, fun way for kids to learn a little something.
The other tidbit younger ones will get some fun out of is the sleuth test video short. Again, it’s something that gives the younger set a chance to use some cognitive reasoning.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)Of course, one is also subjected to the ads – uh, that is, coming attractions for other Disney product, specifically some Blu-ray releases. Of note to TOY STORY fans, however, is a nice trailer for TOY STORY 3. That oughta wet a few appetites; it did mine, anyway.
The final verdict: THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE is certainly no great work, nor is it as good as some others – notably the likes of Siskel & Ebert – have touted, especially in hindsight. Even the sound editing and sound transfer for the new disc were unimpressive. Nonetheless, it has its creative moments and even involves more obscure trivia connected to Holmes lore such as canine companion Toby, who showed up in Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel, THE SIGN OF THE FOUR.
And perhaps most meaningful of all, it allowed those involved to cut their teeth on it, and then move on to help make history with future critical and public favorite works.
THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (Walt Disney Pictures/Silver Screen Partners II; 1986; 74 min.) Directed by Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and John Musker. Screenplay by Peter Young, Vance Gerry, Steve Hulett, Ron Clements, John Musker, Bruce Morris, Matthew O’Callaghan, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and Melvin Shaw. Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone. Inspired by the “Sherlock Holmes” book series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Produced by Burny Mattinson. Art Direction by Guy Vasilovich. Visual Effects by Dave Bossert, Mark Dindal, Tad A. Gielow, Ted Kierscey, Rolando Mercado, Patricia Peraza, Steve Starr, John Tucker, and Kelvin Yasuda. Music Composed by Henry Mancini. Edited By Roy M. Brewer Jr. and James Melton. Cast of Voices: Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Susanne Pollatschek, Candy Candido, Diana Chesney, Eve Brenner, Alan Young, Laurie Main, Shani Wallis, Ellen Fitzhugh, Walker Edmiston, Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Melissa Manchester, Frank Welker and Basil Rathbone. MPAA Rating: G for everyone.

Nevermore: Artwork from Roger Corman's Poe Films – Video

Starting in 1960 with THE HOUSE OF USHER, producer-director Roger Corman crafted a series of stylish horror films inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Although the screenplays (usually by Richard Matheson or Charles Beaumont) had to embellish the short stories in order to fill out the feature length running time, the production design and cinematography captured a wonderful, often highly artificial and stylized look that was perfect for rendering Poe on screen. The films also benefited from the commanding presence of Vincent Price, who starred in all but one of the series, which totalled eight in all, including TALES OF TERROR and MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH.
This video was taken at an exhibition of posters, stills, and lobby cards at the drkrm gallery in Los Angeles. Titled “Nevermore,” the gallery showing was an attempt to take the pop art of the movies and transform it into a form of fine art worthy of collecting. Our own David Del Valle acts as curator, taking you on a guided tour in chronological order of the films’ release. Fans of the Corman-Price-Poe films should get a kick out of the visuals and commentary, and non-fans will get a glimpse at what makes these films interesting.
The Nevermore exhibit took place back in October of 2006; unfortunately, I was busy covering the Screamfest festival in Hollywood at that time, so I was not able to get the video edited and posted while the exhibition was still running. Since then it’s sat on limbo, but there is now talk of a similar gallery showing in San Francisco, and David has a book coming out in the U.K. on the subject of the Poe films, so the timing seems right again to post this now.

Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price on DRAGONWYCK – now on DVD

Having seen Dragonwyck several times over the years in rather battered prints, the picture quality on Fox’s new DVD release of the film is quite a revelation. I’ve certainly never seen the film look as good as it does here. What is even more astonishing, is how prescient the film was, especially in terms of Vincent Price’s future career in Gothic horror films. Dragonwyck could easily be called Price’s first Poe movie, especially since it has as much or more to do with Poe than many of Roger Corman’s films that are based on Poe’s poems, such as The Raven and The Haunted Palace.
However, what I find really strange, is that it took 14 years before Roger Corman and AIP would give Price the chance to actually make a follow-up to Dragonwyck. This, despite the fact that Price gives one of his greatest film performances in Dragonwyck, for which he was reportedly under serious consideration for an Academy Award nomination as best actor (Fredric March won that year for The Best Years of Our Lives.)
Instead, Dragonwyck actually signaled the end of Price’s contract with Fox. Afterwards, he made only one more film for the studio, Moss Rose, before he was dismissed from the lot and moved over to RKO, under the control of it’s new owner, Howard Hughes. Price didn’t return to Fox until 1958, when his supporting role in The Fly helped that movie become the sleeper hit of the year.
While the new Dragonwyck DVD features a superb restoration of the film itself, it’s rather unfortunate that no important Vincent Price scholars (with the sole exception of Lucy Chase Williams), were invited to talk about the film. There is a passable commentary track (that contains several factual errors) by Steve Habermand and DVD producer Constantine Nasr, although I’m not familiar with the work of either one of them. There is also a short documentary on the film that contains nothing new, since few of the more qualified genre experts on Vincent Price, such as Tom Weaver, David Del Valle, or myself were included. (as mentioned, a few of Lucy Chase Williams comments are included, but were obviously cut to ribbons.)
Of course, what would have been especially nice, would have been hearing some of Vincent Price’s own comments about the film, whose point of view is completely absent from all of the supplements. If nothing else, I could have supplied Mr. Price’s own beautiful reading of Poe’s poem Alone as an audio supplement, or better yet, as an opening prelude to the film itself, for as Price notes below, it was how Anya Seton opened the book.
The following comments from Vincent Price regarding his work on Dragonwyck are culled from a special screening of the film Mr. Price hosted at the Opera Plaza Cinemas, during the San Francisco Film Festival on April 14, 1985, followed by a lavish dinner party for film festival patrons at Modesto Lanzone’s Restaurant. Additional comments from Mr. Price are from my interview with him, conducted during Mr. Price’s four day stay in San Francisco during the film festival in 1985.
Continue reading “Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price on DRAGONWYCK – now on DVD”

Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price on radio acting

Vincent Price is rightly noted for his fine speaking voice and suave, polished presence through which he can convey eerie graduations of a sinister motivating force.


My voice has sort of been my trademark and I don’t know why, because to me, I sound like everybody else in America. My brother, who wasn’t in the theater at all, had exactly the same voice I had.


Introduction by Lawrence French

The following interview with Vincent Price was transcribed and edited from the radio show, THE GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO, that was first broadcast on the Hartford, CT radio station WTIC, in November of 1972 . Many years ago I got an audio tape of this broadcast from a collector, but it only included excerpts from Price’s answers. It was also, unfortunately, after CFQ published it’s special Vincent Price issue in 1989, so I couldn’t include any quotes from this interview in our special Price issue! But, even in it’s truncated form, I felt it was Vincent Price at his best, talking expansively about what he himself called his “favorite entertainment medium: Radio.”
Continue reading “Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price on radio acting”

Cybersurfing: Vincent Price Presents

vincent-price-presents.jpgThis strikes me as odd: Vincent Price, the late, great horror movie star who died back in the ’90s, is about to become the subject of a series of comic books. The series, titled “Vincent Price Presents,” will feature the actor “in a myriad of roles including host, muse, background player, and protagonist,” according to the official press release.
The series, from Blue Water Productions, is being written by Chad Helder, who has a nice blog called Unspeakable Horror. The first issue is scheduled to debut in October, naturally, to coincide with Halloween.
Read the press release below the fold. Continue reading “Cybersurfing: Vincent Price Presents”

The One You Might Have Saved

Barbra (Judith O'Dea) in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADRiffing on an earlier essay at Arbogast on Film, Final Girl offers this opinion on why Barbra in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), is the one horror movie victim she would have saved if she had the chance. Barbra (Judith O’Dea) of course receives undue contempt from contemporary audiences because she is – realistically and quite believably – traumatized by the horrible events around her; instead of morphing into a monster-fighting icon of female empowerment (something that would not really happen until Sigourney Weaver played Ripley in ALIEN eleven years later), Barbra simply sinks into catatonia until she briefly flares up at the end – only to be devoured by her dead brother. Barbra sets the standard as the archetypal character who cannot handle what is happening (she foreshadows Veronica Cartwright in ALIEN and Bill Paxton in ALIENS), and her ultimate fate is less shocking than deeply disturbing – which is to say it packs a deep emotional resonance that provokes viewers to think, “Oh no!” instead of “Ain’t it cool!”
I have never had quite such a memorably profound reaction to the death of an on-screen character as Final Girl records, but many are victims I have seen who did not deserve their fate. Below I offer my list…
A Woman of the Streets in MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932). Arlene Francis (who would later become famous as a panelist on the TV show WHAT’S MY LINE) plays this euphemistically-named character (obviously a prostitute). Practically crucified on a rack, Francis screams – and screams – and SCREAMS while Bela Lugosi’s Dr. Mirakle examines her blood, hoping it will help his experiments. The way she is trussed up vaguely suggests some kind of S&M dungeon device, and this may be the distant grand-daddy of Torture Porn. And as if it were not enough to kill the woman, Mirakle insults her as well, adopting a tone of moral outrage because her blood is “polluted” (presumably symbolic of her state as a fallen woman), which means it is not suitable for his work. What is most amazing, however, is that this quaint relic from an earlier era actually still packs a punch, thanks to Francis’s unnerving vocalizations – which provoke an almost instinctive protective reaction in the listener.
Josef in THE BODY SNATCHERS (1945). Lugosi gets payback for Francis in this film, playing a dim-bulb assistant who makes the mistake of thinking he can blackmail the murderous body snatcher played by Boris Karloff. Josef is not much of a character, but it is sad to see Lugosi, briefly the reigning king of horror thanks to DRACULA, killed off by Karloff, the star who dethroned him by playing the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon in THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956). This is the one where meddling scientists operate on the Creature so that he can no longer breath underwater, forcing him to become a permanent land-walker. Some jerk commits a murder and tries to blame it on the innocent beast, who goes on a rampage, killing the real murderer. The Creature then heads to the ocean, lured by the sound of crashing waves, and the film leaves us in no doubt that he will drown to death attempting to return to the water that used to be his home. The humans in this film have much to answer for, and one wishes the Creature didn’t have to pay the price for their mistakes.
Dandelo in THE FLY (1958). Dandelo the cat becomes the unwitting victim of his master, scientist Andre Delambre (Al Hedison) who puts him in a matter transmitter. Dandelo disappears – but never rematerializes. All that is left is an echoing wale on the soundtrack. Poor Dandelo, I wish I could bring you back to our dimension; I have a little cat bed here, some cat toys, and a little catnip….
Miles in THE INNOCENTS (1961). Exorcising a malicious ghost proves to be a fatal experience for this young boy played by Martin Stephens. The tragedy of the downer ending hits you over the head like a sledgehammer. Did his governess (Deborah Kerr) save him from the evil influence, or did she unwittingly give him a heart attack by forcing him to confront the ghost? I don’t know if I could have handled the situation any better, but I would like to try.
The Monkey in PORTRAIT OF HELL (1969).This Japanese masterpiece tells the story of  Korean painter who can only paint what he sees. When his Japanese lord asks him to paint a divine vista, the artist insists on painting Hell instead. To aid in his endeavor, he asks his lord to stage a scene with a burning chariot; the lord complies – and puts the artist’s daughter in the chariot! As she burns to death, her pet monkey leaps from a nearby tree, joining her in the living funeral pyre. That’s right: in this film, no one comes to a good end – even the monkey dies! It’s such a gratuitous bit – an extra added sucker punch, just to make you feel even worse as you view the tragedy – that you want to point your fire extinguisher at the screen.
The Private Eye in FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971).This Dario Argento thriller features a gay private detective in a supporting role. He brags that he has never solved a case but confidently insists that the odds must therefore now be in his favor. He does identify the murderer but only in time to become a victim himself. His demise by poison is poignant – as he realizes, at the moment of his death, that he was, for once, right. You really wish he had lived to enjoy his success instead of expiring ignominiously in a public restroom.
Dr. Martin in ASYLUM (1972). For me, actor Robert Powell will always be JESUS OF NAZARETH – that and the almost mystical father-figure in Ken Russell’s film version of TOMMY. The death of his well-meaning young psychiatrist at the end of this film is too horrible for words. Dr. Martin’s murder, I have to admit, is a pretty effective sick joke (the murderer strangles him with a stethoscope, then uses it to listen for the heartbeat that is no longer there). But the film had set him up as an idealist who objects – quite rightly – to the situation he finds in the asylum. When he dies, it is as if a small piece of hope dies with him.
Edward Lionheart in THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973). Vincent Price plays a hammy Shakespearean actor who kills the critics that trashed his performances. Although inspired by Price’s role in the DR. PHIBES films (in which the mad doctor triumphed), THEATRE reverts to a standard formula at the end, with Lionheart dying in a fire while the final critic walks away to live happily ever after. The injustice is infuriating: Lionheart should have survived and toasted the arrogant twit. (By the way, this is the only suggestion on my list that I mean literally: the film would be better if the script had been rewritten to make Lionheart triumphant.)
Sergeant Howie in THE WICKER MAN (1973). As he investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a Scottish Isle, Howie (Edward Woodward) is set up as a bit of a dullard and an unsympathetic prick to boot. The effect for me is that he comes across as a pathetic patsy – a victim less of the murderous pagans on the island than of the unsympathetic screenwriter (Anthony Shaffer) who created him. Howie, I never really liked you that much, but I can’t stand to see anyone forced to take a fall like that. If there were any C02 left in my fire extinguisher after saving the monkey in PORTRAIT OF HELL, I would use it on the flaming Wicker Man.
Jessica Bradford in BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). We do not actually see Jessica (Olivia Hussey) die in this film, but the movie ends with her character drugged unconscious while the idiot police department (having fingered the wrong man) leaves her alone in the house with the real killer. Director Bob Clark later said in an interview with Cinefantastique that Hussey’s character had earned the right to live, and I have to agree. I have a hypodermic of adrenalin here that should wake her from her drugged-out torpor, if only I could reach through the screen…
Carrie in CARRIE (1976). I would have saved Sissy Spacek’s psychic girl long before her death at the end of the movie. When the film builds up to the horrible prank at the prom, it is one of the few moments in a horror film when I found myself dreading what was about to happen – even though I knew it had to happen in order for the horror to break out (which was, after all, what I had paid to see). Unlike most films, in which one eagerly anticipates this kind of thing, so that the film will get to the “good stuff,” I did find myself involuntarily reaching out to the screen, wanting to stop Nancy Allen from pulling that rope and dumping pig’s blood all over poor Carrie White.
Officer Jim Kelly in ALLIGATOR (1980). Robert Forster plays Madison, a cop who lost a partner years ago. When he needs someone to help check the sewers where some bodies have been found, most of his chicken-shit colleagues make up lame excuses, but Kelly (Perry Lang) steps forward – even though he knows about Madison’s past. Kelly’s reward for his courage is to be eaten by the titular alligator, while the cowards back at the precinct live to see another day. If Madison couldn’t save Kelly, I don’t know what I could do. Maybe flip the alligator on his back and rub his tummy till he fell asleep? (They say this works, but it never did with my pet alligator – I’d probably just end up joining Kelly’s dismembered body parts in the monster reptile’s gullet.)
Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER (1995). The radioactive reptile has been responsible for more death and destruction than one could possibly tally, but the payback he receives in this one more than settles his karma: a full-blown nuclear meltdown reduces the beast to nothing but a pile of ash blowing in the wind. There is a certain grandeur about this attempt to create a convincingly “final” death for the long-lived monster, but his destruction looks really, really painful. If I could just find a few cadmium rods to slow down the chain reaction before it reached critical levels…
The rat in THE EYE (2002). A distant cousin of the monkey in PORTRAIT OF HELL, this rat serves a similar, though slightly vaguer purpose: it’s not enough for the humans to die, the filmmakers have to hammer home the relentless destruction by offing an innocent animal as well. Whatever the point, the rodent’s desperate but failed attempt to outrun the climactic conflagration by diving down a sewer pipe is a great piece of film-making – a perfect little exclamation point to the human destruction above ground. Poor rat, I wish I could adopt you and create a litte menagerie, including the monkey from PORTRAIT OF HELL and Dandelo the cat from THE FLY (I don’t think my facilities would accommodate Godzilla, however).

Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price on Edgar Allan Poe

Here, from the vast CFQ archives are Vincent Price’s “Thoughts about the horror films that made him famous.” It’s a piece I wrote for the fabulous double issue of Cinefantastique, from January, 1989 on the career of “Horror’s crown prince,” Mr. Vincent Price.

MASQUES OF THE RED DEATH: Satanists Prince Propsero (Vincent Price) and Julianna (Hazel Court)

Of course, earlier today, Steve B. posted the sad news about the passing of Hazel Court, who died of a heart attack at her California home outside of Lake Tahoe. Ms. Court, starred with Vincent Price in two of Corman’s best Poe films, THE RAVEN and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and appeared with Ray Milland in a third Corman-Poe film, THE PREMATURE BURIAL.
So I feel it’s only fitting I should append this short comment Mr. Price made about Hazel Court before his more detailed memories of working on the Poe movies:
VINCENT PRICE: Hazel Court was a dear, sweet lady. She was in The Raven which was one of my favorite films, mainly because of the cast… they were all divine people.
Click here to read the article Price on Poe: Thoughts on the Horror that Made Him Famous.