Nope, no big openings this weekend, and everybody is too busy talking Oscars right now (we’ll get to that later in the week). So while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, the Cinefantastique Online team of the Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French and Dan Persons got together to celebrate another film having its fiftieth anniversary this year. It’s Larry’s call this time around, and he’s picked a good ‘un: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Roger Corman’s adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story that casts Vincent Price as a Satan-worshiping noble who just wants to be loved — and corrupt anyone who comes within sneering distance — while an horrific pestilence spreads across the Italian countryside.
This time the team is in accord that this is not just, at the very least, one of Corman’s best Poe adaptations — possibly the best — but also a bona fide horror classic, lushly mounted and photographed (by Nicolas Roeg!), intelligently adapted by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell, and featuring an impressive cast headed up by Price in one of his finest performances. Come listen in as the guys delve in-depth into what makes this a must-see film for any dedicated fan of cinematic terror.
You’d think the weekend before Halloween that the studios would be falling all over themselves to get something suitably bone-chilling into theaters. Nope, turns out the lackluster CARRIE — the film that is to horror what a pouch of baby carrots is to a trick-or-treat bag — represents the full extent of what Hollywood wants to offer up for the season. Not good enough. So it falls to Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to offer up some more appropriately scary movies to get you in the mood. We discuss what makes a movie appropriate for a night of spooky fun, talk about the legacy of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, and take a glimpse into the team-up of Roger Corman and Vincent Price.
Also, Steve discusses his experiences at this year’s batch of Halloween haunts, and Dan gives his take on the experimental horror film, TOAD ROAD. Plus, what’s coming to theaters next week.
The final track on Deep Purple’s latest album, Now What?!, features a title that immediately endeared it to Cinefantastique: “Vincent Price.” That’s right: the late, great “Merchant of Menace” – the actor who portrayed Dr. Phibes, Prince Prospero, Roderick Usher, the Invisible Man, and many other memorable villains – is the subject of a hard rock song by the band that brought us “Smoke on the Water,” “Perfect Strangers,” and “Hush.”
The connection between Vincent Price and rock music may not seem obvious, but back in 1975, Price appeared opposite shock-rocker Alice Cooper in a made-for-television special; Price’s voice was also prominently heard on the accompanying soundtrack album, Welcome to My Nightmare. (This was several years before Price did similar service on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”) Perhaps not coincidentally, the man who produced Welcome to My Nightmare, Bob Ezrin, also produced Now What?!, and he shares a writing credit on the song with the members of the band: Don Airey on keyboards, Ian Gillan on vocals, Roger Glover on bass, Steve Morse on guitar, and Ian Paice on drums. There is a certain Cooper-esque tinge to the song’s tongue-in-cheek approach to old horror, but to be fair, Ezrin is not the only one with a past connection to Price. The actor narrated bassist Roger Glover’s concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, a live performance of which was staged and videotaped in 1975.
Whatever threads led to the creation of this song, by a group more well known for singing about a burning recording studio, the result is a delight that evokes the horror genre without descending into Halloween novelty territory (“The Monster Mash” – this definitely is not!). The music is a clever mix of thundering tones from the organ, a dramatic chord progression for synthesized choir, and the sort of heavy rock riffs on guitar and bass that are Deep Purple’s signature. Think Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” with the underlying disco beat replaced by something that really rocks.
The lyrics are a bit confused, attributing to Price rolls and actions he never performed on screen; however, this becomes part of the song’s charm, capturing the nostalgic joy of sneaking out of bed, after mom and dad were asleep, to watch monsters movies on late-night TV – the various films mixing together in jumbled montage of childhood memory, until scenes from one film seemed to have been mentally edited into some other title.
Ian Gillan’s vocals are as strong as ever; Glover and Pace lay down the rhythm just like in the good old days – strong and steady, but with enough variation to keep it lively. Don Airey does an eerie job of evoking the keyboard work of the late John Lord (who died last year), and Steve Morse fills in perfectly for former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore; the crunch of the rhythm guitar, in particular, is a perfect match for Blackmore’s classic work, as is the synchronized guitar solo, which alternates between drawling expressiveness and virtuoso speed. In fact, if it weren’t for the credit sheet, a listener might be easily fooled into thinking this was the classic Deep Purple lineup at work.
As someone who co-wrote the Cinefantastique double issue devoted to Price’s career as a horror star, I was thrilled to see Deep Purple show an interest, and was even gladder to see the band felt strongly enough about the track to release it as the second single from the album, on June 7. (The first single, “Hell to Pay,” came out in March, a month before the full Now What?! album was released.) Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the music video.
Like the song, the video seems a bit confused about exactly what Price did and didn’t do as a monster. Most of the vid is in black-and-white, which is okay (Price did more than a few black-and-white thrillers), but the video is also presented as a silent film with subtitles. I guess we can forgive this to some extent (it allows the dialogue to be read instead of heard, which would have interfered with the singing), but it completely places the video in the wrong era.
Price’s career was solely in the sound era, and his greatest achievements in the horror genre were color films: HOUSE OF WAX, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. We get no clips from any of his films (not even the ones in the public domain); instead, we get a couple of teens wandering through a fun house, where someone wearing a tuxedo and a moustache impersonates Price – badly.
We get imagery pulled from classic 1930s horror films from Universal Pictures: creepy catacombs, a mummy, a knock-off of the Frankenstein monster, and the Price characters seems to be a vampire (he dissolves in sunlight).
At least that has something to do with the horror genre, if not with Price himself. Unfortunately, the video panders to the lowest common denominator, throwing in a pole-dancing vixen in a nun’s habit. I’m sure someone was having his private fantasy fulfilled the day that scene was shot, but couldn’t he have waited for a more appropriate venue?
What we don’t get, sadly, is much of anything to do with any of Price’s films, except for a brief bit at the end, with the band members frozen into mannequin figures, suggesting the victims from HOUSE OF WAX. Too bad they didn’t get Tim Burton to direct the whole thing in stop-motion, a la his wonderful short subject, “Vincent.” The visual potential t in combining this song with imagery from Price’s films is immense beyond imagining. It is all to easy to imagine some amateur editor – a true enthusiast for the actor’s work – putting together a far more satisfying tribute to Vincent Price.
Motion Pictures Greatest Terror Personalities: Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre – Together for the first time!
This trailer from TALES OF TERROR provides an interesting glimpse into how movies were sold to audiences back in 1962. Curiously, the omnibus film’s three episodes are presented in reverse order from their actual appearance in the film. Also noteworthy: the tongue-in-cheek middle episode is acknowledged as being “sardonically humorous” – a tactic that distributor American International Pictures would avoid when releasing the comical THE RAVEN a year later, presenting it as a straight horror thriller.
As part of Cinefantastique’s 50th anniversary tribute to TALES OF TERROR (1962), we recently posted a podcast discussing producer-director Roger Corman’s three-part omnibus of horror inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. As scintillating as the podcast conversation might be, it cannot capture the aesthetic achievements of the film, which features impressive production design (by Daniel Haller) and lovely cinematography (by Floyd Crosby). Therefore, we present this pictorial retrospective, showcasing horror stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbon, in the episodes MORELLA, THE BLACK CAT, and THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR.
With no new horror, fantasy, or science fiction films opening this weekend, Cinefantastique stalwarts Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski keep their Sense of Wonder alive by turning the clock back five decades for a retrospective celebration of TALES OF TERROR (1962), producer-director Roger Corman’s fourth film inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe. With a witty screenplay by Richard Matheson (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), and a cast including Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone, this three-part anthology serves up the expected chills and thrills, along with a perhaps unexpected dose of merriment, in MORELLA, THE BLACK CAT, and THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR. The result is a classic example of 1960s terror cinema, colorful and atmospheric, with impressive art direction by Daniel Haller, beautifully captured by cinematographer Floyd Crosby, with an ethereal score by Les Baxter.
So listen in as Steve and Larry open the vault to exhume the buried behind-the-scenes secrets and the arcane aesthetics of this popuri of Poe. The result is a scintillating CFQ Spotlight podcast, which answers the immortal question: What the hell happened to that missing limbo scene?
“X” THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES / TALES OF TERROR “MORELLA”: LIMITED EDITION LLLCD 1174
Music by Les Baxter Limited Edition of 1200 Units STARTS SHIPPING JUNE 7th
SPECIAL SALE PRICE: $14.98 (reg. $19.98)
ORDER “X” THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES / TALES OF TERROR “MORELLA”: LIMITED EDITION” starting JUNE 7th at www.lalalandrecords.com at a special sale price of $14.98) Sale price good thru 6/20/11.
Presenting the world premiere release of selections from acclaimed composer Les Baxter’s (THE DUNWICH HORROR, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO, HELL’S BELLES, BEACH BLANKET BINGO) original scores to Roger Corman’s 1963 classic shocker “X” THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES and the “MORELLA” chapter of Corman’s 1962 Edgar Allan Poe-themed anthology feature TALES OF TERROR. After an exhaustive search, only the final two-thirds of X-RAY’s score was recovered, but contained within those ¼ inch elements was the partial score to the Vincent Price-starring “Morella” segment of TALES OF TERROR. Both are presented here and feature the immortal Baxter at his jazzed-infused gothic best.
Produced by Ford A. Thaxton and painstakingly mastered by James Nelson from MGM vault elements, this release features in-depth liner notes from film music writer Randall D. Larson. A must-have for film music enthusiasts, especially those Baxter and Corman fans! This is a limited edition of 1200 units.
“X” THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES
1. End Title (Extended) (3:38)
2. Penthouse (1:50)
3. Fast Twist (2:07)
4. Nude Twist (1:55)
5. Casino Lounge (2:31)
6. Posh (2:29)
7. Desert Chase/Helicopter Pursuit/
8. Pluck It Out/End Credits
(Film Version) (3:20) TALES OF TERROR: “MORELLA”
9. The Corpse and The Ghost (1:29)
10. Lenora / Morella /Fire & Smoke / Eerie House (4:53)
11. End Credits (2:45)
Bonus Material From
X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES
12. X Main Title (with sound effects) (1:51)
13. Las Vegas Lights (with sound effects) (1:02)
14. Organ Interlude (3:53)
15. Outtake Suite (2:44)
Total Time: 42:37
NEW RELEASE SPECIALS! To celebrate our new Les Baxter release, we’re offering his PANIC IN YEAR ZERO, HELL’S BELLES and BEACH BLANKET BINGO limited editions at a special sale price of only $9.98 each.
And to salute Green Lantern’s new upcoming big screen epic, grab Rob Kral’s uber-cool GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT score for a special sale price of only $4.98. Get ’em now! These special prices are good thru JUNE 20th. Only at www.lalalandrecords.com
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.
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 This is a letter Peter Cushing wrote to Vincent Price in 1973, thanking him for his birthday card:
26 May 1973
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,
********** 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
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,
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.
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 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 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.
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,
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.
Seventeen years ago on October 25 1993 at the age of 82, Vincent Price met the end of his adventure on Earth. To commemorate his passing, several Facebook groups are having a “Vincent Price Day” including Rick Squire’s The Vincent Price Exhibit. As is well-known, Mr. Price was a life-long devotee of all the arts and often defended the motion-picture as a great art form before it was fashionable to do so in the fifties and early sixties. In this homage Price wrote in 1986 for Forrest J. Ackerman, he offers a splendid tribute not only to “4 E” but also to the many fright films that will forever be associated with the name of Vincent Leonard Price.
HOMAGE TO 4E ACKERMAN
A tribute by VINCENT PRICE
March 24, 1986
I’ve done my share of horror films. Some were meant to be, some weren’t. Some actors are so connected (to the genre) in the public’s mind, that they mind the association–I do and I don’t. All of us have done other things, many of which we are more proud of than the horrors, but what the public remembers demands a certain amount of gratitude from all of us. The public can so easily forget.
Now there are people whose role in life is to perpetuate the public’s memory in certain ways, in specific areas of every field of endeavor. Some do it with a heavy hand and some with a touch of genius. Some even combine genius with humor and they are the very special few. To name the one special, unique, all by himself, we must come up with the name of Forry Ackerman. He is a gentle wit, full of fun and funniness. He loves a quip and is not above treating us to some striking punning. He wrote me that, “Twenty-seven years ago I brought forth upon this continent a genre magazine conceived in jeopardy and dead-icated to the proposition (13) that all monsters are cremated evil.” Now you see what I mean. And not even the slightest apology to Lincoln.
Quite seriously, Forry has indeed punned, joked and consciously smiled his way into millions of young hearts. To appear on a cover of his magazine is to become immortal. In a rather ghoulish way. The recipient of the cover honor can be sure of thousands of imitators. He or she takes a place in the make up’s of many Halloweens. They become collector’s items and are framed, hung, adored and almost worshipped throughout Monsterland. Landis, Lucas, King and Spielberg all owe him some of their devoted followers. Single handed he has kept alive many a lessening legend putting them under his list of ghost writers on the heading of his always imaginative stationary. Tod Browing, George Zucco, Jack Pierce, as well as the obvious greats, Karloff, Lorre, etc.
On a personal note he is a great and loyal friend and career supporter. When you’re with Forry or 4 E and his enchanting wife Wendayne at a movie opening or film festival as I was two years ago in Madrid, or at some especially enchanted Hollywood affair you know you’ve in the company of royalty. In his kingdom of the bizarre, weird and wonderful he is supreme ruler, keeper of the keys to monster immortality. He pictures himself crowned with Jack Pierce’s famous top part of Frankenstein’s monster’s head.
Forry has made monsters fun, vampires good company. His address in Hollyweird, Karloffornia has become a Mecca for young monster lovers and serious students of one of the oldest cinema genres. He is a collector extraordinaire as he truly collects extraordinary things and has made the grand gesture of giving it to the city of Los Angeles, which with it’s typical lack of concern for an industry that has made it famous, still doesn’t have a place to house it.
Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and best preserving its mementos. We should thank him for his fun, devotion, and generous giving of it to his avid public. His fans are legion.
Celebrate Halloween this year with the magical voice of Vincent Price:
WITCHCRAFT & MAGIC: An Adventure in Demonology. Capitol Records1969SWBB-342Stereo. Two Record Set. Written and Directed by Terry d’ Oberoff. Producer: Roger Karshner. Electronic score by Douglas Leedy.
The secrets of witchcraft and magic revealed by Vincent Price, distinguished actor and demonologist.
A Note from producer Roger Karshner:
“In this album we have attempted to bring to the listener the essential elements of Witchcraft and Magic, authentically and dramatically. Terry d’Oberoff’s script is historically sound and is beautifully written, with satanic, dramatic brilliance. Mr. Price’s interpretation is indeed masterful. His voice surrounds you, lifts your mind and transport it across the landscape of Hell.”
This is easily one of the best of Vincent Price’s many sound recordings. Here Price’s superb dramatic reading is beautifully enhanced by an inventive use of stereo sound effects that most of Price’s other recordings lack. There is also a very subtle music score and atmospheric readings from three un-credited actresses who play the witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The Film Forum presents this fifteen-film tribute to the late producer-director William Castle, running from August 27 through September 6. Specializing in horror films and thrillers, Castle was an entertaining showman who relied on on outrageous gimmicks with catchy names like Percepto, Emergo, and Illusion-O, in order to lure audiences into theatres to see such campy confectionery as THE TINGLER, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, and 13 GHOSTS. Thanks tothese innovative process, audiences might feels their seats vibrating as if a creature were scurrying beneath their feet in the theatre, or see a skeleton floating overhead on a wire, or be given an opportunity to walk out and get their money back if they felt the ending might be too intense (few people took advantage, as it required sitting in a “Coward’s Corner” in the lobby until the film was finished).
THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL are probably two of Castle’s most well known films, thanks to the presence of horror star Vincent Price, whose campy approach to the genre was perfectly suited for Castle’s gimmicky style of fun. HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL yielded a 1999 remake starring Geoffrey Rush and Famke Jansen; 13 GHOST was also remake. Although amusing and fun, Castle’s work loses something on television and home video, where the gimmicks cannot be replicated; fortunately, the Film Forum is presenting the films as they were meant to be seen – with the gimmicks intact.
If you want to get a taste of what the William Castle experience was all about, you should check out Joe Dante’s 1993 film MATINEE, in which John Goodman plays a Hollywood hustler obviously inspired by Castle, whose latest gimmick consists of simulating an atomic explosion in the middle of a sci-fi movie about radioactive mutation.
The Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014, between 6th Ave and Varick (7th Ave). Their webpage for the Return of William Castle series is here.
AUGUST 26/27 Fri/Sat (2 Films for 1 Admission)
HOMICIDAL (1961) WITH FRIGHT BREAK & COWARD’S CORNER!
1:00, 4:35, 8:10
STRAIT-JACKET (1964) Joan Crawford
2:45. 6:20, 10:00
AUGUST 29 Sun (2 Films for 1 Admission)
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) IN BONE-CHILLING EMERGO!
2:45, 6:05, 9:25
MR. SARDONICUS (1961) WITH PUNISHMENT POLL!
1:00, 4:20, 7:40
AUGUST 30 Mon (3 Films for 1 Admission)
THE WHISTLER (1944) New 35mm Print!
Richard Dix, J. Carrol Naish
1:00, 4:45, 8:30
MARK OF THE WHISTLER (1944) New 35mm Print!
2:15, 6:00, 9:45
MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER (1946) New 35mm Print!
SEPTEMBER 1 Wed (2 Films for 1 Admission)
MACABRE (1958) WITH $1,000,000 INSURANCE POLICY!
2:50, 6:10, 9:10
13 GHOSTS (1960) IN BLOOD-CURDLING ILLUSION-O!
Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp, Margaret Hamilton
1:00, 4:20, 7:40
SEPTEMBER 2 Thu (2 Films for 1 Admission)
THE NIGHT WALKER (1964) Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor
LET’S KILL UNCLE (1962) Mary Badham, Pat Cardi
1:00, 4:30*, 10:00
*4:30 show is a single feature only
SEPTEMBER 2 Thu (Separate Admission)
WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) Kim Hunter, Dean Jagger, Robert Mitchum
SEPTEMBER 3/4/5/6 Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon
THE TINGLER (1959) IN PERCEPTO! & PSYCHEDELORAMA!
Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Judith Evelyn
Plus PsychoÂThe Trailer
1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 8:15, 10:05
SEPTEMBER 3/4 Fri/Sat (Separate Admission)
JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (1954) Brett King, Barbara Lawrence
SEPTEMBER 5/6 Sun/Mon (Separate Admission)
FORT TI (1953) George Montgomery
Check out the official press release for more details:
15 CASTLE CLASSICS,
INCLUDING LEGENDARY ÂGIMMICKÂ MOVIES
at Film Forum, August 27-September 6
THE TINGLER, in Percepto! and Psychedelorama!,
in special 4-day run, September 3-6 (Labor Day weekend)
THE RETURN OF WILLIAM CASTLE, a 15-film festival of horror and exploitation classics by the director and master showman, complete with their original gimmicks (Emergo!, Percepto!, Illusion-O!, and others Â including one created exclusively for Film Forum), will run at Film Forum from August 27-September 6 (two weeks). This is the return of CastleÂs gimmick movies to Film Forum Â after a 15-year hiatus.
Castle (1914-1977) made over forty B movies before hitting on a formula for box office success: low-budget chillers geared to the burgeoning Youth-sploitation market, including such effective Hitchcock imitations as Macabre, Strait-Jacket (the latter scripted by Psycho’s Robert Bloch), and Homicidal - which TIME magazine liked better than Psycho. Castle often appeared himself as a master of ceremonies – la Hitchcock, whose success and persona he strenuously attempted to emulate. A master of ballyhoo, Castle shamelessly promoted his pictures with cheesy, but highly effective gimmicks, which will be lovingly re-created for the festival.
Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s Director of Repertory Programming, first presented the Castle gimmick movies at the theater in 1988. ‘Like 3-D, I saw the gimmicks as a theatrical experience that home video couldn’t compete with (it still can’t): a kind of low-tech interactive cinema. The Tingler, in fact, became our own Rocky Horror Picture Show Â over the years, I codified the main Tingler sequence into a mini-stage show.
Â”Castle’s wife and daughter came to the theater for our first festival. When Mrs. Castle saw what we had devised for The Tingler, she commented (with a slight German accent), ‘Bill never went to this much trouble.””
Goldstein has since served as consultant on Castle shows around the world and technical advisor on a Japanese documentary on Castle. He has personally directed Castle events in Tel Aviv and, last year, in a three-city European tour: Munich, NeuchÃ¢tel (Switzerland), and Paris, where he presented the films in the rarefied salles of the Cinmatheque Francaise. “Ten French workmen were engaged to rig the Emergo! skeleton alone,” he says.
Â”We attracted huge crowds in all three cities,” says Goldstein. “I then realized that it has been 15 years since we last showed the Castle movies at Film Forum. This is my way of celebrating our 40th anniversary.”
THE RETURN OF WILLIAM CASTLE opens on August 27 & 28 (Friday/Saturday) with a double feature of HOMICIDAL, Castle’s quick cash-in on Psycho (the one TIME magazine preferred to the original). Will you hold out after the Fright Break? Terrified audience members are given one minute to leave before the conclusion, but must sit in the lobby’s CowardÂs Corner! It will be shown on a double bill with STRAIT-JACKET, scripted by Psycho author Robert Bloch: Joan Crawford, returning from a 20-year asylum stint after hacking up her husband, is the obvious suspect when heads start rolling anew. Warning: STRAIT-JACKET vividly depicts axe murders!
Vincent Price, the Castle star par excellence, stars in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (Sunday, August 29): there’s a ghost for everyone when eccentric millionaire Price rounds up a motley crew of strangers for a little house party. Haunted Hill’s black humor and goose-fleshy atmosphere will be further enhanced by the miracle of Emergo! Â a process “more startling than 3-D!” MR. SARDONICUS, screening with Haunted Hill on Sunday, features CastleÂs famed ÂPunishment Poll.Â The face of sadistic Baron Sardonicus gets stuck in a terrified grin, concealed behind an expressionless mask as he takes it out on the rest of the cast. Should he come to a horrible end? His fate is decided when the audience is given special glow-in-the-dark ballots to vote on the outcome of this most heinous fiend.
Screening as a triple feature on Monday, August 30 are three of Castle’s B movies based on the popular radio mystery series “The Whistler”: THE WHISTLER, with guilt- ridden Richard Dix hiring by-the-book hit man J. Carrol Nash to kill him through a middle man (The method? Death by fright!); MARK OF THE WHISTLER, with bum Dix deciding to cash in on a long-dormant bank account coincidentally in his name; and MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER, with crooked private eye Dix hired to find the benefactor of a mysterious bequest.
Other Castle gimmick movies to be screened during the festival include MACABRE screening on Wednesday, September 1: Dr. William Prince races against time to find his buried-alive-by-a-madman daughter. Due to the horrifying nature of this picture, each patron will receive a $1,000,000 policy insuring against Death by Fright (certain restrictions apply); showing with 13 GHOSTS, presented in Illusion-O!: vengeful spirits (visible only with specially-provided “Ghost Viewers”) plague a creepy old mansion’s new middle class residents.
Screening on Thursday, September 2 is THE NIGHT WALKER, starring screen legend Barbara Stanwyck (in her final film) as a wealthy widow haunted in recurring dreams by her decidedly dead blown-up husband, co-starring StanwyckÂs real-life ex, Robert Taylor; and LETÂS KILL UNCLE, the exact suggestion of Mary Badham (Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird) to teenaged pal Â and heir to $5 mil Â Pat Cardi, when his uncle/guardian cheerfully admits murder’s his own plan.
The rare Castle Film Noir WHEN STRANGERS MARRY will also have a single screening (at 6:30 only) on September 2: Kim Hunter weds glove salesman Dean Jagger after their first date, then hears there’s a gloved strangler on the looseÂbut old flame Robert Mitchum is there to help. Shot in 7 days for $50,000, Strangers was hailed by Orson Welles as “better acted than Double Indemnity and Laura.”
Two Castle 3-D movies will be projected in their original double-system format: JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (September 3 & 4, Friday/Saturday, at 6:30 only): Brett King believes he’s the son of the notorious bandit, and hooks up with the Daltons to try and learn the truth, but 3-D’d sexpot Barbara Lawrence is raison d’Ãªtre enough for this Castle oater; and the French & Indian War ÂEasternÂ FORT TI (September 5 & 6, Sunday/Monday at 6:30 only), with colonial George Montgomery teaming up with Redcoats as they go toe-to-toe against the Frenchies at Fort Ticonderoga.
The most famous Castle film of all Â and a Film Forum tradition Â is THE TINGLER, with its spine-tingling PERCEPTO!, the ultimate in audience participation, to be shown over Labor Day weekend (September 3-6, Friday-Sunday). “Get ready to scream Â scream for your lives!” when Vincent Price’s fear experiments unleash that centipede-like thing right onto the spinal cords of our terrified audience. Featuring the original blood-splattered color sequence and the screen’s very first acid trip, experienced by the audience via GoldsteinÂs own innovation, PSYCHEDELORAMA!
Accompanying all shows of The Tingler will be Psycho: The Trailer, the legendary six-minute preview, with Alfred Hitchcock himself squeamishly taking us on a tour of the Bates House. (Psycho, celebrating its 50th Anniversary, will have a one-week run at Film Forum during Halloween Week, October 29-November 4).