With Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Vincent Price (1911-1993) was one of the leading members second generation of horror film stars, those who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. Though best known for his collaborations with Roger Corman on a series of films inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, there is much more to Price than this, as these six films show.
House of Wax
Andre De Toth | USA | 1953 | 90 minutes
Distinguished by being a 3D film directed by a one-eyed filmmaker who thus couldn’t himself appreciate the 3D effects, this remake of the 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum also features an early performance from Charles Bronson, appearing under his real surname, Buchinsky, as Price’s assistant Igor.
Kurt Neumann | USA | 1958 | 94 minutes
Price stars as scientist François Delambre whose experiment with matter transference inadvertently lead to “The fly with the head of a man! And the man with the head of a fly!”
The Masque of the Red Death
Roger Corman | UK/USA | 1964 | 89 minutes
Arguably the best of the Corman/Price Poe adaptations, benefitting from Nic Roeg’s beautiful cinematography and co-starring Hazel Court, as one of Price/Prospero’s fellow Satanists, and Jane Asher, as the Christian virgin they are intent upon corrupting/saving from the plague.
The Last Man on Earth
Ubaldo Ragona/Sidney Salkow | Italy/USA | 1964 | 86 minutes
Price plays the title role in this US-Italian adaptation of Richard Matheson’s seminal modern vampire novel I Am Legend. The EUR region of Rome, built during the Fascist era as a model city of the future, and also used by Antonioni, Bertolucci, and Argento, doubles as Los Angeles.
Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General AKA The Conqueror Worm
Michael Reeves | UK | 1968 | 86 minutes
Price was not first choice for the title role, the director wanting Donald Pleasance. The tensions between Price and Reeves resulted in a great performances and one of the greatest British horror films — if, that is, you don’t read it as a displaced revenge Western. The US title, The Conqueror Worm, reflected the distributors’ desire to market the film as a Price/Poe entry.
The Abominable Dr Phibes
Robert Fuest | UK/USA | 1971 | 94 minutes
The first of the two Dr Phibes films sees Price’s titular doctor seeking revenge on the nine men and women he deems responsible for his wife’s death, murdering them with modern-day versions of Jehovah’s curses on Egypt. Price had earlier appeared in the 1956 The Ten Commandments and would subsequently revisit thematically similar material with Theatre of Blood, where his mad thespian’s murder methods are drawn from Shakespeare’s plays.