Often mistaken as British when in fact completely American; Vincent Price was born May 27 in 1911. He began acting on stage as early as 1935 and graduated to films three years later. He mostly played supporting roles and was notable in films such as “Laura” (1944) and “Dragonwyck” (1946) and the latter will soon be getting a Blu-ray release from Indicator in the UK. He did appear in one horror film in 1939 called “The Tower of London” opposite Boris Karloff but it wasn’t until 1953 when a then 42 year old Price played wax sculptor Henry Jarrod in “House of Wax” that a horror icon was officially born.
It’s massive success lead to more horror roles and soon films like “The Mad Magician” (1954), “The Fly” (1958) and “Return of the Fly” (1959) were making Price a household name. Price aligned himself with genre trickster William Castle in two films; “The House on Haunted Hill” and “The Tingler” (both 1959) and both became hits. But it was his collaboration with Roger Corman that bore the most fruit with their seven Edgar Allen Poe adaptations of “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1960), “Pit and the Pendulum” (1961), “Tales of Terror” (1962), “The Raven” (1963), “The Haunted Palace” (1963 – actually owing more to H.P. Lovecraft), “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964) and “The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). All of these films were hits and the sixties was Price’s most prolific and profitable decade with too many films of note to list here…but “The Comedy of Terrors” (1963) must be mentioned as he teamed up with genre greats Karloff, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and director Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People” – 1942 and “Night of the Demon” – 1957) for a very funny and macabre tale of a funeral director who supplies his own corpses.
Price kept relevant in the seventies with films like “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971), “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972), “Theatre of Blood” (1973) and “Madhouse” (1974) but he was also busy making a number of TV appearances in shows like “Columbo” and “The Bionic Woman” (there he played twin roles in a Season 2 episode called “Black Magic” that is absolutely hilarious and worth tracking down) and even collaborated with singer Alice Cooper on his concert special “Welcome to My Nightmare” (1975).
Most notable in the eighties was his voice work on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video in 1983, an appearance in the rather lacklustre “House of the Long Shadows” (1983) which did team him with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and the horror anthology “From a Whisper to a Scream” (1987). The most memorable of his later work was in Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) but overall Price kept busy and has 206 credits to his name on IMDB.
Price enjoyed a reputation as a good co-worker and very humorous and he was proud of his horror legacy. He was always a bit tongue in cheek and didn’t appear to take himself all that seriously but he was never condescending towards the material and delivered a worthy performance each time. In recent years I have been slowly discovering Price’s vast catalogue and have assembled a decent Blu-ray/DVD collection of the man’s work. I particularly enjoy “Theatre of Blood”, “The Comedy of Terrors” and “House of Wax” and that “Bionic Woman” episode is great.
Price died on October 25th in 1993 aged 82.
Theatre of Blood (1973)
Deliciously wicked, fairly suspenseful and outrageously funny; “Theatre of Blood” is a one of a kind entry in the horror genre in that it assembles extremely talented thespians who do not shy away from gross imagery, gratuitous violence and general bad taste.