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10 Great Vincent Price Films Every Horror Fan Should See

13 March 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Michael Viers

best-vincent-price-films

For many Vincent Price is that twisted uncle that in the recesses of our minds we can recall, but have never met, as he was part of a lot of people’s formative years growing up. He was a journey man popping up on various B-grade horror films, afternoon schlock, variety shows and even an episode or two of Batman and the Brady Bunch. He’s been on everything and played just about everyone he could.

However, he made his biggest impact as a ghoul; a devilish ghoul with a baritone voice, debonair good looks and a cheeky sense of humor. No one would quite go as far as to say Vincent Price was a boogeyman, but he was definitely responsible for feeding young minds’ love for horror.

Vincent Price once said: “I sometimes feel that I’m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it.” While not everything Price was in is a masterwork, when he’s great he’s great and that can’t be disputed. He’ll definitely go down as one of the finest actors of not only the genre, but his generation, and any of the ten films below will prove why he’s the true master of fright.

 

10. Edward Scissorhands

Edward-Scissorhands-vincent-price

What it’s About

An inventor who lives high above a small community in a large mansion has finally made his greatest creation – a man named Edward. However, Edward is made incomplete and instead of having hands, he has scissors. After the inventor passes away, Edward watches the small community from a window constantly wondering what the world holds all the while living in fear of getting close to anyone, that is, until a kind woman named Peg welcomes him into her home.

Why it’s Great

This film is Tim Burton at his very best not only as a visual storyteller but as a filmmaker. Every decision in “Edward Scissorhand” is in service to the characters and the story and because of that it’s probably the most beautiful film he’s ever made. The story was personal to Burton, as it all spawned from his childhood in Burbank where he’d often draw a man with scissors for hands to represent how he felt about his relationships with others.

The film, at it’s core, is a love story but it features overarching Gothic and fairy tale elements that make it very representative of the type of films Burton grew up watching. He loved Universal monster movies and Hammer horror so it seemed only fitting that Burton had the part of the Inventor written specifically for Vincent Price, a man he viewed as his idol from an early age.

Originally, Burton had planned for Price to play a larger role in the final product of the film, but since Price was suffering from emphysema and Parkinson’s disease, it was cut down. However, Price may not have been in much of the film, but his influence is felt. A lot of the heart of the film comes from the exchanges between Edward and the Inventor, and seeing these moments really give the audience a clear depiction of who Edward is, where he came from and what his role in this world is; he’s the perfect boy that never had the opportunity to be finished.

Vincent Price’s performance as the Inventor is pitch perfect in every way, and though it’s not the Vincent Price audiences were used to, it’s strangely fitting for him to play this father figure that has such a monumental effect on someone’s life. Many fans could argue that’s what Vincent Price meant to them, so they cherished this role and it felt like the natural progression.

Sadly, this would be Vincent Price’s last feature film role, but it’s an iconic role that opened up his body of work to a new audience. Lists like this and die hard fans exist because of “Edward Scissorhands”, and it’s a great cherry on top of an already sweet sundae that is his career.

 

9. House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill

What it’s About

Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren and his fourth wife have offered ten thousand dollars to five people if any one of them can survive the night locked in a large, haunted house he owns. What the guests don’t realize is, they’re not only trapped in there with each other and Loren, but with the ghosts of all the poor souls who died in that house.

Why it’s Great

While not my favorite Vincent Price film, it would be impossible to make a list of his best films without mentioning it because it’s the film that introduced most people to Price’s work. This is the perfect film to show off Price’s unique acting talents, especially since at the time he hadn’t become the horror star he would in later years. The film is dark and macabre, and for the time featured some effective scare moments. William Castle, whose known for being a showman, knew how to keep the audience at the edge of their seat with his creepy visuals.

“House on Haunted Hill” is the perfect Halloween film to share with the family as it’s just a lot of fun from beginning to end. Severed heads, skeletons and lots of plot twists are all featured in this flick and it makes the experience a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to watch Price during his younger years play the roles completely straight, and it’s important to mention this only because at this point in his career he hadn’t found his groove yet.

This is the beginning of Price’s horror career and it’s well before he begins to play in to his roles with the cocky, sure-footed swagger he’d have later on. The film was effective in it’s time, especially with Castle’s gimmick “Emego” and even inspired Hitchcock take a shot at low-budget horror films. The film isn’t hard to find as it’s in the Public Domain, so go out and buy a Horror Ten Pack and I’m confident this film will show up.

 

8. The Tingler

The Tingler

What it’s About

Dr. Warren Chapin is a pathologist who discovers a parasite living within every human vertebrae that feeds on our fear. Nicknamed “the Tingler” after the vibrating sensation is gives to spinal chords, he has found that it can be neutralized by screaming. Dr. Chapin receives an opportunity to test his theories when he meets Martha Higgins, who is deaf and mute, and is unable to scream. Armed with LSD to induce nightmares, Dr. Chapin sets out to begin his experiments.

Why it’s Great

The film is Produced and Directed by showman William Castle, who is considered by some to be the P.T. Barnum of filmmaking. He’s known for his over-the-top, wacky films with an even more over-the-top gimmick to help sell them. This isn’t the first time Castle and Price have worked together, but it’s one of their more fun exploits together.

From a cinematic perspective, this isn’t a great film, but it makes up for itself with how fun it is. William Castle knew how to make a fun picture and never set out to do anything but that. Though the film is far from perfect, there’s a lot to love and we’re treated to one of Price’s most campy performances in his career.

However, the film feels genuine and comes off as if there was a legitimate attempt by Castle and screenwriter Robb White to make a good film. There are some really fascinating subplots throughout involving a scandalous wife and a run-down movie theatre that really makes the audience think. Not to mention a very meta scene in which Vincent Price breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience.

 

7. House of Wax

House of Wax vincent price

What it’s About

Professor Henry Jarrod’s wax museum has some of the most life-like wax sculptures in New York and it’s best known for historical figures, most notably Marie Antoinette. His associate Matthew Burke wants to bring in more business by featuring more interesting figures, but Jarrod refuses. Anxious and greedy, Burke can’t wait for the museum to get bought out, so he intentionally lights the place on fire with Jarrod inside with the hopes of cashing in on insurance money. Jarrod survives, and returns with a murderous new attitude towards his art.

Why it’s Great

Well, most notably, it’s the first color 3D film ever to be released in America, which is pretty awesome, but down to the core it’s just a fantastic film and a very memorable performance by Mr. Price. He’s creepy, he’s charming, he has a secret and it’s the film that launched Price into the upper echelon and made him known as a true horror star.

However, the excellent performances aren’t the only stand out of this film as the art direction and make-up are superb. Every piece of scenery stands out and is beautifully made just as every wax sculpture has a very creepy look to them because they’re almost too life-like at times. Also, without spoiling much, there’s a fantastic climax with some horrific melting of wax faces My hat goes off to André de Toth for not only making a fantastic film, but for making Vincent Price a star!

 

6. The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth

What it’s About

This 1964 film is based on Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” and it’s about Dr. Robert Morgan – the last man on Earth. Morgan lives in a world where a disease has taken over and has turned all people into the living dead. To pass the time and to not lose his sanity, Morgan has given himself a rigid daily routine and has become a reluctant vampire hunter as he tries desperately to find a cure.

Why it’s Great

Well, for starters, it’s based on Richard Matheson’s amazing horror novel “I Am Legend”, and though in the end Matheson wasn’t happy with the film and didn’t like Price as Dr. Morgan, I feel it’s one of the best adaptations of the story. Matheson originally wrote the script and had wanted Fritz Lang to direct, but once the script was sold to producer and co-director Sidney Salkow, changes were made and Matheson no longer wanted his name on the piece – however, a troubled production can’t keep a good film down.

The film was partially shot in Italy with a predominantly Italian crew, and I think it adds a very interesting element to the film. Price is great as the reclusive Dr. Robert Morgan, but there’s this sense of style that comes from an Italian director shooting in Italian locations. Though the film works on many levels, it’s far from perfect and after hearing the stories about all the issues that plagued the set and how cheaply the film was made, it’s no secret that some of these problems can be seen in the finished product; however, a more accurate version of the source material would never be made.

There are some really creepy moments throughout this film and Price plays them with complete sincerity and leaves you feeling for Dr. Morgan throughout and feeling his pain. He’s trying his hardest to survive and stay sane, and some days are easier than others. Another fascinating element about the film is, other than it’s voice-over narration and the sounds of the undead, the film is practically silent. Price acts through his body movement and facial expressions and lets the VO handle all the exposition.

It’s a truly fascinating and engaging film and it just so happens to be in the Public Domain! There’s even a colorized version floating around on YouTube. Plus, if you’re a fan of the current zombie craze, director George A. Romero has said many times that this film and Matheson’s original novel was his main inspiration for his first film “Night of the Living Dead”.

 

 

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  • The Betpet

    No Masque of the Red Death? A criminal omission.

    • Joe F

      This. Prince Prospero was one of his most evil characters.

  • Berzelius Windrip

    “The Last Man on Earth” is great, and actually the most faithful film version of the novel “I Am Legend.” But this list is kind of predictable; yes it’s qualified as one for horror fans but (with the exception of the very underrated “Tingler”) in these films he’s playing the same hammy character from one to the next.

    I think Price worked much harder in his non-horror roles and turned in several of his strongest and most interesting performances there. One is “Brigham Young, Frontiersman” in which Price played (believe it or not) Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and rather convincingly too. The other is “Laura” in which he played oily but likeable murder suspect Shelby Carpenter: ” I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes.” Both belong at the top of any Vincent Price list.

    • Terri Warren Adams

      I loved him in Laura! One of my favorite movies.

  • Ted Wolf

    anything that gets people to watch Price is good. I do take exception to those who say “he played the same character in each.” Well, the same can be said about Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart (for the most part). They were all stars and people paid to see Bogey, or the Duke or Vincent Price.

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  • Klaus Dannick

    Sream and Scream Again omitted? Laura absent?

    This list is concerned with fangirling on Vincent Price regardless of the quality (or lack of) of the films it cites.

  • Jeri Cathleen Joseph Anaya

    Personally, I think it’s a travesty that, “Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Raven,” aren’t on this list…

  • janet

    “The House of Wax” is a family favorite!

  • Carlos Cordero Madrigal

    Didn’t even mention a young Charles Bronson in House of Wax. He’s in the photo, by the way.

  • Mark Hill

    The director of Witchfinder General was Michael Reeves, not Matthew Reeves. Doesn’t anyone proofread anymore?