THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION"
Talk about horror and certain names automatically spring to mind. Some are actors, like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, or Jamie Lee Curtis. Others are directors, such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, or Sam Raimi. However, no other name is more rightly associated with horror than Vincent Price. The man practically defined cinematic horror. The late actor's body of work is being celebrated by Scream Factory with a six-film Blu-Ray box set, aptly titled The Vincent Price Collection. Over the course of four discs, you will find six notable films and a ton of high-quality supplementary material. Here's the breakdown:
The Pit & the Pendulum - This 1961 film is an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story. Price plays the son of a noted Spanish Inquisition torturer whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. It features audio commentary from director Roger Corman, a vintage introduction and final words from Price, a rare prologue, a theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.
The Masque of the Red Death - Another Corman collaboration based on a Poe story, this 1964 chiller is about a prince who opens up his castle to nobility as a safe haven against the plague. Then a mysterious figure, clad in red, appears, leading to a surprising discovery. The supplementals here are audio commentary from author Steve Haberman, an interview with Corman, another vintage intro from Price, the theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.
The Haunted Palace - Price's 1963 thriller casts him as a man who inherits a home from a distant ancestor who placed a curse upon the townspeople when they attempted to burn him at stake decades before. Living in the home, Price quickly becomes possessed by the spirit of that relative, and is forced to act out a scheme of revenge. Along with another intro from the star, the bonus materials are audio commentary from author Lucy Chase Williams and Richard Heft, a second audio commentary from author Tom Weaver, an interview with Roger Corman, the theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.
The Fall of the House of Usher - Yet another Poe adaptation. In this one, Price tries to discourage his sister's marriage so as not to continue a long-standing family curse. His efforts lead to a shocking conclusion. Goodies here are another Price intro, audio commentary from Corman, a Price audio interview, a retrospective commentary from Lucy Chase Williams featuring Piotr Michael as the voice of Price, a trailer, and a still gallery.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes - For me, this is the real highlight of the set. Made in 1971, during that period where horror movies occasionally possessed a tinge of psychedelia, this incredibly fun film features Price as a man seeking revenge upon the medical staff he holds responsible for his wife's death. He kills them one-by-one, using the Biblical plagues as his template. Dr. Phibes has a sly sense of humor, coupled with some '70s-era grooviness in the production design and overall tone. It's kind of a nice, if unlikely, precursor to both Phantom of the Paradise and Seven. Extras are two audio commentaries, one from director Robert Fuest, the other from author Justin Humphreys, a trailer, and a still gallery. Also here is “Introductory Price,” a look at how a PBS station got the star to record introductions for a late-night horror series showcasing his films. By all accounts, he was gracious and professional – and his participation helped ensure his movies' ongoing legacy.
Witchfinder General (a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm) - Released in 1968, this film has Price portraying a traveling persecutor of witches. He does this under questionable auspices, and for his own personal gain. When his tactics negatively impact a young solider, tensions quickly escalate. Witchfinder General has become a real cult film, and it perhaps understandably has the largest assortment of supplements in the set. Along with the now-requisite Price intro, there's audio commentary from producer Philip Waddilove and actor Ian Ogilvy, a doc about the film's cult status, a vintage Price interview conducted by film historian David Del Valle, and an interview with Price's daughter, Victoria. Multiple trailers and a still gallery are here, too.
The films have been beautifully transferred to Blu-Ray and, as always, Scream Factory has taken the care to assemble bonus features that both compliment the movies and add to your appreciation of them. As if the hours and hours of entertainment aren't enough, you also get a 24-page collector's book with information and photos about the actor and his work. The Vincent Price Collection is not only one of the most impressive Blu-Ray releases of 2013, it's also one of the most important, in that it curates an assemblage of films from a man whose influence upon cinema is immeasurable.
For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at Amazon.com!