Vincent Price is my favorite overactor (perhaps I should say theatrical actor). His most restrained performance in his career is nevertheless one of his best – Witchfinder General (butchered in the U.S. as The Conqueror Worm). After starring in a number of horror movies in the 1950s, Roger Corman hired him for a string of successful Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the 1960s. Vincent Price is so good in these that to this day they are generally considered “Vincent Price movies” and not Poe or Corman movies. Late in life, those that grew up on his horror movies sought him out for small roles (notably Tim Burton for Edward Scissorhands and Michael Jackson for his famous Thriller narration). Instant Netflix has 5 Vincent Price movies available to view as well as several TV appearances and clip shows
1. Laura (1944) – “Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) has been murdered, and as New York Det. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates, he finds that everyone seems to be in love with her — and he, too, gradually falls under her spell. But things aren’t always as they seem. Otto Preminger’s classic mystery received four Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Best Director, and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography”
It’s very difficult to describe Laura without spoiling the surprises but the actors are all good (especially Clifton Webb). Gene Tierney is absolutely gorgeous and lights up the room in every scene that she is in – definitely the kind of woman you can see all three men obsessing over. The dialogue is excellent – the kind of snappy patter that only exists in 1940s movies – one of its Oscar noms is for Best Writing, Screenplay. As long as you don’t mind black & white movies and can appreciate the ‘stagey’ acting that was the standard in the 1940s, you won’t go wrong with this one – especially if you are familiar with the Hays code.
2. Leave Her to Heaven (1945) – “This 1946 Academy Award winner stars Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent, a woman who bedazzles writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) when the two meet on a train. Their courtship is sweet and swift, leading to a hasty marriage, but sadness displaces the joy when a series of tragedies befalls the couple. Could these horrid events have anything to do with Ellen’s burgeoning and all-consuming jealousy?”
It sounds like a cheap cop-out but if you enjoyed Laura – a semi-film noir with snappy dialogue and nice twists starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price then you’ll enjoy Leave Her to Heaven – a semi-film noir in Technicolor with snappy dialogue and nice twists starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price. Laura is definitely the better film but this one is quite good as well.
3. House of Wax (1953) – “In this spine-tingling film — one of the first 3D movies ever made — Vincent Price thrills as Professor Henry Jarrod, the creepy curator of a wax museum who loses his beloved business to a fire and then rebuilds it. This time, though, he doesn’t use wax models, but a ghoulish alternative: dead bodies.”
Please note that while Netflix lists this as House of Wax/Mystery of the Wax Museum, Mystery is only available on the disc version. House of Wax is fun if a little slow-moving. It lags whenever Vincent Price isn’t on-screen or when they throw in extra scenes just to show off the 3D gimmick (such as the barker with the paddleball). Look for a very young Charles Bronson (Buchinsky) as Igor (with a name like Igor what can you do but be an evil henchman?)
4. The Fly (1958) – “Scientist André Delambre (David Hedison) has invented a matter transporter. To perfect his machine, he decides to test the device on a human subject — himself. He steps into the chamber unaware that an ordinary housefly has accompanied him. His head and arm become horrifically switched with those of the fly. Now Delambre and his wife (Patricia Owens) are faced with a gruesome dilemma in this classic sci-fi horror co-starring Vincent Price”
This time around Vincent Price takes a backseat to David Hedison and Patricia Owens who are both excellent as the leads. One of the best double-endings of all time is still chilling to this day. This was clearly an influence on James Cameron’s The Terminator and The Fly spawned two inferior sequels (though still worth watching) and a wonderful reimagining by David Cronenberg in 1986 (which spawned an inferior sequel of its own)
5. House on Haunted Hill (1958) – “Millionaire Frederick Loren offers five people $10,000 to stay a night in a remote haunted house, giving each of them a loaded gun as a “party favor.” Throughout the night, they’re terrorized by skeletons, disembodied heads and other grisly apparitions. Will any of the guests survive to win the prize? Or will the house scare them to death? The legendary Vincent Price stars in one of director William Castle’s most famous chillers”
The ensemble cast led by Price appears to be having a fun time, never taking anything too seriously. The unbelievably prolific Elisha Cook Jr. (mentioned earlier in Humphrey Bogart post) has a small but juicy role here. Director/showman William Castle throws in almost every haunted house stereotype