DragonCon Shopping – Posters and Pop

The first two times we went to the dealers building, I just window shopped and bought a few items for friends and family. On Monday morning, on our way out of town, we hit the dealers building for some lightning shopping. Having only a little over an hour, I shamelessly abandoned my wife, friend, and child, to find some loot.

Vincent Price posters

 

I picked up some 11″x17″ Vincent Price posters for the wall. These will join my 11×17 Theater of Blood and my full-size original The Last Man on Earth poster (Thanks as always, Maya!).

Universal Frankenstein

 

I also picked up a couple Universal Frankenstein posters.

Mummy poster

 

Then I rounded it out with Hammer’s The Mummy poster and one of the first Lovecraft adaptations, The Dunwich Horror. The Haunted Palace (see Vincent Price above) is advertised as an Edgar Allan Poe picture but is actually based on a Lovecraft story with a Poe poem tacked on to the beginning and end.

Pennywise

 

Finally, since my wife and friends bought me a ton of Funko Pop! figures for my birthday, I couldn’t resist this one of Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT. Even the cuteness looks creepy.

P.S. They all float down here…..

Halloween, Groupon, The Fly and The Vincent Price Collection

My loving wife bought me The Vincent Price Collection from Scream Factory for Halloween. Scream Factory is an offshoot of Shout Factory. Currently it’s a gasp-inducing $69.99 on Amazon but she bought ours on Groupon for $39.99.

Vincent Price Collection

The collection consists of Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Haunted Palace, Witchfinder General, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes – all on Blu-Ray. They come in a nice plastic case with individual mounts as well as a nice booklet with photos and stories and a slipcover box.

The restorations on these movies are incredible. They are so beautiful in high-definition. I haven’t listened to any of the commentaries but one of the extras on five of the movies is a set of introductions and closing comments by Vincent Price. These were done for PBS back in the 80s and are simply wonderful.

I highly recommend this set if you are at all a fan of Vincent Price.

The Fly

I also picked up the Blu-Ray of The Fly (1958) at Best Buy for $9.99 ($4.99 after coupon). That transfer too is beautiful and has as an extra, A&E’s Biography of Vincent Price. What a wonderful Halloween.

The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum is currently available on Amazon Prime

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

“Vincent Price plays a 16th century Spanish nobleman who slowly goes crazy when he thinks that his wife has been buried alive. It’s all a joint plot between the supposed dead wife and her doctor/lover to get Price’s money. Price now totally insane, assumes his father’s identity (that of a grand inquisitor) and starts to murder!”

The House of Usher (1960) was Corman’s gamble on a big Poe production. Not only did he spend the money to film it in color but also in widescreen. The gambit paid off handsomely so naturally Corman looked to repeat that success. Most of Corman’s Poe films exist to showcase the talents of Vincent Price and this one is no exception.

In 1961, Roger Corman released The Pit and the Pendulum. With each film in the series Corman takes further liberties with Edgar Allan Poe’s source material. Here, in a stroke of genius, he capitalizes on Vincent Price’s popularity by using the character’s madness to essentially double-cast him. As a nod to Poe, there is someone who was bricked up and someone who may or may not have been buried alive.

Vincent Price was not always a flamboyant actor but his success with House of Wax and subsequent roles persuaded him to make his performances more and more theatrical. Vincent Price plays Nicolas Medina who is going insane. The insanity allows him to play both Nicolas and his father.

Barbara Steele plays Elizabeth Barnard Medina. Steele was hot off her Italian horror hit Black Sunday. She performs well here and looks very striking but her voice is dubbed by another actress. John Kerr as Francis Barnard makes a solid if low-key leading man.

In addition to the titular pit and pendulum, we also get a rack, pokers, and an iron maiden. Corman definitely does not shirk on the torture devices but this being the 60s, actual torture is only alluded to (thankfully). Because this is Corman, we also get a castle (matte painting), scenes of crashing waves, a cobweb machine on overdrive, and wonderful sets.

Remake-itis: The Pit and the Pendulum was previously made in 1909 (Le puits et le pendule) and 1913. After this it was remade in 1991 with Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, and Oliver Reed and, in 2009, the name was ripped off for a David DeCoteau movie.

The Haunted Palace

The Haunted Palace is currently available on Amazon Prime

The Haunted Palace (1963)

“When a man arrives in the New England village of Arkham to claim the palatial mansion that was once the domain of his great-great grandfather (a black magician who was burned alive 110 years before), he discovers an evil curse. In HD.”

“One becomes accustomed to the darkness here.”

The official title of this movie is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Haunted Palace which is funny because it is not at all based on Poe. Corman takes the title of a Poe poem (Poe-m?) and has Price quote a few lines in voiceover in order to shoehorn this into the Poe series.

In actuality, if the location of Arkham did not give it away, The Haunted Palace is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It is based as loosely as the Poe adaptations before it but the movie captures a wonderful Lovecraftian feel. In addition to Arkham, we get Elder Gods, the Necronomicon, and a pervasive atmosphere of doom. The eyeless, webbed and deformed villagers are sooo creepy.

Once again the script provides Vincent Price the opportunity to play both protagonist (Charles Dexter Ward) and villain (Joseph Curwen). He does a superb job of both, though certainly his villains are more intriguing. Instead of being grandiose (as many of his villains are), Price’s Curwen is icy and menacing.

Price gets an assist here from another legend of horror, Lon Chaney Jr. (here billed as Lon Chaney as if he did not have a separate identity from his silent movie star father – poor Creighton). Chaney plays Simon Orne, the more sensible villain but still second fiddle to Joseph Curwen. Sadly Chaney’s alcoholism was in full swing at this point and he never did another Corman picture. He still had one good role ahead of him – that of Bruno in Spider Baby (1968).

The female lead, Ann Ward is played by Debra Paget in her final film role. She had a wonderful career in the fifties – she rocked with Elvis in Love Me Tender (1956), played Cosette in Les Miserable (1952) and Cecil B. DeMille picked her to play Lilia in The Ten Commandments (1956) without a screen test. She retired after this.

As usual Corman gives us a castle (matte painting), wonderful sets, creeping fog, lots of candlelight and crashing waves. Fire is a recurring theme throughout the film – starting with the burning of Joseph Curwen in the prologue.

People Watch: Look for the instantly recognizable Elisha Cook Jr. as Peter Smith and Micah Smith. He is probably best remembered as Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon. He also appeared in The Big Sleep, Shane, House on Haunted Hill and Rosemary’s Baby.

The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death is available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

“At a 12th-century masked ball from hell, dissolute satanist Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) torments his guests, forcing them to participate in a variety of gruesome lethal games in this Roger Corman-directed horror flick based on two stories by Edgar Allen Poe. While most of the games end in someone’s death, those who survive Prospero’s amusements must endure the nightmare of torture and unthinkable depravity.”

“You promised me entertainment, I never expected this. Have such eyes seen sin? ” – “They will.”

The Masque of the Red Death is Roger Corman’s most sumptuous Poe adaptation. There were a lot of reasons for this. The film was shot in England to take advantage of a government subsidy by using a British cast and crew. Corman also allowed for a five week schedule as opposed to three weeks for the previous Poe adaptations.

Masque was filmed using sets leftover from Becket (1964). The costumes are simply lavish and amazing, especially at the masque itself. Screenwriters Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell should be applauded for squeezing in Poe’s short story Hop-Frog as a subplot.

Vincent Price does not play a dual role here – he is simply evil…grandiose evil as Prince Prospero. His performance is nuanced, hammy (in a fun way) but nuanced. He lusts after Francesca but not for her flesh, he just wants to corrupt her.

The delightful Hazel Court is Juliana, Prospero’s consort. It is clear that while Juliana is evil, her motivation is to keep the eye of Prospero, who has been fascinated by the innocence and beauty of the young Francesca. Court had 72 roles but is best remembered for her handful of horror movies: The Curse of Frankenstein, The Man who Cheated Death, Doctor Blood’s Coffin, The Raven, Premature Burial, and Masque. Masque would be her last speaking role in a movie.

Patrick Magee makes a great foil as the evil Alfredo. He spends much of the time being the butt of Prospero’s humor. Magee would go on to be a veteran of Hammer and Amicus productions appearing in The Skull, Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, And Now the Screaming Starts and Demons of the Mind.

The Masque of the Red Death naturally has the hallmarks of a Corman Poe adaptation: Castle, dungeon, torture devices, lots of cobwebs, even more candlelight, and wonderful sets. It is the best of the Poe adaptations and that is saying something since all eight are enjoyable – only Juliana’s dream sequence stood out as unnecessary.

People Watch: Nigel Green has a small part as Francesca’s father. He had his best role earlier that year as Colour-Sergeant Bourne in Zulu, stealing the movie from leads Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. Patrick Magee also did a wonderful turn in Zulu as Surgeon Reynolds.

Witchfinder General / Conqueror Worm

Witchfinder General is currently available on instant Netflix and Conqueror Worm (essentially the same film) is available on Amazon Prime.

Witchfinder General (1968)

“Set in 17th-century England, this chilling tale follows corrupt official Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price), who claims an ability to discover witches. But he uses his power to gain money and favors from people he’s fingered in return for declaring them innocent. When he arrests and tortures Father Lowes (Rupert Davies), Lowes’s niece’s fiancé (Ian Ogilvy) decides to put an end to Hopkins’s sleazy practices and goes on a quest to seek vengeance.”

“They swim… the mark of Satan is upon them. They must hang.”

Witchfinder General is the British title. In America it is called The Conqueror Worm after the Poe poem. Other than the presence of Vincent Price, Witchfinder General has nothing to do with the series of Roger Corman / Edgar Allan Poe films. They throw in a few snippets of the poem to use Poe as a selling point but also the poem has nothing to do with the movie. The movie is instead based on the novel Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett.

Witchfinder General was director Michael Reeves fourth and final film. He had previously directed the horror movies Castle of the Living Dead (1964 with Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland), She Beast (1966 with Barbara Steele and Ian Ogilvy), and The Sorcerers (1967 with Boris Karloff and Ian Ogilvy). He was chosen to direct The Oblong Box but died at age 25 from an overdose of barbituates.

Reeves wanted Donald Pleasance for the titular role but American International Pictures insisted on a proven box office draw, Vincent Price. While I am sure that Pleasance’s take would have been interesting, this turned out to be Price’s best role in a long line of great roles.

Vincent Price believed his portrayal of Matthew Hopkins to be his finest performance and I concur. This is largely because all camp is removed from his portrayal. His Matthew Hopkins is real evil – a man who uses his office to go around the countryside killing people, settling scores, and taking advantage without actually believing in witchfinding. Vincent Price is ugly and chilling.

Our protagonist Richard Marshall is played by Reeves regular Ian Ogilvy. Ogilvy is a good and stalwart leading man here. He went on to play Drusus in I, Claudius and The Saint in the 1978-79 reboot of the television series.

While they may seem quaint today, Reeves’ scenes of torture and violence were very brutal for this time. It was clear that Reeves wanted to make as authentic feeling a film as possible. Although this story is fiction, there was an actual Matthew Hopkins who claimed to be a Witchfinder. In reality, Hopkins and Stearns tortured and hung Lowes as in the film.

This is another showcase for Price but it is not a fun film to watch as the Poe adaptations were. Watching the pre-credits sequence will give you a feel for whether you want to watch the rest of the film. I recommend this film both for what Reeves was trying to accomplish and for Price’s superlative performance – however this film is ugly and may not be for all audiences as it were.

People Watch: Margaret Nolan plays girl at inn here. She is better remembered as the Bond girl Dink and the golden girl in the opening credits in Goldfinger.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

“A plague has wiped out most of mankind, and those who survived have become bloodthirsty vampires. The only “normal” human left on earth, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) — who was spared by a twist of fate — spends his days methodically hunting down the undead mutants and his nights barricaded against their attacks. But when he meets the beautiful but contaminated Ruth, he discovers a secret that will unravel what’s left of his existence.”

“Another day to live through. Better get started. “

There was a time when I shopped for a car. Now I’m looking for a hearse.”

The Last Man on Earth begins with some wonderful establishing shots of a deserted city followed by more shots with corpses on the ground. The city has a wonderful desolate feel, like London in 28 Days Later.

Richard Matheson’s novel, I am Legend, is not only excellent source material for a horror movie but also an actor’s dream as the central role is essentially the only important one. It also made it ideal as an Italian adaptation since the token American star (Vincent Price in this case) was, again, the only important one.

Strangely, even though he partially adapted his own novel, Richard Matheson was very disappointed in the movie. He had written many of the Roger Corman – Edgar Allan Poe screenplays for Price (Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher). In spite of that, or perhaps because of Price’s hammy performances in them, Matheson felt Price was not right for the lead role in Last Man.

I find Matheson’s criticism misplaced. Price gives a wonderfully restrained performance as the titular last man. His tired, resigned narration adds to the dreary atmosphere. This is not as good as his performance for Witchfinder General but it is one of his best.

Watching The Last Man on Earth, it is clear that the look and feel clearly influenced George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. While the creatures in Last Man are treated as vampires (mirrors, garlic, wooden stakes), they behave much more like what we now think of as zombies. They are fairly mindless and only dangerous in number.

Remake-itis: Richard Matheson’s I am Legend was adapted again in 1971 as a science fiction vehicle for Charlton Heston. It is fun but the groovy aspects, such as the weird albino vampires and the then-novel African American love interest, make it more of a novelty than a good film.

It was adapted once again in 1997 as a vehicle for Will Smith. He did a great job portraying the loneliness and isolation and they let Matheson’s title stand but I am Legend suffers from an overuse of really goofy CGI and a poor conclusion. Asylum also made a mockbuster in 1997 to cash in on I am Legend. It is called I am Omega and stars martial artist/actor Mark Dacascos.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again

Dr. Phibes Rises Again is currently on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

“The eminent Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) awakens from several years of suspended animation and heads to Egypt with his mute assistant (Valli Kemp) and the corpse of his dead wife, determined to track down the stolen papyrus scrolls he needs to bring his spouse back to life. In this sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Phibes is up to his usual tricks, murdering people in strange and heinous ways; meanwhile, a team of inspectors is hot on his heels.”

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is an absolute classic and is probably Vincent Price’s best film, though not his best performance (Witchfinder General). Everything worked perfectly from Price’s Dr. Phibes sparring with Joseph Cotton’s Dr. Vesalius to the comic relief of Terry-Thomas to the assistance of Virginia North as Vulnavia to the wonderful traps.

Rarely is a sequel as good as the original. Dr. Phibes Rises Again is not an exception but is close enough to receive a firm recommendation. Dr. Phibes opens with a nice recap of the end of the first film, narrated by Gary Owens. Vincent Price as Phibes is fantastic as always, in spite of periodically being silent and encased in gruesome makeup.

Virginia North was pregnant so Valli Kemp was tapped to play the silent Vulnavia. Her initial appearance in a kaleidoscopic tunnel is wonderful. She was Miss Australia in 1970 and this was her first film. She is certainly attractive but is not as good a Vulnavia as Virginia North. Shortly after this Miss Kemp abandoned her film career for one in art and fashion.

AIP was desperately trying to groom Robert Quarry to be the next big horror star. They featured him in two Count Yorga films before this and Deathmaster, Sugar Hill, and Madhouse after this. While a decent actor, it never really worked out. He is good but not great as Phibes’ nemesis, Dr. Biederbeck.

While on board the ship there is a brief cameo from horror icon Peter Cushing as the Captain. Cushing was originally slated to play Dr. Vesalius in the first film but had to bow out. I think he would have made a fine Vesalius or even Biederbeck.

As in the first film, the deaths here are all hysterically over-the-top and campy. I hate to describe any of them as each is a delight but I’ll just mention that the first involves clockwork snakes. The odd mixture of art deco and what can best be described as steampunk (if Phibes had not actually predated the term) makes the Phibes movies a visual feast.

Although The Abominable Dr. Phibes is not available, Dr. Phibes Rises Again works as a standalone movie. There were many attempts to mount a third Dr. Phibes movie, which Vincent Price was interested in doing. Unfortunately none of them got off the ground.

People Watch: Caroline Munro is uncredited but she plays Victoria Phibes in both movies. She would go on to star in a slew of genre films: Dracula A.D. 1972, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, At the Earth’s Core, Starcrash, and Maniac. She also played Naomi in The Spy who Loved Me.

Also look for John Thaw briefly as Shavers. He would go on to become famous as Inspector Morse from 1987-2000.

Birthdaypalooza, Vincent Price, & Hammer

Well I’m officially one year closer to my end of days. I did enjoy a wonderful birthday though having lunch with my wife and daughter at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Papa’s & Beer (Carnitas Fajitas, Horchada, and Flan for dessert – delicious) followed by a $3 movie at Cinebarre (Dark Shadows – not so good).

The evening’s entertainment was Doc Chey’s (Spicy basil noodles with chicken) with my wife followed by dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge (Chocolate Mocha Stout cake – good, vanilla milkshake – not so good) with some dear friends. My dear friends were not supposed to know it was my birthday but Jen let it slip. They brought me a magnificent addition to my movie books.

A few years ago my wife bought me this wonderful book on the history of Hammer studios. It is chockful of wonderful photographs and provides wonderful detail on a wide variety of Hammer movies – though mostly their horror and science fiction offerings. I think author Marcus Hearn achieved the perfect balance of knowledge and entertainment to make this not only a wonderful, breezy read but also a suitable coffeetable book.

The Hammer Story apparently did very well because Marcus Hearn followed it up in 2009 with Hammer Glamour, an oversized hardcover about the wonderful ladies in the Hammer movies. In 2010 Hearn released another oversized hardcover, The Art of Hammer, that is dedicated to the poster art of Hammer films. I’m not sure if he’s done yet but last year Hearn released The Hammer Vault (yes I think the title should be The Vault of Hammer but that’s not my decision), a compendium of rare material that Hearn had not yet released.

“This remarkable journey through the Hammer Vault includes props, annotated script pages, unused poster artwork, production designs, rare promotional material and private correspondence. Hundreds of rare and previously unseen stills help to create a rich souvenir of Hammer’s legacy, from the X certificate classics of the 1950s to the studio’s latest productions.

Written and compiled by the official Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn, and featuring exclusive contributions from the actors and filmmakers associated with the company, this is the most lavish book ever published on the legendary House of Horror. “

I haven’t bought any of these books because I have yet to read my copy of Universal Studios Monsters. Our dear friends bought me The Hammer Vault and I was quite thrilled. I’m looking forward to reading it so much that I’ll probably just skip the Universal book for now.

My mother-in-law absolutely overwhelmed me this year. My movie room is plastered with literally hundreds of movie posters and placards but they were all modern and the vast majority were FREE from the movie theaters over the last few years (three of the four walls are covered in 12×18 plain black frames to hold the 11×17 posters).

For my birthday, my mother-in-law bought me the above original poster for The Last Man on Earth (she knows I love Vincent Price). I don’t want to know what she spent on it as I know collecting old movie posters is well beyond our means. We’re having it professionally framed (yikes!) and I’ll post a before and after in a few weeks. My eldest daughter also got me The Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-Ray in steelbook from Best Buy. I don’t know why but I do love those steelbook cases.

All in all a pretty sweet birthday.

Celebrate The Raven with a Poe-a-Thon!

Sadly events beyond my control will prevent my seeing the FREE Edgar Allan Poe marathon at Carolina Cinemas this Friday (4/27). Still there are many Poe films available on instant Netflix. I apologize though as the latter part of this list looks just like my celebrate Roger Corman’s birthday post – unfortunately the Karloff/Lugosi Poe movies are not available at this time.

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) – Rated PG-13

“In the midst of preparing his theater troupe for their upcoming production, Cesar (Jason Robards) struggles to soothe his wife, Madeleine (Christine Kaufmann), who’s been suffering dreadful nightmares, and races to figure out who is brutally murdering his lead actors one by one. A loose adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, this chilling horror tale effectively weaves back and forth between disturbing dreams and reality.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986) – Rated PG

“This adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic 1941 tale of the same name stars the legendary George C. Scott as gumshoe C. Auguste Dupin, who comes out of retirement to take on one last case. Two murders have been committed in Paris, and the clues left behind are so sparse — comprising only a razor and batches of hair — that everyone involved in solving the crime is stumped. Val Kilmer and Rebecca de Mornay co-star.”

Tales of Terror (1962) – Not rated

“It’s a triple threat of terror from the master of the genre: Edgar Allan Poe. This collection of three films — The Black Cat, Morella and The Case of M. Valdemar — offers everything horror fans can’t get enough of, from murder and dementia to live burials, open tombs, resurrection and zombies. And with three of horrordom’s greatest villains (Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone) in the lead roles, the chills are guaranteed.”

Masters of Horror: Stuart Gordon – The Black Cat (2006) – Not rated

“In this stylish thriller, famous American author and master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe (Jeffrey Combs) is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. To make matters worse, he’s tormented by an evil black cat that’s slowly driving him insane. Stuart Gordon’s chilling film, part of Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series, looks at what may have inspired Poe to dream up such fantastic stories and poems full of suspense.”

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) – Not rated

“Francis (John Kerr) visits the gloomy Spanish castle of his late sister Elizabeth’s husband, Nicholas (Vincent Price), to learn the reason for her death. Nicholas fears his wife isn’t really dead and that her spirit wanders the halls at night. Seems Nicholas’s father was a feared leader of the Spanish Inquisition; as a child, Nicholas saw his father torture his mother and bury her alive, and he’s convinced Elizabeth has suffered a similar fate.”

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) – Not rated

“From director Roger Corman comes this supernatural tale of undying love set in the early 19th century. After the death of his wife, Ligeia, eccentric Verdon Fell (Vincent Price) will do anything to replace her, even if he must sacrifice his new wife, Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd). Plagued by eerie events in her new home, the terrified Rowena seeks help from former suitor Christopher (John Westbrook), but can he thwart Fell’s plan to revive Ligeia?”

The Masque of the Red Death (1964) – Not rated

“At a 12th-century masked ball from hell, dissolute satanist Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) torments his guests, forcing them to participate in a variety of gruesome lethal games in this Roger Corman-directed horror flick based on two stories by Edgar Allen Poe. While most of the games end in someone’s death, those who survive Prospero’s amusements must endure the nightmare of torture and unthinkable depravity.”