Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - The Vincent Price Collection Vol. II on Blu-ray ""

Monday, October 20, 2014

Scream Factory - The Vincent Price Collection Vol. II on Blu-ray

Last year, Scream Factory made a lot of our dreams come true with their fantastic Vincent Price Collection on Blu-ray. This year they've done it again and VP fans everywhere will be rejoicing. There can never be enough Vincent Price in high-definition!

TOMB OF LIGEIA (1965; Roger Corman)
The last of Corman's Poe cycle and the one that many (including Martin Scorsese) consider the best. Oddly, I have to say that I love Vincent Price's sunglasses in this film, the ones that protect his sensitive eyes from that horrible sunlight. Price could make just about any accessory look cool, but theses shades are a signature item that stand out from this film. If you remembered nothing else from the movie you could say, "Hey, what's the one with Vincent Price and those groovy specs man?" and any cinephile worth his or her salt would immediately know what film you're talking about. Some other notable things about LIGEIA include the fact that it was written by future academy award winner Robert Towne (CHINATOWN, SHAMPOO, THE LAST DETAIL) and was the first of the Poe films to not be bound to a set for it's locations. LIGEIA was apparently a collaborative idea between Price and Corman in that they wanted to use a real location as an actual place in the film (in this case the unforgettable ruin that they film many scenes in and around).
The transfer on this film is a touch soft, and the film clearly hasn't been cleaned up in any major way which is a bit of a shame as it is absolutely among the best films that either Corman or Price ever made.
As a nice bonus, TOMB OF LIGEIA features an introduction and final words from the great Mr. Price himself. These intros and outros seem to come from a 1982 PBS (possibly from Iowa public TB) broadcast that were part of a series of several nights of Price films. He gives some nice insights in both segments and though they are clearly from a video master, they are nonetheless a perfect addition.
Other Supplements Included:
Audio Commentary By Producer/Director Roger Corman and a NEW Audio Commentary With Elizabeth Shepherd.

THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959; William Castle)
This favorably remembered Willoam Castle film is one some folks point to as being among their favorite Vincent Price roles. It's certainly a fun ride,even if not quite as gimmicky as some of Castle's other movies. In watching it this time (I think I'd seen it years and years ago after reading Castle's amazing autobiographical boom STEP RIGHT UP...) I noticed that it would seem to be a potential influencer (even if subconsciously) of some films in the 1980s. CLUE and APRIL FOOL'S day come immediately to mind and though I realize their roots lie in  things like Agatha Christie, it's hard for me to resist the idea that HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL mightn't have played a small part in the setup of both. Even something as silly as 1980's MIDNIGHT MADNESS has some small threads of Vincent Price within the "game master" character of "Leon". Anyway, I just love to draw lines from older films like this to things that were made years later wether there's and credence to it or not. I always think of the prevalence of films like this on television in the 1960s and 70s wherein they firmly cemented themselves in the minds of many a youngster (and later filmmaker) watching the Late Late Show some autumn evening. I'm reminded that I do miss that bygone era when movies on TV all the time really did drill them into the popular culture and the collective unconscious of so many people. It was a time when folks like The Marx Brothers and Vincent Price were known and loved by everyone. I miss that shared cultural consciousness and it's a tough thing to have nowadays with the immeasurable amounts of content kids have to sift through. Regardless, I like that somehow Vincent Price has continued to hang on and be recognized.
Supplements Included:
Audio Commentary By Film Historian Steve Haberman, "Vincent Price: Renaissance Man" Featurette, "The Art Of Fear" Featurette, "Working With Vincent Price" Featurette.

COMEDY OF TERRORS (1962; Jacques Tourneur)
Talk about your genre dream-teams. Here, Karloff, Lorre, & Price star in this early horror spoof about some funeral home employees who "create" business for themselves when things are a bit slow. I cannot believe I had somehow avoided seeing this film until now. Outside of that remarkable trio at the center, there's also the Jacques Tourneur factor. Tourneur is absolutely among my favorite directors and so it's ridiculous for me not to have sought out all of his stuff at this point. Between OUT OF THE PAST and his work with Val Lewton, he thoroughly proved his genius, but I had yet to see him take on a comedy.
The movie sets it's tone wonderfully and right out of the gate with a lovely bit of slapstick within the first two minutes. I sometimes love it when a movie makes a point of showing its hand almost immediately. It's as if to say, "okay, we know you might not have been convinced by this film's title as to what it is what with this cast and all, but yeah, we're going super silly here". And, like the movie itself, Vincent Price's character wastes no time establishing who he is (a total alcoholic dick). Price has certainly played his share if disreputable types, but this guy is right up there in terms of forthright and gleeful assholery. I mean, it's humorous don't get me wrong, but he really commits and goes right over the top with it immediately. Price may have had a humble, self deprecating view of his own acting, but as far as him always being just what he was supposed to be, he was a consummate pro.
Supplements Included:
Introduction And Parting Words By Vincent Price, "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy Of Terrors".

THE RAVEN (1963; Roger Corman)
THE RAVEN opens with a simple title card, followed by "Produced and directed by Roger Corman".  After that, Vincent Price reads from Poe's infamous text in voice-over while Corman attempts to set the mood with shots of waves crashing on some rocks. I can't think of too many better ways to open a movie than with Vincent Price reading Poe. If ever a voice was more perfectly designed to fit in with the way Poe wrote, it's Price's voice. What is also fitting is to open the movie with a scene of Vincent Price and a talking bird. More films should have started this way, even randomly so.
Supplements Included:
Introduction And Parting Words By Vincent Price, "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven" & "Corman's Comedy Of Poe".

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964; Ubaldo Ragona)
Before Charlton Heston in OMEGA MAN and of course Will Smith in I AM LEGEND, Vincent Price starred in this early adaptation of Richard Matheson's masterpiece of horror fiction. While I must admit that it was the Heston film that first caught my attention and ultimately drew me to the Matheson novel, I have found myself fascinated by all the filmic adaptations that were attempted. I say attempted because I don't feel like any one of them does the story proper justice. I AM LEGEND might be my favorite book of all-time so of course I hold it to a pretty high standard. That said, I actually enjoy all the adaptations quite a bit. While it is difficult to capture the book's point of view and inner monologue properly, I appreciate each of the attempts. This version does a solid job carrying off the tone of the book pretty well, and I do very much dig Vincent Price in the lead role. It's a good fit.
Supplements Included:
Audio Commentary With Authors David Del Valle And Derek Botelho and "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man On Earth".

DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972; Robert Fuest)
After a seeming but ambiguous demise at the end of the first PHIBES movie , Vincent Price awakens three years following the events of that movie as this one begins. The disfigured and psychotic Phibes is on a mission to resurrect his late wife here and he needs some stolen papyrus scrolls to do so. He chases down and dispatches the thieves rather creatively. One could compare Phibes to later horror icons like Freddy Krueger in terms of his murderous creativity. In the first PHIBES film, Price's wife is played by the gorgeous cult actress Caroline Munro. In RISES AGAIN, she was replaced by an Australian model named Valli Kemp (who later had roles in ROLLERBALL and THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER). No offense to Miss Kemp, but she ain't no Caroline Munro (few gals are). Also interesting is that this film was directed by director Robert Fuest who also did British films like THE FINAL PROGRAMME and AND SOON THE DARKNESS. This movie should also be remembered as the one where Vincent Price sings "Over the Rainbow".

THE RETURN OF THE FLY (1959; Edward Bernds)
This film is a super rare case of a sequel to a color film that was made in Black & White. That is an interesting choice and perhaps part of the reason I remembered the original FLY as a B&W movie for the longest time. The plot of this sequel is a bit more convoluted than its predecessor and involves the son of the scientist from the first movie (played by actor Brett Halsey) carrying on his experiment but it also entangles industrial spies, British agents and other complications into the mix. 
Supplements Include:
Audio Commentary With Actor Brett Halsey And Film Historian David Del Valle.

Like Volume One of this collection, this Blu-ray set is a no-brainer-must-own kind of scenario for Vincent Price fans as well as horror fans in general. It's well produced with decent to solid transfers and a buttload of nice supplements. Hats off to Scream Factory on this one and here's hoping they have more like it up their sleeve down the line.


Anonymous said...

Great post. You know, our world can be a horrible place. Terrorists. Unemployment. Disease. Hunger. All kinds of crummy stuff.

But when I remind myself that I live in a world where House On Haunted Hill is on Blu-ray, I know everything's gonna be OK.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Thanks Toby, you are so right!