Sunday, October 28, 2018

It's time to play Vincent Price Tag!

A month ago, my friend Derek Koch (of Monster Kid Radio, a podcast you need to check out) posted his answers to Vincent Price Tag on his YouTube channel (you can see his responses here) and tagged me to play along.  Of course, it  was bad timing for me, as THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR was gearing up and I was swamped with posting all the events happening under The Shadow Over Portland during October.  But now, I've got the time to post my answers to his request.  So, time for Vincent Price Tag!

1) What is your favorite Vincent Price horror film?

Wow, nothing better than starting with one of the hardest questions you could as me about Vincent Price.  So many of his horror films are favorites of mine, it's hard to narrow it down to just one.

I love his work with William Castle, his Poe films with Roger Corman, and his two turns as Phibes.  I have to say, Theater of Blood is just amazing and high on my favorite list, as the film allows him to play Shakespeare characters while dispatching the critics that derided his performances (bit of poetic justice in that one).  But I'm going to reach into his work with Corman and chose The Pit and the Pendulum.

Price plays Nicholas Median, a man tormented by his past and the death of his wife, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) in his father's torture chamber.  As the film plays out, we discover Elizabeth's death is part of a scheme to drive Nicholas insane, but the plot has some unexpected side effects, as Nicholas begins channeling the personality of his father and reactivates the tools in the dungeon, including the massive pendulum.

I'm choosing this film for Price's performance.  He's terrific playing a man tortured by his family history and its effects on his life, but that's no surprise.  He played a similar character in House of Usher a year earlier.  And his performance in 1963's The Haunted Palace, based on H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, echoes his work here, as a good man influenced (okay, possessed) by the spirit of an evil ancestor.

You wanted me crazy, you got me at my craziness!

But it's the change he undergoes from victim to villain in this film that elevates this film to the top of my list.  After he's driven insane, Price's pitiful laughter turns maniacal with such conviction, it's chilling.  And his physical performance sells the change.  It's one of the best scenes in all the Poe films, and one of Price's finest moments.  And the final shot still sends chills down my spine.  If you haven't seen this film, stop reading this and watch it!

2) What is your favorite Vincent Price non-horror film?

You might think this would be easier to answer, but it's not.  Is The Fly and The Last Man on Earth horror or sci fi?  Is The House on Haunted Hill and The Bat more a thriller than a horror film?  Well, those are all candidates for non-horror favorites in my mind, but I'm going to go with his brief performance in Edward Scissorhands.

He's not onscreen for long, but he makes the most of his role.  His death scene is SO GOOD, it's impossible not to feel his pain upon leaving his creation/surrogate son incomplete.  It's a heartbreaking moment, not just for the titular character, but the audience as well.

I'm not crying, you're crying!

It's not easy picking any Price role as your favorite, as he's always so good.  But for some reason, this one hits me every damn time.

3) Who would win in a fight between Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee?

You have no idea how much I would pay to see a movie with Price, Cushing and Lee battling it out.  It would be an EPIC struggle, but I suspect Price would come out on top, if the combat wasn't limited to strict physical might.

Let's be honest, Lee would win a physical contest with little effort.  Anyone who doesn't have to imagine the sound of a knife entering someone's back knows how to win a physical confrontation.  And Lee's just so damn imposing, it's going to put his opponents at a severe disadvantage.

Not that Cushing couldn't hold his own.  He might not be the powerhouse Lee is, but he's scrappy and not afraid to mix it up, should the occasion arise.

Amazing how such good friends could beat the crap
out of each other in front of the camera.

Price never showed any ability in a physical altercation in his roles, but he's smart and a great manipulator.  His roles as Dr. Phibes, Frederick Loren and Edward Lionheart shows he can set up events to his favor.  I see this battle ending up between Lee and Cushing, with Price sitting on the sidelines, sipping champagne and admiring his work setting up the battle and waiting to take out the weakened victor.  That would be so Price-like.

Never mind those two beating each other up in the corner,
my dear.  More champagne?

4) What was the better Vincent Price contribution to a musical album - his work on Michael Jackson's Thriller or his participation on Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare?

Damn, these questions are HARD!  But I have to go with Thriller on this one.  His work with Cooper is great, but Cooper was already scary, with his dark lyrics and shock rock stage shows.  However, Michael Jackson was, well, so innocent (at the time), I doubt anyone would feel the same emotional impact from Thriller if Jackson was the only vocal performer in the song.  Music video hype aside, it's Price's creepy vocals that sends a chill down my spine every time.

I doubt even Rick Baker's amazing makeup would make this a scary video 
without Price's "funk of forty thousand years."

5) If you could replace one actor in any horror film with Vincent Price, what role would you choose?

Well, this is the first easy one for me.  I'd replace Vincent Price for Colin Clive in Frankenstein and its sequel, Bride of Frankenstein.  I know that's two films, but this is a two-for-one sale in my mind.

Wait, what the hell are you talking about?
I'm awesome in this role!

I'm not saying Clive's performance is lacking.  He's terrific in the role and sells Frankenstein's "monster mania" to the hilt.  But I'd love to hear Price crying "It's alive.  ALIVE!  Now I know what it feels like to be God!"  And watching Price switch from maniacal to remorseful creator would be amazing.  And to see him in Bride, with its wicked sense of humor, would be a performance for the ages.

Man, it would be wonderful!

6) If you met Vincent Price in a movie, he would probably kill you.  How would you want to be killed by Vincent Price?

I can't imagine how much I would pay to be killed by Vincent Price in a movie.  If he was Kickstarting a movie and one of the rewards was a death scene, I would have to declare bankruptcy the next day.

As to how I'd want to meet my cinematic demise, the choice is easy.  While Price has eliminated his victims in amazing ways, I would want to go in a Phibes-like trap.

Here. let me adjust that for you.
That mask looks a bit loose. 

The Phibes movies have such amazing kills, it would be an honor to be taken out by such a maniacal genius.  Not only would it be themed, but it would be spectacular.  If you can't die peacefully in your sleep, might as well be in a manner that will induce nightmares for the witnesses.

Yep, I'm that morbid.

7) Vincent Price guest-starred in several classic TV shows.  What is your favorite appearance?

Oh, another easy one.  While Price can elevate even The Brady Bunch by appearing in an episode, and he's done some great work in series ranging from Night Gallery to The Bionic Woman, I'm going with his appearances as Egghead in Batman.

Egg-cellent choice.

I know he's done more serious work on television, but his Egghead is just so Price.  The egg-mazing puns roll of his tongue with no effort and his snarky villainous performance is the stuff camp classics are made of.  He holds his own with the other classic villains from the Batman TV series and really should have made more appearances.

9) If Vincent Price would read you a bedtime story, which one would it be?

Oh, not much of a choice here.  While I could think of plenty of bedtime stories I'd love to hear Price read, I'm going with an old tome of German cautionary tales, Struwwelpeter.

The translated title is Shock-Headed Peter.
His comeuppance is being unpopular for his grooming habits,
and he got off EASY!

A children's book written by Heinrich Hoffmann in 1845, this is one my grandmother used to stop me from sucking my thumb.  Yeah, bit of a confessional here, but this book is HORRIFYING.  Most of the stories involve children behaving badly and suffering the consequences for their actions, which often involves untimely deaths.  But the story my grandmother forced on me is about a boy who sucks his thumbs, despite his parent's protests.  The "problem behavior" is solved by a mysterious tailor with overlarge scissors, who CUTS OFF HIS THUMBS!

And this is the actual illustration from the book.
Oh, my mother was so angry when she found out 
what my grandmother was reading to me.

I can only imagine Price reading this book to me, and showing me the illustrations.  I'd be more warped than I am now!  And I would love the memory!!

10) Vincent Price lent his voice to several animated shows and films.  Which voice over is your favorite?

Nice to end the game on an easy one.  Price has done some great voice work, but I've got to pick the Tim Burton short film Vincent, about a boy who fantasizes being his hero, Vincent Price.

Well, I don't know if it looks like me,
but I love it.

Aside from Price calling the film "...the most gratifying thing that ever happened.  ...better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard," it's a joy listening to Price narrate the story of a boy that idolizes him.  It feels so personal, as I wanted to be like Vincent Price when I was young.

Come to think of it, I still want to be like him.  Time to break out the cookbook and brush up on the culinary arts!

He's my inspiration.  An artistic soul with a dark heart.
I want to be Vincent Price!

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