Sunday, July 10, 2011

Late to the Birthday Party

There are so many great images of Vincent price available online, I had a hard time choosing which one to use. I settled on this one because it's from his last film, Edward Scissorhands and probably the one with which most younger readers are most familiar.

Vincent Price's 100th birthday was this past May, and many horror and film bloggers honored him then. I may be a little behind, but it's the thought that counts (or so "they' say).

My first real memories of Price are as the villain Egghead on the campy Batman TV series from the late 60's. Egghead was a character created just for the series, though he does appear in a few other versions of the DC comic.

But it was his films in the 70's that really brought him to my attention. Most notably as the murderous musician Anton Phibes in 1971's The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its 1972 sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. In the first movie, the horribly disfigured Phibes blames a team of doctors and nurses for his wife's death and exacts revenge on them using a wildly inventive assortment of murders based on the plagues of the Book of Exodus. Assisted by the beautiful and silent Vulnavia (Virginia North), he takes them out one by one, before joining his wife in eternal sleep.

The success of the original couldn't keep a good villain down, and Phibes was resurrected for a sequel, this time searching for the "Scrolls of Life" in Egypt, in a attempt to bring his wife back to life. Vulnavia was now played by Valli Kemp and his prime adversary by none other than Count Yorga himself, Robert Quarry.

In 1973, Price appeared in the similarly-themed revenge horror movie, Theater of Blood. He plays Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean actor continually over-looked and derided by London theatre critics who takes his own life after losing an important theatrical award one time too many. Of course, Lionheart survives the attempted suicide and with the help of his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) and a cast of homeless people, takes his revenge on the critics, murdering them based on deaths in Shakespeare's plays. Probably my favorite is Robert Morse being force-fed pies made from his poodles, ala Tamora in Titus Andronicus. Theater of Blood had recent stage production in London, though I've always thought it was rife for a musical adaptation.

But Price's career extended well beyond these AIP productions. He worked with everyone from William Castle, Roger Corman to Cecil B. Demille and Tim Burton. He appeared on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents:" "Science Fiction Theatre" and "The Brady Bunch" and voiced characters on "Scooby Doo" and "Animaniacs." Here are just a few highlights from his long and distinguished career:

Vincent Price left an indelible mark on films and horror, and I fear we shall never see his like again. And that's probably how it should be.If there's an afterlife, I hope he knows how much he is missed in this one.

More, anon.

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