Archive for Vincent Price

The House on Haunted Hill

Posted in Horror History, Horror Showcase with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

For some reason the year (1999) when the remakes of The Haunting and the House on Haunted Hill sticks out in my mind a lot. My brother really wanted to go and see the latter. So we went and I really enjoyed it. It was the very first time I had ever seen that 32 frame per second type ghost effect. You know where it ends up looking really frigging weird, and unnaturally fast?

It wouldn’t be until years later that I would finally sit down and watch the original. The house on Haunted Hill was released in 1959. The film was directed and produced by B movie legend and shameless promoter William Castle. The film stars Vincent Price (I swear this is just a coincidence) and Carolyn Craig.

The basic plot is this. Fredrick Loren (Price) is an eccentric millionaire who hosts a party at a supposedly haunted house.  He gathers together a group of virtual strangers and tells them that he will pay them each ten thousand dollars if they would spend the night in the mansion. He says he is doing this because his wife had the idea of throwing a “ghost party”. He informs the guests that the servants will be leaving the grounds and locking all of the doors and they won’t be opened again until 8 AM the next day. Anyone who makes it, will be given their money. This is all treated as light hearted at first and each of the guests seem to be enjoying themselves.

None of the guests are very remarkable. Waston Pritchard is the current owner of the property is there who knows the most about the place. He tells the others that his brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house and he is legitimately terrified of the place.

Nora Manning (Craig) is just a secretary for one of Lorens companies. Ruth Bridges is a columnist; Lance Schroeder is a pilot and finally Dr. David Trent is the resident psychiatrist. I honestly had a hard time telling some of them apart. The one thing they all have in common is that they need money and this seems like a golden opportunity.

It seems that spooky things start to happen to Nora only who freaks out and hysterically screams at numerous different situations. One of the moments that stood out for me is when she encounters the creepy old hag with the long fingernails that scares her half to death. The movie relies for sudden shocks and special effects for their scares, but it’s a pretty typical case of Nora seeing something and everybody arriving too late. That all changes when the body of Loren’s wife is found hanging from the staircase and everyone seems dumbfounded. At this point it isn’t really clear what happened. They had shown scenes of Loren and his wife fighting and it’s reasonable to assume she had killed herself. The movie takes a swift turn to a whodunit motif that carries it for the rest of the story.

Castle was well known for his use of theatre gimmicks and this movie was no different. During the films final moments a skeleton rises out of an acid bath and starts to stalk it’s prey. Apparently when that moment happened in the movie the theatre goers were treated to a plastic skeleton flying over their heads. It was things like that which elevated this B horror movie into the cult classic that it is today. The famous macabre director Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with the movie that it was said that it would inspire him to make the classic Psycho. Among the skeleton gag the movie also breaks the forth wall both at the very start and the very end. It’s not too often that this happens anymore (probably for the best).

Well, since its release this movie has become public domain, so it’s free to watch in a variety of ways. I recommend that people check it out when they got a chance. It has some great thrills and special effects so cheesy they become genius. Plus, it has the unforgettably talented Vincent Price. Okay I promise this will be the last Price movie for awhile.

See yah next time, and thanks for reading!

"Do I have something in my teeth?!"

"Do I have something in my teeth?!"

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Nine Eternities in Doom!)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by splatterpictures

Well when I do one thing it makes me think of another and sooner or later you have yourself a theme. We’re going to be showcasing another Vincent Price movie to kick off September and boy do I have a great one.

The 1970’s would see a lot of changes in the horror genre and the film industry in general. The ratings system by the motion pictures association was implemented, which is funny to think of as a new thing. The Gothic style of horror had gone the way of the Dodo after decades of being the formula for horror. Also, the post nuclear sci-fi was also proving to be less successful and audiences were ready for something new. They wanted something edgier, since we’re talking about a generation raised in the 1960’s it’s no wonder. Censorship laws were loosening and filmmakers wanted to push the limits.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, The Exorcist, The Omen, and Halloween I could go on and on. These new films were different; they were closer to home, smaller more realistic settings in suburban homes or neighborhoods. Or someplace that could be a little more than an hour out of town. Places that could excite people’s imaginations and make them question what that shadow outside the window was. There was more gore, nudity and bad language than you could shake a stick at, and the audiences went to see these films in droves. They made the films about the teenagers that were seeing them and it worked.

Before all of that, there was one film that sticks out in the early 70’s that really was a transitional movie. It had the grand sets and music of the older Gothic horrors, but it pushed the limits of gore for its age. To top it all off it had an amazing cast that starred Vincent Price in his 100th film; The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Released in 1971, by MGM, The Abominable Dr. Phibes would build upon the tragic monster character that was made famous in the Phantom of the Opera. The film opens up with a grand set that is Dr. Phibes home, we see a cloaked man, playing the organ with dramatic flair and enters a tall thin woman, in a pretty seventies interpretation of stylish wear, (which is weird because the movie is supposed to take place in 1925) they dance and it’s all very theatrical. There is also a really creepy clockwork band playing called “Dr. Phibes Clockwork Wizards” It’s a really surreal opening and it has no dialogue at all.

A series of strange murders start to occur, a man found dead in his room tore to shreds by bats, normally found in the tropics. The man was named Dr. Dunwoody and he wasn’t the first noted surgeon to be killed. Before (and off camera I guess) Professor Thornton was stung to death by bees. These two murders are not enough to call it a trend they police aren’t convinced they are related except for inspector Harry Trout (Peter Jeffery). Soon after (possibly the weirdest death scenes I’ve ever seen,) Dr. Hargreaves head is crushed inside a mechanical frog’s mask at some kind of masquerade party.

As each one of these death’s occur the police try to find a connection, but aside from them all being in the medical profession, they see no pattern. It’s not until the find Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) that they begin to piece it all together. All of the doctors being targeted worked together on one case. It seemed that his wife Victoria Phibes was sick and while she was being operated on by the team of seven doctors and one nurse; she died. Phibes is believe to be dead because on the on the way to see her, his car went over the side of a mountain and he was presumably killed. Trout has a gut feeling that Phibes isn’t dead and in this case he would be right.

He survived but his face was horribly disfigured and was left unable to speak. He wants revenge against the incompetent doctors that he says murdered her; nine to suffer his elaborate murders, all in the theme of the ten plagues of Egypt. (The ninth presumably would be himself)

Phibes is a friggin genius and the police can’t seem to do anything to stop him, even when they know who he’s going to kill. For a guy who’s apparent doctorates lie in music and theology he is an amazing inventor. Not only does he invent a machine, which is basically a gramophone hooked up to his neck to speak, he also creates a bunch clockwork people (his band) and other strange devices. (he actually makes a device that made a car 100 degrees below freezing)

He also has his badass silent assistant named Vulnavia played by the absolutely beautiful Virgina North. It never explains who she is or why she helps him, but she is his public face who handles a lot of day to day stuff for Phibes. She is also his accomplice to most of the murders. Originally in the script it was to be explained that she was actually just another of his clockwork creations but they decided against it, which was too bad because that would elevate her to “super-badass”.

There are a lot of hilariously campy things in this movie. The clockwork band itself is great aswell as the weird masks at the Masquerade but other things really made me laugh too. One death is lead into by one of the doctors watching the equivalent of 1925 porn. He hooks up this huge camera to play some woman belly dancing with a snake while her turns the crank all turned on, and sucking back scotch it. Another great what the fuck moment was when one of the last doctors killed was done in by a brass unicorn head being catapulted across the street and into his chest. They try to get him off the wall by spinning him around like a top. The police chief even says “I’m at a loss for words” well so am I chief, so am I. He also drives around in a car that has his profile painted on both sides of the window which is just fucked up.

There are a lot of things I can’t help but notice. The most glaring thing is how this sort of tragic, revenge for his wife, and wanting to be with her jazz really reminded me a mister freeze. It made me wonder if this might be one of the sources of inspiration, especially in the scenes where he is talking to his dead wife’s picture.

The last sequence is just fantastic and I’m going to spoil it because I need to, in order to make my next point. So SPOILER ALERT. Dr. Vesalius plague is; death of the first born. Phibes and his assistant kidnap the doctor’s son and lure him to Phibes home. Vesalius has six minutes to remove a key lodged in his son’s heart. The same six minutes his wife had on the operating table before she died. The key unlocks a chain around the boy’s neck that is secured to the operating table. Phibes set up this acid to trickle down and land on the boy’s face if the key isn’t retrieved. All the while Phibes taunts the doctor and it’s just fucking amazingly well done. This entire sequence is so similar of the recent saw series and the Jigsaw killer that it’s kind of hard to imagine this wasn’t part of the inspiration.

Doctor Phibes is an awesome villain, part mad doctor, part Phantom and part Jigsaw killer. It makes for a truly amazing character that really carries the entire film. So much so that it spawned a sequel Dr. Phibes Rides Again. It’s just as good and I actually got them both on one dvd for five bucks. I highly recommend you find these films and give them a watch.

See you next time and thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!

The Last Man on Earth

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by splatterpictures

Awhile I ago I was writing about the zombie genre through the last hundred years or so in film, when I got to Night of the Living Dead, I explained that Romero’s inspiration for the Ghouls that devoured the flesh of the living was derived from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. A lot of you will be familiar with the 2007 film starring Will Smith.

When I am Legend was about to hit theatres, they were saying that it was based off of the novel of the same name, and some people went as far as to mention that the 1971 film The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston was also an attempt to adapt the novel.

But before all of that, before Will Smith and Charlton Heston and before Romero would reshape the entire concept of what a zombie was; there was the 1964 film called The Last Man on Earth that starred the great Vincent Price.

I came across this movie completely by accident. A few years ago I had bought one of those giant movie pack box sets. You know the ones? Like fifty classic horror films all in one package (all public domain films). I was shuffling through the titles after I got home and that title in particular intrigued me enough that it was the first movie I watched out of the set.

About halfway through my young ignorant mind made me say “wow this is just like I am Legend, I wonder if this is some first attempt at the movie?” well it obviously is and even though I have never read the book by Matheson, I have seen all three of the interpretations of the book on film and this one is easily my favourite.

Like I said the movie was released in 1964 (a short ten years after Matheson wrote the book) it was actually partially written by Matheson aswell but he didn’t like it and decided not to get credited on it.

The movie starts with showing Dr. Robert Morgan’s (Price) daily routine. He wakes, he checks his home’s security, Mirrors and garlic, he eats even though he finds the process boring and only a means of survival, he runs down everything he has to do, remove bodies from his property and take them to a giant pit to be burned, he needs gas and more garlic, he makes stakes and then goes hunting. That’s right it’s another vampire flick and I swear I don’t mean for them to come up as often as they do. A good portion of his day also consists of going door to door in his city killing as many vampires as he can.

There are a series of flashbacks that start to explain what happened. Three years ago, a strange plague coming out of Europe started to sweep the world. It’s an air born virus and it threatens to reach the United States. Dr. Morgan is optimistic, and has a staunch scientific mind that refuses to believe in the concept of a universal disease that could wipe out everyone. He and his friend Ben Cortman work at the Mercer Institute of Chemical research and are one of the many global facilities trying to find a cure.

Cortman is more inclined to believe that there might be no hope and that the rumours of some of the dead coming back to life are coming back as vampires; showcasing all of their weaknesses and desires and that the government is trying to cover up knowing the truth.

Soon the plague starts affecting Morgan’s own family, his young daughter (Christi Courtland) loses her sight and blindly paws at the air. I think it was supposed to be tragic but it comes off as pretty funny in my opinion. His wife (Emma Danieli) succumbs soon after and is the first person Morgan sees comes back to life and he is forced to kill her.

The ghouls that return are pretty different from any interpretation I’ve seen. They are zombie-like, with barely any intelligence or strength. Morgan lives in a basic two story house and they can’t seem to break in at all. His friend Ben (now a vampire-ghoul-thing) constantly calls his name and tries to pathetically get through the door.

The film hinges on Price’s performance. Morgan is a broken man, who does nothing but survive, he watches old home movies, and just breaks down into a hysterical fits of laughter that soon turns to tears as he remembers the life that will never be. He doesn’t even have any characters to interact with until towards the end of the movie he first finds a dog, that he befriends (this was what tipped it off to me that it was similar to I Am Legend) sadly he realizes that the pooch is infected and has to take ole yeller out back…if you know what I mean.

Later things get interesting when he meets a woman named Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia) she exhibits some signs of vampirism but is somehow able to keep command of her mind.

It’s revealed that while a majority of the vampires are nearly mindless ghouls, there does exist another kind who are intelligent and are attempting to rebuild their society. This is where the message of the film seems to come into play. Morgan is the last man on earth and now is the one person who is unlike the rest of society and therefore the true monster.

In the Omega Man and I Am Legend the films end with a glimmer of hope. One that might suggest that mankind will make a comeback, but not this one. Last Man on Earth ends telling us that the age of mankind is over. The final moments of the film are just fantastic and overall this is worth a watch. Like I said its public domain and can be found just about anywhere.

See yah next time and thanks for reading!