Like a beloved family member or dear friend, Vincent Price was always there during my childhood. Rainy Saturday afternoons or late into the night on those special weekdays – sneaking around to stay up late – there he was on my little black and white bedroom TV or on the big color living room one. There was Vincent in a William Castle movie or Roger Corman flick. There was Vincent acting something playfully ghoulish, yet funny and campy on The Love Boat or hosting The Muppet Show and trading quips with Miss. Piggy and Kermit. I remember seeing him yuk it up as a twisted archaeology professor – years before Indiana Jones – on The Brady Bunch. He even guested as a Gothic goon on a spooky The Bionic Woman episode – opposite Lindsay Wagner. For all fellow Vincent fans, horror movie lovers, and Edgar Allan Poe devotees, Shout! Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection on Blu-Ray is truly special. They’ve selected some of Corman and Price’s best collaborations for this blu-ray set, including:
The Pit and The Pendulum 1961
The Masque of the Red Death 1964
The Fall of the House of Usher 1960
The Haunted Palace 1963
The Abominable Dr. Phibes 1971
Witchfinder General 1968
All of these classic, and now cult horror movies (Cult of Vincent) are directed by Roger Corman, save for The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Witchfinder General – which is also known as The Conqueror Worm. The films – more or less – are loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe short stories, with The Haunted Palace, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Witchfinder General being the non Poe offerings.
Co-starring popular genre names like Hazel Court (The Raven), Barbara Steele (Black Sunday), Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolfman ) and Joseph Cotton (Shadow of a Doubt), each one is a real showcase for the filmmakers behind the camera and masterful acting from Price. Over the years, Price has gotten a near universal reputation – undeserved or not – for being a wholly campy actor. This just isn’t the case – especially in these productions. Yes, Dr. Phibes – the entire film – can be viewed as being campy or even cartoonish, however, all the entries – especially Witchfinder General and The Masque Of The Red Death give us a Vincent Price who rose during the Golden Age of Hollywood. This was an actor who shared the stage with Helen Hayes and the screen with Gene Tierney. Price was so in demand as a serious young actor, he was offered a one million dollar Hollywood film contract – an almost unheard of sum back in his time.
In The Fall of the House of Usher (1960) – first in the Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe series – Price shows just how good an actor he can be. Looking like some pale Victorian age surfer with his bleach blonde hair, clean shaven face (Price suggested the look to Corman) and ruby red lips, Price channels the spirit of Roderick Usher created by one of America’s foremost literary heroes – the inimitable Poe. By the time of the release of the follow-ups like The Pit & The Pendulum (1961), The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Haunted Palace (1963), Price was crowned the new horror icon of a generation – dethroning veteran horror patriarch Boris Karloff. Offbeat entries like The Abominable Dr. Phibes and the ultra realistically violent, Witchfinder General (1968), cemented Price’s reputation as the go to actor for thrill and chills.
I’m no video tech expert, so I’ll refrain from needlessly spouting highly technical specs and comparing the pixelation – or lack thereof – the naturalness or artificiality of the skintones, gradations and saturation of the color depth and so forth. What I will say and guarantee as a movie lover in general and in particular a big fan of these films is that most viewers should be highly pleased by the video and audio quality.
These prints have all been restored and are in glorious 1080p high definition. There are occasional specks or noise or even rips – in the case of Masque of the Red Death, there is a doozy of a rip right at the finale – but overall, the films are mostly free of blemishes. The films here look better than they ever have – either when broadcast on television or on their DVD release. I did a side by side comparison of Masque of the Red Death, and was overwhelmed by how much deeper and brighter colors were and the far more detailed BD version over my standard DVD.
Each disc – four in total – contains lots of fun extras. The six films spread out over the four discs have photo galleries, theatrical trailers, interviews and audio commentaries. Roger Corman provides one for Fall of the House of Usher, while film historians like Tom Weaver and Steve Haberman offer up trivia and expert commentary for the other flicks. One of the more gimmicky – yet thoroughly fun – bits is comedian and voice impresario Piotor Michael who does a wonderful vocal impression of Price as he reads off quotes and anecdotes from the actor. An engaging booklet written by David Del Valle is also part of the package.
It’s near impossible not to fully recommend that Vincent Price fans pick up The Vincent Price Collection on Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory. These films are essentials for any Price fan, plus the many admirers of Roger Corman’s work and lovers of Edgar Allan Poe. Shout! Factory has done a fantastic job of restoring these cinematic treasures and loading them up with fun and informative extra bonus material. The only negative I must mention is minor, though annoying – at least on my set. After going back to the Main Menu during playing a movie, and trying to resume play, no bookmark is set. This is a basic function from the very early days of standard DVD functionality. It’s bewildering to not find it implemented here. That minor flaw aside, this six movie set featuring the one and only Vincent Price is highly recommended.