Category Archives: The Vincent Price Collection

The House of the Seven Gables (1940) | When Universal adpated Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic Gothic novel

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AN ANCIENT HOUSE! A MURDER SECRET! A HIDDEN TREASURE!
For 160 years the New England Pyncheons have lived under a curse after an ancestor had a man called Matthew Maule condemned to hang so that he could steal his land and build his dream house in Salem. When patriarch Gerald (Gilbert Emery) dies during a heated argument with his aspiring songwriter son Clifford (Vincent Price), his other son, Boston lawyer Jaffrey (George Sanders) seizes on the opportunity to claim the house for himself and have his brother sent down for murder.

But when Clifford’s intended bride Hepzibah (Margaret Lindsay) inherits the family estate, she kicks Jaffrey out and locks herself up in the house and from the outside world. Two decades later, Hepzibah has turned into a bitter sinister, but the arrival of orphaned niece Phoebe (Nan Grey) and the machinations of a mysterious lodger Holgrave (Dick Foran) could prove to change her fortune, and reunite her with her beloved Clifford.

The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

‘What a pity man must inherit their ancestors ignorance, instead of their wisdom’
This 1940 Universal melodrama, directed by Joe May, is a handsome adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, but fuses its Gothic themes of guilt, retribution and atonement with a contemporary take on Cain and Abel and a bittersweet romance over three acts.

Appearing in one of his earliest screen roles, Vincent Price’s native midwestern accent comes through, especially in the first act, where he brings an educated, theatrical quality to his happy-go-lucky bohemian Clifford who despises his family’s dark history. And this is used to great effect in his trial scene (a travesty of justice that infers the Salem witch trials of 1692), in which he evokes Maule’s curse (‘God has given him blood to drink’) on his brother Jaffrey, who has used the most degenerate means to keep the house on the belief a fortune in land deeds and gold lies hidden within its walls. And following Clifford’s incarceration, Price’s voice takes on a melancholy timbre to denote his weariness at his captivity. He would go on to use this sombre tone to great effect in his more famous roles, in which he played cads and villains, but here he shows his mettle as a romantic leading man.

The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

Keen eyed viewers might recognise a scene in which Vincent Price’s Clifford points out the unsavoury professions of his ancestors whose portraits decorate the walls of the family home, for it was later used by Roger Corman in his first Poe picture, The House of Usher, and then spoofed by Price in 1966’s Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

Vincent’s voice also comes in fine form in singing the theme tune, The Color of Your Eyes, by Frank Skinner and Ralph Reed. But it’s not the only time that Price would display his wonderful baritone on screen. He filmed a musical sequence for 1944’s Laura, but it was removed in the final cut, while for many years his singing at the end of Dr Phibes Rises Again (Somewhere Over the Rainbow) and Madhouse (When Day Is Done) went missing in action during the VHS era.

While Vincent Price and George Sanders (at his slimy best) are the star names here, they were virtually unknowns at the time, while 1930s star Margaret Lindsay is a revelation, and watching her Hepzibah change from light and gay sweetheart to bitter crone (whose rasping voice sounds very much like Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful) is pathos personified.

As Matthew Maule, a direct descendant of the man who cursed the Pyncheons and a committed abolitionist who helps Clifford get his revenge, Dick Foran makes for a engaging hero, but his character also gave the film’s screenwriter Lester Cole the chance to inject some personal political views with lines like: ‘How is it possible to arrest a man for speaking freely of freedom in a country whose constitution guarantees freedom – and justice?’. These left-wing views would later earn the film some notoriety when it was shown on TV in the 1950s during the McCarthy communist witch-hunt era.

The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

But the film’s politics are overshadowed by the film’s two romantic storylines which see Hepzibah and Clifford finally reuniting after so long apart, and Matthew (masquerading as Holgrave) courting and catching Phoebe, while providence and fate work against the vile Jaffrey.

The direction might be a touch too sentimental for modern audiences, but the solid lead performances, Frank Skinner’s Oscar-nominated musical score, the atmospheric photography and the authentic recreation of the original 16th-century Turner-Ingersoll mansion in Salem that inspired the Hawthorne novel, makes this Universal melodrama a classic worth repeating.

The House of the Seven GablesTHE UK DVD RELEASE
The Screenbound Pictures Region 2 DVD release presents a pristine transfer of the 89-minute black and white film in a 1:37:1 aspect ratio.

The only extra is a 10-minute interview with star Vincent Price on Aspel and Company (1984) in which he looks back at some highs and lows of his screen career, and reveals to the British chat show host Michael Aspel what frightens him most.

Available from: http://www.classicfilmsdirect.com/product/the-house-of-the-seven-gables

The Comedy of Terrors (1963) | Your favourite creeps together again in HD

The Comedy of Terrors

To mark the 16 February UK Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors from Arrow Video (reviewed at the bottom of the post), here’s a look back at the vintage horror farce.

‘You’re invited to a funeral’
Welcome to the Hinchley & Trumbull funeral parlour, the only establishment of its kind that has found the secret of increasing business – by furnishing its own corpses! From Jacques Tourneur, director of the horror classics, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Demon, comes the 1963 horror spoof, The Comedy of Terrors, starring four masters of the macabre – Vincent Price, Peter LorreBasil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘What place is this?’
Inebriate undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Price) is running a New England funeral home business owned by his ageing father-in-law (Karloff)… straight into the ground. Hounded by his penny-pinching landlord Mr Black (Rathbone) for non-payment of rent, Trumbull and his put upon assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) hatch a plan to boost business. But murder is not their forté, especially when their latest ‘client’ refuses to stay dead…

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Every shroud has a silver lining when old friends get together for a real swinging blast of grave robbery… poisoning, and multiple mayhem!’

So declared the promo poster for American International PicturesThe Comedy of Terrors, which famously brought together four great names from the horror hall of fame. In the early-1960s, AIP were riding high with their winning formula of director Roger Corman, star Vincent Price, screenwriter Richard Matheson, composer Les Baxter, et all. Following their full-on Colorscope Gothic horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, AIP added some comic relief in 1962’s Tales of Terror, in a segment called The Black Cat, whose highlight was an improvised wine tasting scene between Price and Lorre.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Because the two spooks gelled so well, director Corman gave Price and Lorre the chance to do it all over again in his 1963 fantasy spoof, The Raven. Out of that was born a gruesome twosome comedy duo that were like an Abbott & Costello for the drive-in generation. Wanting to tap those funny bones again, AIP gave Matheson free reign to conjure up another vehicle for them. The result was The Comedy of Terrors (originally called Graveside Story), which was shot over 15 days, starting 4 September 1963, and released in US cinemas on 22 January 1964.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Comedy and terror are closely allied. My job as an actor is to try and make the unbelievable believable and the despicable delectable’  Vincent Price

As the roguish Waldo Trumbull, Price is at his ‘delicious boozy hammiest’ – according to the New York Herald Tribune – and has a whale of a time making the most of Matheson’s venomous dialogue – in particular his sardonic put-downs on Lorre’s wanted fugitive Felix (who is a terrible coffin-maker, I might add), while their slapstick misadventures evoke Laurel and Hardy – Price even gets to reappropriate their famous catchphrase: ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things again!’

Sadly, this would be the last time that the two pals got to act together, as the 59-year-old Lorre was in poor health during the shoot (his regular stunt double Harvey Parry did all of his action scenes wearing a mask), and died just two months after the film’s release. Fittingly, it was Price who delivered the eulogy.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Interestingly in this film, Price and Lorre reverse the roles they played in Tales of Terror, and again there’s Joyce Jameson playing a buxom mistreated wife with a drunk for a hubby. As Amaryllis, an unfulfilled opera star with the ‘vocal emissions of a laryngitic cow’, Jameson hits a real high with her ‘off-key’ singing during a funeral service, while her verbal sparring with Price is eminently quotable. David Del Valle’s audio commentary in the Arrow release is dedicated to Jameson, a great friend to the film historian who tragically took her life in 1987, aged 59.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Veterans Rathbone and Karloff are also game for a laugh in this Arsenic and Old Lace-styled affair (and shares a similar structure as that classic 1941 play which famously sent up Karloff’s horror screen persona). Rathbone is exceptional as the Shakespearean-spouting cataleptic who refuses to ‘shuffle off his mortal coil’, while he also gets to play up his thespian image and swashbuckling days (the sword play being an homage to 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.)

At 76, and suffering from arthritis, Karloff was not up to playing Mr Black, a role which was originally offered to him. But as the endearingly senile Amos, who somehow manages to avoid the poison that Waldo offers him at every turn, Karloff is only one who keeps the farce from taking full flight.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The downside to Tourneur’s film, however (it was the director’s second-to-last feature before some TV work and then retiring), is that it’s rather stagey and old-fashioned (especially for the 1960s teen crowd that it was aimed at). It remains, however, a firm favourite of mine – a gleefully ghoulish slapstick affair with a classy never-to-be-repeated cast of old Hollywood greats.

Comedy of Terrors caricature

This fine caricature by Jack Manning was available as part of AIP’s original marketing campaign.

DID YOU KNOW?
Richard Matheson scripted a follow-up called Sweethearts and Horrors, that was to feature the fearsome four once again, but it was shelved due to Lorre’s death and the film’s poor box-office takings. The unfilmed screenplay ended up being released in 2009 as part of Matheson’s collected works, entitled Visions Deferred.

THE SCORE
The music is by celebrated composer Les Baxter (who also did the US scores for Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and The Evil Eye in 1963, as well as Corman’s The Raven). The complete mono session which was recorded in November 1963 at Goldwyn Studios was uncovered from the MGM vaults last year and released on a now sold out CD.

 

RhubarbRHUBARB | THE CAT IN THE HOUSE OF UNHOLY HORROR
Cleopatra is played by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated animal stars, Rhubarb (aka Orangey) – a 12-pound marmalade tabby who won two American Humane Association’s PATSY awards for 1951’s Rhubarb and 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (in which he has almost seven minutes of screen time), and who also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). In The Comedy of Terrors, Rhubarb gets an inspired scene in the closing credits.

 

 

Comedy of Terrors Blu-rayTHE ARROW UK BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASE
The Comedy of Terrors is presented its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on Blu-ray). The HD master was made available by MGM via Hollywood Classics, and includes optional English subtitles. The extras include:
• Audio commentary with David Del Valle and Rapid Heart TV’s David DeCocteau
Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes: This is the unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle interview that was previously released on DVD in 2002 as The Sinister Image
Whispering in Distant Chambers: informative 17-min video essay by David Cairns, exploring Tourneur’s work.
Richard Matheson Storyteller – Comedy of Terrors; this featurette on late screenwriter also appears on the Shout! Blu-ray and on the older MGM Midnite Movies DVD.
• Unrestored original US theatrical trailer (this makes the film look more racy and scary than it actually was).
• Collector’s booklet featuring a critical analysis of the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, plus archive stills and posters.
• Artwork by Paul Shipper.

OTHER BLU-RAY RELEASES
Also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory (from October 2014), an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, as part of their Vincent Price Collection II bundle, and includes a Iowa Public Television introduction with Price, but no audio commentary. Blu-ray reviewers have also praised Arrow’s transfer over this one, both for its excellent print and audio transfer. A German Blu-ray was also released in May 2013.

Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales | What’s Inside the Collector’s Booklet?

Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales

If you want a further reason to add Arrow’s Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales limited edition Blu-ray box-set to your collection, then here’s a look inside the collector’s booklet…

House of Usher small

The House is the Monster
Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, who also supplies the commentary on The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), looks back at why Roger Corman chose to adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of ‘corrupted lives and imminent doom’ for the big screen. This essay was originally published in Arrow’s booklet accompanying their stand-alone Blu-ray release (read my review here).

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The Waiting Pit of Hell
Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby waxes lyrical over The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Corman’s second Poe adaptation, paying particular attention to star Vincent Price’s barnstorming performance. This essay also appeared in Arrow’s booklet that went out with the stand-alone Blu-ray release (reviewed here).

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Three Down, Five to Go
A Natural History of Ghosts author Roger Clarke traces the history of Tales of Terror (1962), the third Corman/Poe film in which star Vincent Price gives a trio of ‘lip-smacking turns’: as a Byronic necrophiliac (Morella); an adulterous wine connoisseur (The Black Cat); and a man suspended in a mesmeric trance (in The Case of Mr Valdemar).
• The title of this article includes Corman’s The Premature Burial, which starred Ray Milland instead of Price, in the series. As such, it should have been called Four Down, Five to Go, as that film went out three months before Tales of Terror. 1964’s Masque of the Red Death is not included in this release as it’s owned by StudioCanal (but that’s another story).
• Best bit of trivia: Voice-over artist Lennie Weinrib, who plays a policeman in the Black Cat segment, was the original voice of Scrappy-Doo in 1979 (still hate that character), and also voiced HR Pufnstuf (one of my favourites).

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Comedy and Karloff
BFI National Archive curator Vic Pratt reveals how Roger Corman’s ‘Mad Magazine parody of a Corman horror’, The Raven (1963) was a showcase for veteran star Boris Karloff’s skill and versatility as an actor, and introduced the old-timer to a new generation, the college crowd.

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Strange Echoes and Fevered Reptitions
Birbeck College professor Roger Luckhurst traces the history of Corman’s fifth Poe adaptation, the underrated The Haunted Palace (1963), which was actually based on the 1927 HP Lovecraft novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

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The Last of the Corman-Poes: Excavating The Tomb of Ligeia
Julian Upton provides a witty and incisive essay on the making of The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Corman’s lush final Poe entry, that gave the director the best reviews of his entire career and remains the finest interpretation of a Poe tale on the big screen.

Vincent Price: His Movies, His Plays, His Life
An excerpt from the 1978 biography that was ghost written for the legendary actor. This made me want to dig my copy out again.

Better to be On the Set than in the Office
Film historian David Del Valle interviews Roger Corman about his Poe screen adaptations. This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in Films & Filming in November 1984. For those not familiar with Corman’s cycle, this is an informative inclusion.

The Black Cat/The Trick
Director Rob Green (The Bunker) discusses the making of his two 1990s shorts. Having never heard of the director before, I would have preferred the inclusion of Curtis Harrington’s first and final shorts (both adaptations of Poe’s Usher story) as that ‘cult’ director had a direct connection to Corman.

The Dell Comic Tie-Ins
Included are full reproductions of the Dell Comic adaptations of Tales of Terror (originally published in February 1963), The Raven (1963) and Tomb of Ligeia (1965). This is real treat (and something I will be elaborating on in an article for a book to be published in 2015).

 

Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales | Arrow unwrap their Blu-ray box-set

Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales

Christmas has come early for Vincent Price fans (like myself) and aficionados of Roger Corman’s 1960s-lensed films inspired by the feverish imaginings of Edgar Allan Poe, as Arrow Films unwrap their Six Gothic Tales Blu-ray box-set (due out on 8 December).

Vincent Price in Six Gothic TalesIncluded in the box-set is 1960’s The Fall of the House of Usher and 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum (both released separately earlier this year); 1962’s Tales of Terror (which adapts Poe’s Morella, The Black Cat and The Facts in the Case of Mr Valdemar); 1963’s The Raven (a comic take on Poe’s poem co-starring Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre); 1964’s The Haunted Palace (the first screen adaptation of a HP Lovecraft story); and the necromantic masterpiece The Tomb of Ligeia, which ended the Poe/Price/Corman cycle in 1965.

This limited edition run of just 2000 copies features all six features in high definition Blu-ray (based on the MGM HD masters, with additional restoration overseen by Arrow), with original uncompressed mono PCM audio and optional English subtitles. The special features are pretty impressive (click here for the full list) and there’s a  hardback collector’s book which features full repros of three comic tie-ins as well as some insightful essays on the films.

While there are no plans for any Steelbook releases for these titles, unlike The House of Usher and The Pit & the Pendulum, Arrow will be releasing The Haunted Palace and The Tomb of Ligeia as standalone Blu-ray releases on 23 February 2015, featuring some wicked cover designs; while Jacques Tourneur’s 1963 spoof The Comedy of Terrors (one of my favourites) will be out on 16 February. The Raven will also be released in 2015, but no date has been set, and the same goes for Tales of the Terror.

And if you are wondering why Masque of the Red Death isn’t included in this box-set – ask StudioCanal. They own the print and denied Arrow’s request to sublicence it for this release. Silly them! Don’t they know there are some serious completists out there (me included).

I’ll be posting reviews of the box-set and its contents shortly, so watch this space!

Amazon Order Link Here £61.25
Arrow Video Order Link Here £69.99
Zavvi Order Link Here £59.99

Time Express (1979) | A look back at the US mini-series that was Fantasy Island on wheels!

Time Express (1979)

The 1979 CBS four-part mini-series, Time Express, was broadcast from 26 April to 17 May in the US, from 27 November to 18 December in the UK, and in July and August 1980 in Australia (the same time that Vincent Price toured the country with his one-man show, Diversions & Delights).

The Time Express was like a modern ghost train, filled with 100 dead souls reincarnated to operate the service after their own train, The New Guinea Flyer, crashed into a river in 1886. Like eccentric millionaire John Beresford Tipton on The Millionaire (CBS, 1955-1960), who chose people at random to receive a million tax-free dollars, there was also a mysterious benefactor on board the Time Express. This unseen Head of the Line would choose people who have the greatest need to relive a particular moment from their past. The passengers, once back in the past, see that people will change, as well as themselves, making them all better people. Based at the Los Angeles Union Station, the Time Express departed from Gate Y Track 13. On board, host and hostess Jason and Margaret Winters supervised each passenger’s trip as they moved through the misty corridors of time.

Time Express (1979)

THE CAST
Vincent Price as Jason Winters
Coral Browne as Margaret Winters
James Reynold as the Conductor, Robert Jefferson Walker
William Edward Phipps as the Engineer, Patrick Callahan
Woodrow Parfey as the Ticket Clerk

CREDITS
Executive Producers: Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Producer: Leonard Kaufman
Created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Written by Steven Cander, Richard Boell, Pat Fielder
Director: Michael Caffey
Music: Richard Hazard
Casting: Tom Stockingfish
Make-Up: Fred Williams
Set Director: Ed Bauer

Time Express (1979)

REVIEW
This train runs in reverse. Like a blend of Fantasy Island and Supertrain is Time Express. Passengers on the Time Express get the chance to go back and change one incident in their past. The wish becomes reality for the lucky few that receive ticket invitations to ride the Time Express as it travels through another dimension. From the moment they arrive at the station, an otherworldly crew puts passengers at their ease. A droll crew reassures the skeptics, while the debonair champagne-sipping host and hostess answer questions and lend their moral support. As the train moves backwards into their past, the travellers have the opportunity to learn more, try harder and make up for past errors. (Peter Fuller, The West Australian, 1980)

GARBAGE MAN/DOCTOR’S WIFE
Telecast: 26 April 1979 (US)
James McArthur as Dr Mark Tolen
Jerry Stiller as Edward Chernoff
Pamela Toll as Olivia Tolen
John de Lancie as John Clayton
Anne Meare as Gloria
Writer: Gerald Sanford
Director: Arnold Laven
A man (Jerry Stiller) goes back to 1969 Cleveland to return $2 million he found; and a physician (James MacArthur) hopes to find his wife’s brother who is needed for a life-saving transplant.

THE COPY-WRITER/THE FIGURE SKATER
Telecast: 3 May 1979 (US)/Screened last in Australia
Richard Masur as Sam Loring
Lyle Waggoner as David Blaine
Lee Meriwether as Vanessa
Francois-Marie Bernard as Paul Venard
Terri Nunn as Jill Martin
Morgan Fairchild as Michelle Bradford Fleming
Writer: Stephen Kandel, Richard Bluebell, Pat Fielder
Director: Michael Caffey
A copywriter (Richard Masur) and a figure skater (Terri Nunn) get second chances at romances that failed because of broken rendezvous (in Paris, 1978 and on St Valentine’s Day in Montreal, 1977).

RODEO/COP
Telecast: 10 May 1979 (US)
John Beck as Roy Culper
Marcia Strassman as Sara Mason
Robert Hooks as John Slocum
Vic Tayback as Charlie Enright
Anne-Marie Martin
Writer: A Hayes
Director: Alan J Levy
A rodeo rider in Montana returns to the fateful day in May 1977 when he was thrown from a horse; and an LA cop goes back to June 1973 to the scene where he was shot by a suspect.

THE BOXER/DEATH
Telecast: 17 May 1979 (US)/Screened first in Australia
Steve Kanaly as Michael Bennett
Paul Sylvan as Tony Marcello
Jaime Lyn Bauer as Elizabeth Stone
Linda Scruggs Bogart as Lisa Marcello
Writer: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
Director: Alan J Levy
A boxer (Paul Sylvan) revisits the championship fight that he threw in New York in May 1969; and a man (Steve Kanaly) in San Francisco returns to July 1976 when his girlfriend was killed in a plane crash.

And so, the Time Express swishes off into TV heaven…

The Witchfinder General will hang, burn and mutilate you if you don’t tune into BBC2 tonight!

UK viewers can catch a late-night screening of director Michael Reeves’ cult 1968 horror, Witchfinder General on BBC2 (and in HD) this Halloween night at 12.05am.

Set during the English Civil War as the Royalists battle Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads for control, this grim and gory revenge thriller stars Vincent Price in his most malevolent role as self-appointed witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, who tours the land offering his services as a persecutor of heretics, aided by his sadistic accomplice John Stearne (Robert Russell). But he meets his match in Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) when he violates the young calvaryman’s betrothed Sara (Hilary Dwyer)…

In honour of the cult classic’s Halloween screening, here’s a gallery of images that I’ve found of some artists renditions of Price as Matthew Hopkins, as well as lobby cards and a trailer for the film.

http://www.pinterest.com/kultguy/vincent-price-as-the-witchfinder-general-matthew-h/
http://monsters4ever.com/
http://www.pinterest.com/kultguy/vincent-price-as-the-witchfinder-general-matthew-h/
http://www.pinterest.com/kultguy/vincent-price-as-the-witchfinder-general-matthew-h/

His Kind of Woman (1951) | Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and Vincent Price serve up a film noir like no other

His Kind of Woman (1951)

THIS PLACE IS DANGEROUS. THE TIME RIGHT DEADLY. THE DRINKS ARE ON ME!
Professional gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) gets embroiled in an elaborate scheme to get deported gangland boss Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) back into the US. After receiving an offer of $50,000 from a mysterious benefactor to head to an exclusive resort south of the border, Milner encounters nightclub singer Lenore Brent (Jane Russell) and her narcissist Hollywood actor lover Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). But as he settles into the rich playground of the Morro’s Lodge and starts falling for Lenore, Milner discovers he is being used as a patsy. With his life is placed in danger, Milner gets an unlikely rescuer – ham actor Cardigan…

His Kind of Woman (1951)

WELL, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PICTURE?
When it comes to film noir, RKO’s His Kind of Woman (which had its US premiere on August 29 1951) is definitely one of a kind. While the first third of this Howard Hughes-produced movie sticks closely to classic noir tropes, complete with archetypal noir characterisation, dialogue and atmospheric cinematography, the film becomes increasingly comedic as it veers between satire, a battle of the sexes comedy and hard-boiled thriller. There’s even some slapstick thrown amongst the action, courtesy of the mock-heroics of Vincent Price’s flamboyant Cardigan (the scene where he sinks a boat load of local Mexican volunteers being one of film’s comic highlights). But it’s this crazy mixed-up brew that makes the film stand out from more faithful, now long forgotten, noirs of the era.

His Kind of Woman (1951)

The film was originally shot under the title Smiler With a Gun in May 1950 under the direction of John Farrow. But on viewing the rushes, Hughes brought in Richard Fleischer to add in some new scenes, many featuring Vincent Price’s Cardigan (Hughes favourite character), and to re-shoot all of the Ferraro scenes with Raymond Burr taking over the role from Lee Van Cleef. The end result was a coup for Price, who ends up getting almost as much screen time as Mitchum, while also showing off his innate comic skills. There’s also a hint of the campy persona he’d go on to become known for. Interestingly, he also gets to quote Shakespeare, something he’d do on a much grander scale in his 1973 magnum opus, Theatre of Blood.

His Kind of Woman (1951)

The films ‘stars’, however, fared less well than Price. As Milner, the laconic anti-hero loner, Mitchum is typical noir and certainly plays up to his hard man image, but his scenes alongside Russell’s heart of gold chanteuse lack the frisson that Louella Parsons called ‘the hottest combination to ever hit the screen’. And apart from some clever quips, singing two songs (excellently, I might add) and showing off her ample assets (again most excellently), Russell is practically left in the closet (Cardigan locks her up during the film’s crucial scenes). And speaking of closets, what’s with Burr’s frightening Ferraro? That look of suppressed ecstasy on his face as a sweaty, shirtless Milner is whipped is a very ‘telling’ sight, and makes you wonder if he wants a lot more from Milner than just his face (which is the reason, we learn in the climax, why he engaged Milner in the first place).

His Kind of Woman (1951)

WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID
‘Both Mitchum and Russell score strongly. Russell’s full charms are fetchingly displayed in smart costumes that offer the minimum of protection’ Variety, 1951

‘…the best part of the picture, as far as we are concerned is Vincent Price. He is deliciously funny…’ Los Angeles Daily News, 1951

His Kind of Woman was released on DVD in the UK in 2011 from Odeon Entertainment, as part of the Hollywood Studio Collection, featuring an unrestored print in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital mono audio. Region Free. You can purchase a copy here from Play.com

DID YOU KNOW?
Clips from His Kind of Woman featuring Vincent Price were used in A Time For Hyacinths, an episode of the popular US TV series Mod Squad, and played a crucial role in the story which guest starred Price as a Hollywood film star who stages his death after witnessing a murder.

The Monster Club (1981) | Vincent Price has a very special invitation for you… on Blu-ray

The Monster Club Blu-ray UK

Three stories to shock you! Chill you! Thrill you! And make you laugh
From Amicus, the studio that dripped blood in the 1960s and 1970s with a slate of uniquely British horror fare, comes 1980’s The Monster Club – now in HD.

Taking its cues from Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes’s 1975 short story collection (which is excellent btw), this horror-comedy anthology found veteran actor Vincent Price (playing a vampire for the first and only time in his film career) and an ailing John Carradine (paying a fictionalised Chetwynd-Hayes) musing over three tales of terror while enjoying the dubious delights of a naff member’s club for supernatural creatures. But it bombed! Author Chetwynd-Hayes was struck dumb by how badly his source material was rewritten, while the great Roy Ward Baker (who’d been pulled out of retirement) directed without his usual flair. It was his final feature film, and also that of Amicus supremo, Milton Subotsky.

The Monster Club (1981)

With little to no fanfare in 1981, The Monster Club ended up on home video, where it took on a bit of a cult following. Looking at it again however the Shadmock and Humgoo stories are actually quite effective, but the club scenes (featuring the worst masks ever) and the comedic vampire story are still pants. Vincent’s great though – especially his impassioned soliloquy in the film’s climax for allowing humans into the club because they have proven time again to be the ultimate monsters.

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Network Distributing‘s UK Blu-ray restoration release comes from ITV Global and is a sparkly fresh delight (it also shows up just how bad those masks are). The special features includes the film with isolated music score – where you get to hear all of the songs featured (Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward having breakfast while listening to a punk vampire song on the radio is hilarious), plus Douglas Gamley’s lyrical instrumental music and Alan Hawkshaw’s stirring synth score; two theatrical trailers (one textless); textless film elements, comprising the opening scene of the bookshop without sound, and the John Bolton/Dez Skinn colour promo poster (see below); promo, featuring the best bits on Blu-ray accompanied by The Viewers’ theme tune; and an image gallery, featuring UK and Spanish lobby cards, as well as lots of pictures you may not have seen before – all courtesy of Stephen Jones.

The Monster Club Promo John Bolton Dez Skinn

What is missing are the extras you get on the US Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing (October 2013), which included George Reis’ detailed production history liner notes, and two interviews with Vincent Price conducted by film historian David Del Valle (I was looking forward to those). But considering I’ve only ever had the film on DVD in French before – it came with an issue of Mad Movies – I’m not complaining.

Check out Vincent’s friendly vamp Erasmus discussing the rules of monsterdom in this clip:

10 reasons why The Last Man on Earth still thrills 50 years on

The Last Man on Earth (1964)‘Another day to live through… Is that all it has been since I inherited the world? Three years? Seems like a hundred million’

While the US got to see The Last Man on Earth first back in 1964, having premiered on 7 May 1964 (as double bill with Circus of Horrors), it wasn’t until 19 August that it was released in Italy, where it was filmed, under the title L’ultimo uomo della terra. Folks in the UK, however, had to wait even longer, as the film didn’t come out until December 1966. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, here’s 10 reasons why one of the most underrated sci-fi’s of the 1960s is worth a revisit.

1) It was written by the legendary author Richard Matheson
The film is based on the American writer’s first novel, I Am Legend, for which he got a $3000 advance from Gold Medal Books. Published in 1954, its paranoid post-apocalyptic scenario struck a chord with a Middle America in the grips of McCarthyism. The first modern vampire novel and this first film version also proved a huge influence on George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It was later filmed as The Omega Man with Charlton Heston in 1971 and as I Am Legend starring Will Smith in 2007.

Last Man on Earth (1964)

2) It could have been a Hammer film called The Night Creatures
Following the success The Quatermass Experiment (aka The Creeping Unknown) in 1955, Hammer Films paid Matheson $10,000 to adapt his novel for the British studio, with Val Guest lined up to direct. However, the British censors turned the script down fearing it would be too graphic. Hammer, however, kept the title rights and later used it for their 1962 period adventure Captain Clegg.

Last Man on Earth (1964)

3) B-movie producer Robert L Lippert brought it to the screen
Lippert wanted to film Matheson’s script in 1959 under the title Naked Terror. But ended up securing a co-production deal with Produzioni La Regina in Rome for parent company 20th Century Fox who retitled it The Last Man on Earth. Like Hammer, Lippert ended up using his title for a 1961 documentary about Zulu tribal practices, narrated by… Vincent Price. Matheson, however, was upset by the rewrites and ended up taking his name off the credits and using a psedonym, Swanson. Lippert was also responsible for Hammer’s 1954 noir thriller House Across the Lake (check out my review here).

Last Man on Earth (1964)

4) It gave Vincent Price a long holiday in Rome
At the end of his first contract with AIP (which had preventing him from undertaking any other horror roles), Price scored a three-picture back-to-back deal in Italy in 1961. So, while filming the swashbuckling pirate adventure Rage of the Buccaneers and the sword and sandals intrigue Queen of the Nile, he and wife Mary got a long stay in one of their favourite cities ‘digging around’ the ruins and art troves. The Last Man on Earth was filmed in January 1963 (according to Lucy Chase Williams in The Complete Films of Vincent Price).

Last Man on Earth (1964)

5) Price gives one of his most underrated performances
As the soiled suited 50-year-old scientist Robert Morgan, Price might be light years away from the Matheson’s 30-something everyman factory worker hero (Robert Neville) in the novel, but he lends his shabby sophisticate a subtle sense of restrained dignity that emphasizes Morgan’s displacement in the film’s zombie vampire infested wasteland.

Last Man on Earth (1964)

6) It was shot in the dead of winter
The film’s eerie post-apocalyptic look was achieved by the film’s cinematographer Franco Delli Colli shooting in the early hours and Vincent Price hated it. ‘I never was so cold in my life as I was in that picture. I had a driver, and I used to tip him a big sum to keep the car running so I could change my clothes in the backseat’, recalled the actor at the 1990 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors.

Last Man on Earth (1964)

7) It was filmed at the legendary Titanus Studios
The film is supposed to be set in Los Angeles, but the landscape is unmistakably the outskirts of Rome. That’s because it was shot entirely on location and at the Titanus Studios. The 100-year-old family run studio established by Gustavo Lombardo is as much a part of world cinema history as the famed Cinecittà, and has been home to peplum and classics like Visconti’s The Leopard. Today it serves as a television production facility and was recently honoured at the Locarno Film Festival. There’s even a museum dedicated the studio in Torino (check it out here).

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

8) Vincent Price visits the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the EUR district of Rome
An icon of Fascist architecture, the Square Colosseum, as its known, was constructed in 1935 by Mussolini for his planned 1942 world exhibition, and was intended as a large scale image of how urban Italy might have looked had his fascist regime not fallen. The iconic building can also be seen in films like Federico Fellini’s Boccaccio 70 episode, Peter Greenaway’s Belly of an Architect, and the 2005 sci-fi Equilibrium. From 2015, it will serve as the new HQ for the fashion label Fendi.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

9) The Paul Sawtell soundtrack is pretty cool, too!
The film is highly praised for its moody soundtrack, which is quite collectable now, and is by Paul Sawtell, who did heaps of 1950s sci-fi movies, including the two Fly movies starring Vincent Price, as well as the theme tune to TV’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which Vinnie once guest starred. Order it out (here).

Last Man on Earth (1964)

10) It’s in the public domain…
There are lots of bad prints streaming on YouTube and cropping up in many a DVD collection, but I’ve found the best looking one so far. There’s even a colourised version available (but I prefer the original black and white). So? What are you waiting for?

Last Man on Earth (1964)

Monster Mag | The long-lost second issue of the cult British film magazine is back in print!

Monster Mag Issue 2 Reprint

Deemed unsuitable to an all-age market due its provocative images, the entire English language print run of the British film magazine Monster Mag was destroyed by HM Customs & Excise back in 1973, which resulted in the German and French editions becoming highly sought after. Now, 41 years later, series creator Roger Noel Cook and relaunch editor Dez Skinn have produced an authentic limited edition full-size digitally-remastered reproduction of what must be the word’s rarest horror film magazine.

You can purchase them now (while they last)
by cheque or postal order by post,
payable to Quality, to:
QUALITY – MONSTER MAG #2
345 DITCHLING ROAD
BRIGHTON BN1 6JJ
ENGLAND

UK: £9.95 each + £1.25 postage (add 25p for each additional copy).
International, click here: MM#2

Monster Mag Issue 10

MONSTER MAG | OPEN IT OUT IF YOU DARE!
Published between 1974 and 1976, the British horror magazine Monster Mag was unlike anything else being produced in the era – it folded out into a large pin-up poster, featuring a suitably salacious image from a horror film (usually Hammer) or a horror star (like Vincent Price). It was made by Top Sellers and edited by husband and wife team Roger and Jan Cook.

But the outrageous images got the magazine into trouble with the second issue. As Monster Mag was published overseas, it had to be approved before getting back into Britain. Issue one escaped Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise, but the second issue didn’t (hopefully not on account of the great pic of Vincent Price as Dr Phibes on its cover, which ended up as a poster in Issue 10). The entire run got seized and destroyed, making the English version the most covetable horror zine ever (and makes its digital reprint worth hunting out – especially for those wanting to complete their collection).

After that early hiccup, the magazine continued until issue 14, when it was finally cancelled. During its run, the magazine size changed constantly, which was very confusing for collectors (I could never get my head around the numbering system). The early issues turned into a poster that was ‘Over 2 feet by 3 feet’, according to the taglines, before it went down to A4 a couple of times, then bounced back to a larger size.

Monster Mag Double X Special

Three further issues (known as Volume Two) were produced in 1976 by Dez Skinn (prior to House of Hammer being launched, another favourite of mine). These had a much more professional look, and had two images for the main poster image. But the much-promised Double X Special issue wasn’t produced – until now. Dez Skinn never finished that issue but, hot on the heels of the Issue 2 reprint, he has returned to ‘the beige folder that he used to collect pics’ for the XX issue and has come up with a brand-new issue that’s very much like the Monster Mags circa 1976, and in the original larger format.

For anyone growing up in 1970s Britain – and Australia (like me) – there was a real thrill in purchasing a copy of Monster Mag. There was something naughty and forbidden about them – the fact they were next to the girlie mags in my newsagents might have something to do with that. There was also something tantalising about those blood-splattered images and overly hyped articles (badly laid out for the most part), that made the films seem way gorier – and sexier – than they ought to have been (Rocky Horror was one of them). Monster Mag was indeed a unique piece of marketing that certainly gave me a thrill in my impressionable youth. The new digital reprint of Issue 2 and the all-new XX issue have only resurrected those feelings. Now, I want to find the one I have hunted forever for – Issue 10, with the poster of Vinnie as Dr Phibes. Do you have a spare? Maybe Dez can reprint this one as well (hint! hint!).

Read more about Dez Skinn’s memories of Monster Mag here:
http://dezskinn.com/warner-williams/#Magic

Check out the Facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/MonstermagPostermag

Monster-Mag-montage

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