Friday, May 27, 2011

Theater Of Blood

Of the 3 films that Price considered his great British trilogy, this is by far the funniest.  It is a mad laugh fest from opening to credits.  Produced by Cineman and released 5 April 1973 in the US with United Artists distributing it to theaters, a insane Shakepearean actor, thought long dead, decides it's time for some pay back.  He then proceeds to murder each priggish critic that had denied him a presticious award years back, Phibes style.  Except that he plans his murder based on deaths (or near deaths) in Shakespeare plays.  


Well I had a lot more stuff to say about this but I am having trouble with Google Blog editor.  Maybe later.

Here's The Trailer

Cartoon Interlude

As Price got older and more burdened with illness, he turned, more and more, voice work.  He had always loved doing voice only roles, especially really silly ones.  For one season (1985/86), he got to voice a character completely based on himself:  Vincent VanGhoul.  Along with getting a Scooby series tailored totally around him, he got to work with the likes of Casey Kasem (who a lot people who listened to him on radio's "Top 40" were shocked to find that he had always been the voice of Shaggy), Don Messick--a king amongst cartoon voices and the voice of Scooby.  

To All The Ghouls I've Loved Before is the pilot debut of the series.  Here The Gang is introduced to the strange like of Flim Flam--a pint sized con man, Bogel & Weerd--2 wanna be bad-ass ghost (they're not!) and VanGhoul himself.  

Scooby as a cartoon invention now ranks number one as the most love and lucrative invention of Hanna Barberra.  He surpasses even Fred Flintstone in popularity.  As a matter of trivia, the gang lets out 13 ghosts, and VanGhoul orders them to recapture them, in the end, though, they only got 11.

Price narrates the intro.  Found it on You Tube:

Recipe 2

A Treasury of Great Recipes was first published in 1965 and republished in 1974.  This is really a Tome of a cookbook.  This is no dalliance of a Hollywood elite thinking they can just turn out a cookbook because a. they're famous and b. they follow a special diet  that they think is somehow delicious and of interest to the public (yes, I'm thinking of you Gwyenth!).  This is a serious, useful cookbook for true gourmets.  I actually requires some skill to cook from, but it is a great cookbook to train on.  It is also of huge historical import when it comes to food, as it provides actual menus from some the most famous restaurants around the world.  One thing it is not is pretentious, and it written very well, with easy to follow instructions for even the haute dishes that it presents (like Pressed Duck).  Anyway,  I was a huge fan of Price when I was a kid and had no idea that he was a chef until much later.  This recipe comes from section of the book entitled "Specialties of Our House."


I picked this because it's a cold dish, and we are headed into serious summer here in the South!  I've simplified some of the instructions, because most fish comes filleted and frozen.  Flounder can, of course, be substituted.

6 Soles (or any number of fillets you like)
Dry White Wine (the good stuff)
Salt to taste
Cayenne powder to taste
Unflavored gelatin
Fresh Tarragon

1.  Preheat oven to 35o degrees.  Fillet the soles (if they are not filleted already).  Cut each fillet in half lengthwise.  Roll into tight rolls and secure with wooden toothpicks.  

2.  Well butter a baking pan, place the sole rolls in dish.  Dot each with butter and pour around a tbsp. of cream.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove to a shallow serving plate.

3.  If the fish were whole, make a fish stock out of the scraps, adding butter and about 1 1/2 cups of the wine.  But these days fish stock can be bought, just heat 1 cup and add the butter and wine and reduce (boil hard) for about 5 minutes.  

4.  Dissolve the gelatin in warm water or hot wine.  Let the fish stock cool for about 20 minutes stirring to release heat.  Then stir in cream, salt and cayenne, finally whisk in the dissolved gelatin and strain over the fish.  Completely cool and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is best).  To Serve:  Remove from fridge and decorate with fresh tarragon leaves.

Finished dish looks a bit like this

The Raven

Roger Corman brought several Edgar Allan Poe works to the silver screen in the 1960's.  Most of them starred Vincent Price.  Productions such as House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) are true to the source material and are dramas that are horrifying and bleak, like Poe himself.  The Raven (1963), on the other hand, was conceived as a comedy vehicle for 3 master horror actors (Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre) and one up and coming actor that Corman had discovered, one Jack Nicholson.  Despite it being a comedy and a based on Poe's most famous poem, it works quite well.  It is a truly funny, well acted, well shot film with a very humorous and playful soundtrack to match.

Long before there was Harry Potter, the world had this movie of two rivals, and comically gifted, magicians, one good, one evil, pitted against each other.  Price is the good magician and Karloff is the bad one, Jack Nicholson and, especially, Peter Lorre get caught between the two.  Well actually Lorre's predicament of being turned into a raven by Scarabus' (Karloff) wave of the magical hand, is technically what gets Dr. Craven (Price) drug into the whole matter in the first place.  When Bedlo tells Craven that Dr. Scarabus has the much grieved for Lenore (possibly her spirit??),  his fear of the magician dries up and the laughs begin.

The film roughly takes place in the earliest parts of the 16th century.  (Geez I didn't realize those were such zany times!)  It is filmed in neon rich Pathecolor in the aspect ratio of 2:35:1.  It was released on 25 January 1963.  Apparently having Lorre and Nicholson as a father and son duo began to annoy a very fastidious Boris Karloff (who  was always careful to work strictly from scripts), because they were both fond of ad-libbing, and the ad-libbing only got worse as the shooting progressed.  That didn't stop Karloff from agreeing to star in The Terror (1963) with Nicholson after The Raven wrapped.  But then again, that film was shot in four days and didn't star Lorre....

As to any annoyances that Nicholson had, well he had only one.  He is fond of telling anyone who asks about this film that he has nothing but the highest praise for everyone in the film, except the bird!  "I would look down when the raven flew off my shoulder, and it would be covered in poop...I hated that bird!"

House of Wax (1953)

This is probably my favorite Price boogieman film!  It was also one of the first 3-D films in wide release, year 1953.  It twas Warner Bros. very first 3-D's.  Of course this is a remake of the famously the then lost Michael Curtiz The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).  It was more of a "venture," a bit of an experiment, than it was a conceived as a great horror film.  This was the first time that any major studio released on 3-D film, and it was a roaring success.  Yet under the radar, the film is a really solid horror film with several very notable performances.  Short, but memorable performances are turned in by Caroline Jones (aka Mortisia Adams), Angela Clarke and character actor Frank Lovejoy.  Longer and very solid characters are assayed by:  Phyllis Kirk as Cathy Gray, Paul Pecimi as Scott Andrews and, not to be missed, a youngish Charles Bronson as Igor, who plays the part like Vampira does in Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer know:  mute.  Finally there Nedrick Young as the boozing sculpture artist Leon.  Young was not credited because he had been blacklisted during McCarthy's booze fueled fantasy known as the "Red Scare" in Hollywood.

The soundtrack was penned by David Buttolph.  It is an complex score that swings wildly between the dramatic and sympathetic fully orchestrated moments and the just plain weird almost science fiction sounding strings.  It is what most would consider a classic example of "horror music."  Although, none of that would work, if it didn't also include appropriate dance hall music when it is called for, complete with burlesque choreography.  

A few interesting points of trivia include that the film's trailer was scored by a completely different composer:  Max Steiner.  The director, Andre De Toth was blind in one eye and couldn't see the 3-d effect that he was filming.  And the Guiness Book of World Records states that this was the first 3-D film released in stereoscopic sound (and it still sounds really good today!).

Tower of London (1962) Clip - Vincent Price Video - A Vincent Price Community

Tower of London (1962) Clip - Vincent Price Video - A Vincent Price Community

Tower Of London (1962)

Nothing seemed more appropriate a follow up to the 1939 Tower of London, than Corman's 1962 adaptation of the story.  For some strange reason, when I think of this movie, I always remember it in color, I'm always a bit taken aback by it's lush black and white (I guess I have horror dyslexia, I seem to remember Hitchcock's The Birds  in black and white, it is, of course, in color).  I am aware that it was intended to be shot in color, it was only producer Edward Small that insisted on the black and white.

Of the director's that Price worked with during his long career, no one seemed to understand him as an actor better than Corman.  Although they are known as a duo for bringing American horror/mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe to the big screen, this horror rendition of Shakespeare shows that they could take on just about any subject.

Corman turn this into a ghost story, but it is not done in any kind of schlock or over-the-top fashion.  Corman seems to be taking elements from Hamlet, and weaving them into Richard III fairly adeptly.  Richard not only sees ghosts like Hamlet, but also has his sanity questioned when he is seen to be looking at something that might really not be there:  perhaps he is merely mad in the head?  And he needs Price's acting prowess to pull it off.  Without Price's facial expressions while inhabiting the hunchback Richard of Gloucester, the attempt to make a horror film out of such a violent vision of political ambition would probably fall flat and seem too contrived.  Especially considering that Corman can't keep himself for adding a bit of his favorite plot sauce to the script:  some good old fashioned Devil Worship!

The film was released on the 27 October in the US.  It was produced through the Edward Small Production company under the name Admiral Pictures, though the theatrical distributors were United Artists.  The video and DVD distribution as fallen to MGM, who currently have it available in DVD form as a double feature with another Corman/Price vehicle The Haunted Palace (1963).  As an interesting trivia, the battle scenes are actually stock footage from the original Tower of London.  Also as a matter of "funny interest," the original tagline "Do you have 83 minutes to spend in the Tower of London?"--only problem...the movie is 79 minutes long. 

An aerial view of The Tower, along with the famous Tower Bridge.

A ground view of The Tower

Recipe 1

When Gary Collins' Hour Magazine was still on the air, the show featured a segment where famous people popped by and shared some of their favorite recipes with him.  Vincent Price, well known amongst foodies, as a true gourmet needed little persuading to make an appearance.  And his appearance is notable amongst all the others, that included Lynn Redgrave, Charro, Anne Gillian, Johnny Mathis and Victoria Principal to name just a few, because Price (who Collins called Dr. Death) insisted that his recipe Potted Shrimp be accompanied by REAL Bloody Mary's.

Later Collins published The Hour Magazine Cookbook (1985) and included Price's recipe, along with a photo of them enjoying their midday cocktails.  Collins notes, "Vincent Price said the only way we could really enjoy his Potted Shrimp was to be a little potted ourself--so we sampled his special Bloddy Mary's."

I'm giving the recipe with a few clarifications, and options of my own


1 Stick Butter
1/4 tsp. Mace
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Salt (if the butter is unsalted, and gourmets will insist on it)
2 Cups cooked, shelled and deveined Shrimp (not too large)

1.  Just melt the butter, do not allow it to bubble.  Add the mace, nutmeg and salt (if you are using salted butter, just add a pinch of extra salt, or none at all).  

2.  Place the shrimp in several small molds or bowls, or one large container.  add some the seasoned butter and press down well until the butter seeps through.  Finally top with the rest of the butter.  The butter must cover the shrimp completely.  Refrigerate. Note:  you can save yourself some time by using 2 tins (cans) a tiny salad shrimp.

3.  To serve:  you may serve directly from the container(s), or unmold individual molds onto some shredded lettuce.  Serve with good brown bread, melba toast, and/or good crackers.

My Note:  This dish has English origins.

HERE'S A CLIP OF PRICE AT A ROAST (it's quite funny, yikes)

Tower Of London (1939)

t If Phibes was Price's 100 film, his role in this, Universal's take on Shakespeare's Richard The III, as the Duke of Clarence was only his 3rd film.  Released November 17, 1939 (USA), it stars Basil Rathbone (better known for his Sherlock Holmes) as Richard and Boris Karloff as his mean spirited torturer/executioner/worshiper Mord.  Now, I'm pretty sure that as King. Richard did not have another one name Mord in his service; but this is a Universal production, filmed on Universal's back lot, it was intended to be a horror film, not a real take on Shakespeare, or an attempt to get at the historical facts of the real War of the Roses.  It needed to be a little scary (hence Mord) and a little funny.  Price's performance is quite good.  He twists his voice up into an effeminate slightly British accent, which matches well with the foppish wig and Robin Hood like tights he  dons.

Of course, Price would again star in a remake of this film by Roger Corman in 1962 as Richard of Gloucester himself.  Corman makes very sure that his remake is a solid horror film by having it turn into a ghost story; a homage to the original which is in Corman's mind first and foremost a horror film.  It is worth noting that Universal must have thought this on important production, with real box office prospects, because in came in $80.000 over budget.  That doesn't sound like much now, but this is 1939 we're talking about.  To make matters worse budget wise, the studio heads ordered a whole new score produced for it, after they were "horrified" after screening the film and finding that the soundtrack was all period music.  Only parts of the original made it into the final cut, such as the music during the battle scene.  I really agree with them on this point for once!  Another piece of trivia:  Price confessed that the "wine" that Karloff "drowns" him in was actually Coke--what a sticky affair.

From A Whisper To A Scream

Originally entitle The Offspring upon release in 1987, it was shot under the title From A Whisper To a Scream and was re-entitled so when it was released on video.  This horror anthology was written (in part) and directed by Jeff Burr, who is another one of those latter day "Ed Woods" who grew up watching really, really independent horror films and dreamed of making some himself.  Although this film contains several character actors, such as Cameron Mitchell, Harry Ceasar, western star Clu Gulager and his soon to be late wife Miriam Bird-Nethery, it doesn't stop it from being very "independent" looking.  

Burr apparently was able to convince Price to play the historian that provides the frames for each story, by impressing him with his confidence when he first approached Price about the part.  Price was quite ill at the time with emphysema and was suffering from on-set of Parkinson's, so he felt the part, which is playing almost entirely sitting down, would be good way to get in another performance in a horror film.  His scenes were the last shot.  Apparently, he wasn't so impressed when he finally saw the finished product.  

Filmed in Dalton Georgia, as a stand-in for the fictional "Oldfield Tenn.," it is not nearly as bad as so many of the straight to vid. grade Z movies that are flooded the web these days.  And it has some genuine admirers, after all garnering a 5.7 out of 10 on IMDb is not bad for a film of this sort.  I have a grudging affection for it, simply because it's pretty psychologically twisted.  

Dr. Phibes

A joint production between the US and the UK, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a strong cult classic.  Like Scream and Scream Again it features a mystery of who is serially killing off doctors in very, very strange ways.  Of course, the viewer sees that the killer is Price, but still we don't know why he's doing it.  For the horror fan, it's hard not to love this film.  It has multiple devices, such as the crazy "Dr. Phibes Clockwork Wizards" band, with robots on instruments and Phibes himself on organ.  Or the Hebraic sub-text of the killings, colorfully fetching methods of revenge straight out of the Old Testament.  Or the great British character actor Peter Jeffery assaying the role of Inspector TROUT!  And this is just the tip of the list of the vehicles that the movie uses to convey an otherworldly strangeness, rich with some sort of mad purpose.  Black humor at it's best.

Filmed at the famous Elstree Studios, just outside of London in typical Hammer Horror color.  The principle production company was the American AIP (American International Pictures), but the film is solidly English.  Vincent Price considered it the first in a triology of Brit Horrors that ranked as his favorite UK role (the other two include the Phibes sequel and Theatre of Blood).  It also stars the seductive Virginia North of the Vulnavia (yes, what a name!), the great Welsh character actor Hugh Griffith as the rabbi that explains the necklaces with the Hebrew figures on them, and Joseph Cotton as Dr. Vesalius the principle surgeon that Phibes wants dead.

Originally Peter Cushing was set to play the role of Vesalius, but had to pull out of the production at the last minute due his wife's serious illness, so Cotton was called in from Hollywood at the last minute to fill in.  Apparently, British horror movies filled with loads of dark humor and set hyperbole were not Cotton's "cup of tea" so to speak.  Price said that Cotton was often uncomfortable saying his lines, so he would make funny faces at Cotton to get him into the spirit of role.  

Released on May 18 1971 in the United States, despite it's British theme, it is set in 1925, so designers were allowed to go crazy with Art Deco themes of all sorts, from the furniture, to the sets, even the clothes.  It's worth noting that the "clockworks," Phibes' robots had their own set at Elstree very near where Stanley Kubrick had a set for Alex's flat in A Clockwork Orange, released earlier in 1971.  As another piece of trivia:  as today's is Price's 100th birthday, this was his 100 film.

The Ten Plagues of Egypt:

Death Of The First Born