Vincent Price – Volume 2
“House of Wax” (1953)
The remake of 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” which starred Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. The updated version was directed by Andre de Toth and presented in 3D. My review will unfortunately be in 2D. Vincent Price plays Professor Henry Jarrod, a quite brilliant sculptor and co-owner of a wax museum. The museum is struggling financially because Jarrod refuses to cater the morbidly curious. He features no chamber of horrors, but his competitors do. His business partner, Matthew Burke, played by Roy Roberts, is not a patient man and burns their wax museum down for the insurance money. Jarrod is inside when it happens and is presumed dead. All of Jarrod’s wax figures are destroyed, including his Marie Antoinette, his pride and joy. Matthew feigns grief over the death of Jarrod. On the day he receives the insurance money, Matthew is murdered by a man cloaked in black, who limps and has a deformed face. The man in black makes it look like a suicide by hanging Matthew in an elevator shaft. Matthew deserved his fate, but this man in black also murdered his ditzy fiancé, Cathy Gray, played by Carolyn Jones. Her roommate, Sue Allen, played by Phyllis Kirk, witnesses the crime. A chase ensues and Sue seeks haven in the home of Scott Andrews, played by Paul Picerni. The body of Cathy is then stolen from the morgue, by not one, but three men cloaked in all black. It is revealed that Professor Henry Jarrod is still alive, but confined to a wheelchair. Due to the burns his hands suffered in the fire, he is no longer capable of fine work. He must rely on his two protégés. One is named Igor. This actor is billed as Charles Buchinsky, but it’s really Charles “Death Wish” Bronson. Jarrod is seeking financially backing for a new wax museum from Sidney Wallace, played by Paul Cavanaugh. This time, Jarrod will give the public what it wants. The macabre. A chamber of horrors. His new method for creating wax figures is to douse plaster bodies with boiling hot wax. Or, at least he claims that the bodies are made of plaster. After a brief intermission, Sue visits the new wax museum and recognizes Cathy in the face of the Joan of Arc figure. Jarrod claims to have modeled the figure after photographs of Cathy that appeared in the newspapers following her murder. Jarrod also becomes entranced with Sue since she is reminiscent of his Marie Antoinette figure. The deformed man in black begins to stalk Sue and she becomes suspicious of Jarrod. She informs the police, but they think little of her claims at first. They make further inquiries and Jarrod’s other assistant, Leon Avery, who is an alcoholic, snitches, admitting to the police that Jarrod has been covering dead bodies in wax. Sue returns to the museum after hours and discovers that the Joan of Arc really is Cathy. She is confronted by Jarrod and Igor. She tries to defend herself and shatters the wax face of Jarrod, exposing him as the deformed murderer. The most famous scene in both the original and the remake. Jarrod is intent on turning Sue into Marie Antoinette, covering her with boiling hot wax while she is still alive. Scott tries to save her, but Igor sticks head in a guillotine. The authorities arrive and rescue Scott first. Then, they have a confrontation with Jarrod, who has inexplicable strength, fighting off many policemen before he gets thrown into the vat of boiling hot wax. Presumably, meeting his demise. Sue is saved and poor Igor is incarcerated. Even with the 3D gimmick, I find this to be a sophisticated horror flick. I will not even acknowledge the 2005 “House of Wax” with Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton as a genuine remake. We went from Fay Wray to Paris Hilton? Shame on you, Hollywood.
“The Tingler” (1959)
Vincent Price is reunited with William Castle, producer and director of “The House on Haunted Hill.” William Castle also introduces this film, warning the audience that they will literally have to scream for their lives. Vincent Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin, a pathologist with a peculiar hypothesis. That a parasite attached to the human spinal cord feeds on fear, but he is unable to substantiate this theory. In a roundabout way, Warren becomes acquainted with the sister of an executed convict he performed an autopsy on, Mrs. Higgins, played by Judith Evelyn. A deaf-mute, who fainted at the sight of blood since she cannot relieve her tensions by vocalizing. Warren is married to Isabel, played by Patricia Cutts. Isabel is unremorsefully unfaithful, a recurring theme in these Vincent Price / William Castle collaborations. She also will not permit her younger sister, Lucy, played by Pamela Lincoln, to wed Warren’s helper, David, played by Darryl Hickman. Warren decides to perform an experiment in fear on Isabel by shooting her with a blank, then taking an x-ray, capturing an image of this parasite, which he dubs “The Tingler.” Warren experiments on himself next, shooting himself up with panic educing drugs. He learns that the Tingler can be held at bay with high pitched screams. The ideal candidate for all further testing would be Mrs. Higgins because she is incapable of screaming and thusly defenseless against the Tingler. Warren treats Mrs. Higgins for insomnia, but she wakes up and finds that her apartment has now become a spook house. The implication being that Warren drugged her and she is hallucinating. I believe the monster hand from “The House on Haunted Hill” even makes a cameo. Though a black and white flick, red blood poured from faucet in the bathroom sink and the tub is filled with blood. A cool and surreal moment. Mrs. Higgins is literally scared to death. Her husband Ollie, played by Phillip Coolidge, brings her dead body to Warren for examination. Warren surgically removes her Tingler, which looks like a giant centipede. Gross. Isabel sees this as her opportunity to rid herself of Warren. She drugs him and she leaves the Tingler with his unconscious body. It begins to strangle him. Luckily, Lucy comes home and screams, which temporally subdues the creature. Warren and David try, but the Tingler seems to be indestructible. Warren decides that the best course of action is returning the Tingler to Mrs. Higgin’s corpse, where hopefully it will become microscopic again. A hitch in that plan is that Ollie never reported his wife’s death to the authorities. Warren realizes that Ollie killed his wife. Other reviews of “The Tingler” omit this plot point, which has given some the false impression that Warren killed Mrs. Higgins. Yes, you are suppose to be suspicious of him at first, but he really was just trying to treat her insomnia. The Tingler then becomes loose in the movie theater owned by Ollie. This was the audience participation gimmick where you as a viewer are suppose to scream to help combat the creature. The Tingler gets captured in the projectionist’s booth. Warren will inform the authorities that Ollie is a murderer, but Mrs. Higgins rises, apparently the Tingler is her puppeteer, and Ollie is scared to death. Maybe this film doesn’t stand the test of time as well other Vincent Price cinematic opuses, but it was a hoot for my father’s generation.
“Tower of London” (1962)
Directed by Roger Corman and set in 1483. Vincent Price appeared sans his trademark mustache. A remake of the 1939 film of the same name, chronicling Richard III and his treachery, stealing the throne of England following the death of his brother, Edward IV. Richard murders his brother Clarence, literally stabbing him in the back with a dagger adorned with the family crest of Queen Elizabeth. Richard justified his deceitful actions by convincing himself that a “man of books” like Clarence could not rule. The ghost of Clarence appears to Richard and foretells that Richard will die by the hand of someone already dead. The name “Bosworth” is mentioned the second time that Richard sees the apparition of Clarence. There are those still loyal to Queen Elizabeth and her two sons, the eldest of which is the heir to the throne, so Richard spreads a rumor that the princes are illegitimate, discrediting their birthright. The original “Game of Thrones.” Richard also tortures their mistress (nanny) to death. The ghost of the mistress soon joins in the torment of Richard, taunting him because he is a hunchback. Richard, in a fit of anger, believes he is strangling the mistress, but he is actually killing his wife, Anne, the only person who had any real love for him. Richard’s villainy knows no bounds as he has his nephews imprisoned and murdered in their sleep. The ghosts of the princes appear and invite Richard to come play with them, and he nearly walks off the edge of the tower in a confused state of mind. Richard’s coronation ceremony goes on without the blessing of the archbishop. Richard is uninterested, but the ghost of Edward is seen in a mirror, laughing at his brother. Richard learns that all his enemies are rallying near the small village of Bosworth. Richard defies the prophecy by sending in his army. It seems like he should have outsmarted the prophecy by trying to coerce his enemies into having the battle on a different field. The bloody conflict ensues at Bosworth. Afterwards, Richard finds himself all alone on the battlefield. He seems to have proved the prophecy wrong, then all his victims appear to him for a final time. He panics and while trying to escape, he falls onto the battleaxe of a fallen soldier. He did die by the hand of someone already dead. Justice. Where they really ghosts or just manifestations of his guilty conscious?
“The Raven” (1963)
A loose adaptation of the immortal poem by Edgar Allen Poe, directed and produced by Roger Corman. I cannot stress how loose of an adaptation it is. It was actually a tongue-in-cheek dark comedy. Vincent Price played Dr. Erasmus Craven, a magician mourning the death of his wife, Lenore. A raven comes tapping at his chamber door. A talkative raven with the distinctive voice of Peter Lorre. This raven is actually a fellow magician, Dr. Adolphus Bedlo. Bedlo lost a duel with a more powerful magician and was hexed to become a raven. Craven concocts an elixir which will turn Bedlo back into a man, then Craven receives warnings from his deceased father. “Beware.” Bedlo intends on settling the score with the magician who bested him, Dr. Scarabus. Scarabus had been a rival of Craven’s father. Also, Bedlo claims to have seen Lenore at Scarabus’ castle. Craven is worried that Scarabus has possessed the spirit of his Lenore. Craven and Bedlo plan on confronting Scarabus, then are attacked by Craven’s servant, who is under a trance and wielding an ax. Craven uses his powers to subdue the servant. They travel to the castle of Scarabus with Estelle Craven, played by Olive Sturgess, and Rexford Bedlo, played by Jack Nicholson. Rexford also becomes possessed while driving their carriage and nearly kills them, driving like an absolute madman. An early onscreen Jack Nicholson mental disturbance. They make it to the castle in one piece and are greeted by Scarabus, played by Boris Karloff. How epic is this? Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson in the same scene. Three generations of legends. Scarabus comes across as a quite pleasant individual. Still, Bedlo challenges Scarabus to a rematch and apparently gets killed with a bolt of lightning. Scarabus invites the others to spend the night since there is a violent storm raging outside. Craven sees Lenore, played by Hazel Court, but she is not a ghost. She had faked her death, so she could be with Scarabus. She is only attracted to his wealth and power. Bedlo is also alive. It has all been a plot on the part of Scarabus to steal Craven’s powers. Bedlo has second thoughts when he discovers that Scarabus will use Craven’s daughter Estelle as leverage. Craven is heartbroken when he learns that Lenore left him for his father’s adversary. Bedlo begs Scarabus to be turned back into a raven, but only so he can help his friends escape from the dungeon. Craven is freed, so it will be a fair fight. The main event is a duel to the death. Dr. Scarabus vs. Dr. Craven. Boris Karloff vs. Vincent Price. I won’t list all of the tricks they use against one another, just a few. Craven levitates. Scarabus turns into Craven’s departed father and hurls fireballs. Their showdown causes great destruction to the castle. It crumbles and burns around them. A standoff ensues where they project some form of energy at each other. It is Scarabus who falls. The duel is over. Boris Karloff’s reign of terror (I mean that as the sincerest of compliments) is over and Vincent Price is the new master of horror. Lenore comes crawling back to Craven, but is left behind with Scarabus to be crushed by falling debris. Craven, Estelle, Rexford, and Bedlo the raven escape. Since it is a comedy, there is scene that shows that Scarabus and Lenore survived underneath all the rumble. Bedlo assumes that Craven will turn him human again, but Craven decides to have some fun with him and takes away Bedlo’s ability to speak. “Quoth the raven… nevermore.”
*Volume 3 will include…
“The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961)
“The Haunted Palace” (1963)
“The Masque of the Red Death” (1964)
“The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971)
Posted on October 30, 2013, in Horror, Vincent Price and tagged Boris Karloff, Charles Bronson, Jack Nicholson, Peter Lorre, Roger Corman, Vincent Price, William Castle. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.