Vincent Price – The Man We Loved to Fear

“Go ahead, smile, it’s funny.”

For a generation of moviegoers, Vincent Price will always be known as the melancholy, ambitious Inventor of the title character in Edward Scissorhands (1990). But before Price imprinted that final elegiac performance upon the minds of millions, he spent over half a century spooking, bewitching, dazzling, and bedeviling audiences worldwide. Price had a singular talent for embodying a staggering array of characters that run the gamut from mice to madmen.

Even when Price played sinister examples of sheer evil, he offered a glimmer of charm; a wry spark of joy in the face of horror. Consider his underrated turn in the title role of the Witchfinder General (1968) or his frantic rendering of The Mad Magician (1954) who screams “Go on, laugh! Laugh! Laugh!” as he thrusts his nemesis’ face into a whirling buzzsaw. Price had an uncanny ability to utilize his cold blue eyes as soul windows as he shifted effortlessly, within an instant, from warm to icy to insane. He could even make this shift vocally, as he did in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) or The Great Mouse Detective (1986), arguably the most definitive villain he ever portrayed.

But unlike the vast majority of ham-handed over-actors, Price knew when to unleash and when to tamp down. Consider the measured manner in which he wields a shaken champaign bottle as a weapon against his wife in House on Haunted Hill (1959), taunting, “Of all my wives, you’re the least agreeable.” Behold his uncommon composure in The Fly (1958) or Last Man on Earth (1964), a one-man chamber piece punctuated with slow-moving vampires that, at one point, Price fights off six at a time with his bare hands. Every performance of Price’s presents a case study in how to be in control of being out of control. No better example exists than the frenzied internal combustion he displays as he imagines the walls are crushing him in The Tingler (1959), a gimmicky but amusing 50s potboiler.

Has there ever been a better match for the Edgar Allen Poe antihero? Price’s tireless one-two-four punch in Roger Corman’s frugal but effective tetralogy House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Raven (1963), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). Price’s gift for portraying the complexity of inner torment intermingled with duality and longing is still unmatched. His mask of urbanity crumbled shockingly, inevitably, just as quickly as it does in the startling climax of The House of Wax (1953).

For the Vincent Price completest, look no further than his bravura performance in Theatre of Blood (1973) — a role that any actor would eagerly devour their own hat to play. Price’s disturbed actor embodies each of Shakespeare’s most celebrated leading men as he distributes justice to every theatre critic who dared to insult him by murdering them in theatrically over-the-top Bardian ways. This role, perhaps more than any other, allowed Price to relish in his idiosyncratic ability to thrill, chill, and captivate.

Vincent Price starred in a number of films that are now public domain movies. Among these are The Last Man On Earth, The Bat, and House on Haunted Hill. The RetroFilm Vault specializes in serving the broadcast television and media community with broadcast quality public domain movie programming for classic films such as these. In addition, we have movie trailers for stock footage use of almost all Vincent Price movies.

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