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Friday, October 11, 2013

THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION Review Part 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes/Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm



This journey began with some Edgar Allan Poe, a B rate movie director, a low budget production company and one genius actor who got into horror at the perfect time. Today we'll be discussing two of Vincent Price's later works and their inclusion in the Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection. Both movies are popular among Price fans though Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm has only really been getting its due in recent years. Some movies just take time to develop into fan favorites. The Abominable Dr. Phibes on the other hand is classic Price, beloved, iconic and highly memorable. Brutal and comic. The remaining two discs in the set for these two movies contain some amazing extras that paint a portrait of Vincent Price, examine the scope of his work and his legacy. These features feel in stark contrast to the movies we discussed earlier on the disc. They're brutal. Poignant death rawls.  If there was a question as to whether you pick this set up or not, you have your answers.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a personal favorite for me. Alongside House on Haunted Hill it helped to define my favorite actor for me.  It has creative kills that one should really look at as the precursor to the kill by number films of the 1980's and features some truly gorgeous women, music and set pieces. The disc is beautiful. A vibrant transfer that pops and leaves little to be criticized. It generally does not suffer from some of the flaws in the Corman releases most likely due to the quality of the original film itself. There are two separate commentary tracks though I must be honest and admit that I found them slightly underwhelming.

The treat on this disc is the actual movie. It isn't full of all the extras; they saved that for the final Witchfinder disc. Nine killed her. Nine shall die. Watch Dr. Anton Phibes take revenge against a gaggle of doctor's who couldn't save his beloved wife's life and must pay with their lives. Each doctor is killed in accordance with the curses visited upon Egypt in the book of Exodus. Forget to suture the arterial wall? There's a curse for that.


Moving on to Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm. I only first saw this film in the past year though the original Conqueror Worm poster has plagued me for some time. I remember seeing it available in bootleg VHS import mags in the back of Fangoria when I was a kid. I never did pick it up. I believe that the version would pale in comparison to this fully restored beaut. Let's rundown the special features on this particular disc.


The introduction by Vincent Price as performed for the Iowa PBS station is present and amazing. There's a making of feature for Witchfinder General. The disc has two interviews: one with Vincent Price himself , conducted by film Historian, David Del Valle. The other interview is with Victoria Price and is heart warming look back at Vincent Price the person, his relationship to the screen and to his family. This is how you fall deeply in love with a boogeyman, people. The Witchfinder disc also contains a commentary track, trailers, stills. There's also an Introductory Price: Undertaking "The Vincent Price Gothic Horrors" which is actually a look back at the making of those Iowa PBS introductions found in front of each movie.

Now about Witchfinder General... this movie feels in stark contrast to the rest of the films in the collection. Though it is basically the tale of the hunt for evil in the form of witches, a tale that would be imitated with some frequency during this period especially in Europe, it still carries with it a degree of grace and production value unlike a movie like, say, Mark of the Devil. Be assured that we're about to enter 1970's. That means you can spill more blood and show more tit. That's what Hammer did. That's what American International Pictures would do as well and become famous for. It's kind of dirty, raw. This isn't nearly as gruesome as some of the Euro efforts. One might say that it actually tried to develop the story and tension rather than go for an effort that could only be described as exploitation. The opening is about as shocking as you're going to get from films of this caliber during this period from Hammer, Amicus or other.



The Vincent Price Collection creates experience of walking through a period of Price's work that is filled with some of the oldest and greatest horror stories to be cast on film. A museum of one of the greatest periods in horror history taking place on four Blu-rays. The discs are clean and gilded with clever extras to entice the staunch Price fan. In this installment we've seen Croman and Price tackle Lovecraft and do Poe spot on. This is the final installment of our three part review of this six movie disc. You can enjoy the first two movies in the set reviewed HERE for the first one double feature review and HERE for the second. If you're ready to know more about the actor and man that, universally seems beloved by all horror fans, this is a great chance to become acquainted with some of his greatest work with gallons of extras. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a volume two containing some missing Poe items as well as the sequel to Phibes and Theater of Blood. Maybe we can get Madhouse on Blu-ray too. Scream Factory's the limit!

Make sure to pre-order this classic now through DiabolikDVD

-Dr. TERROR

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