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Thursday, October 9, 2014

VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - You Get the Poe, The Phibes, The Whole Damn Thing.

I’ve been a Vincent Price fan from the first time I heard him give the creepiest damn laugh on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album in the 80’s. My mother picked up Thriller for October along with a copy of Disney’s Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House album which has a great history in the horror effects and story album subset. The duo provided a terrifying experience throughout the Halloween season, creeping me out on both accounts although I have to be honest, the crisp, echo of the Price’s laugh at the end of the song Thriller after being told my perilous fate still gives me chills (and I mean actual goose bumps). Shortly thereafter my father would tape the Abominable Dr. Phibes off television which was actually somewhat cut for TV. Upon viewing that later on in life, I’m still trying to understand the need to make the slight modifications to the movie to have it air on TV. I mean what could you really cut out of Phibes! Is perfect camp horror with a brilliant score and soundtrack.

Perhaps the greatest memory that I have regarding my early experiences with Vincent Price was giving House on Haunted Hill to my mother as a present on Goodtimes VHS. It had a G in the corner of the screen and was not a well restored version, but it was perfect for us. We wore that tape out. Years later I would take the cover image from that VHS tape that featured the classic poster art and put it on a shirt when I worked at a Photo lab all the time thinking that it was one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. I was proud of that t-shirt. It remains one of my favorite horror pictures and is responsible for creating a love affair with the PT Barnum of horror, William Castle. Strangely enough watching it with my mother was my first connection to House on Haunted Hill. If anyone remembers the Amazing Stories episode of Go to the Head of the Class featuring Mary Stewart Masterson and Christopher Lloyd, you will recall it opens with the infamous skeleton emerge-o scene. I can consider that episode as influential as any horror movie I’ve seen.

That brings us to Scream Factory and their new release of their second Vincent Price Collection. This is a set of seven movies complete with extra features, some with introductions available mostly for the first time on Blu-ray. The first set was packed with Poe, the original Abominable Dr. Phibes and a special treat, Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm! You’d ask yourself what they could do for an encore, but it is clear that Scream Factory has an October agenda (hopefully we get a third installment as well). Today we are going to relive a few memories, discuss some films that are formative for horror fans old and new and tear into the second VP collection.

Please take the time to read our reviews of the first Vincent Price Collection. I had separated them into several different articles, but to be more concise this year, we are providing one full length review with the whole damn thing.

Vincent Price Collection Review in 3 parts.
http://www.docterror.com/2013/10/the-vincent-price-collection-review_11.html


THE RAVEN

This horror comedy is a pure Corman camp with a loose adaptation of Poe’s most famous work. I like to think of it as a poem that simply inspired this Richard Matheson written tale. The Raven represents a return to horror comedy that may have seen spikes throughout the genre through the 50’s and 60’s, but almost harkens back to the hijinx featured in the Abbott and Costello monster meet-ups from the 40’s. The Raven is filled with physical humor, beautiful sets, classic horror actors in Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Peter Lorre.

The Raven is a great beginner horror movie for the young ones with some unscary animation for the movie’s finale. The sets are resued from older Poe Productions so it carries the Gothic mood, but I was able to watch it with my two year old daughter without issue. She actually kept saying how spooky it looked but even with her short attention span, couldn’t take her eyes off the screen. Even during what should be the movie’s ultimate scare scene in the wizard’s duel battle, we are treated to lighthearted Disney-esque animation rather than images of pure horror. 


What to look for on this disc including extras… the beautiful matte paintings that provide the backdrop for the castles and spooky locations. We’ve lost that in modern movies. Richard Matheson discusses his inspiration for this and other Poe adaptations. There’s a Roger Corman interview where Corman states that this is one of his favorite pictures. The audio commentary track is with film historian Steven Haberman which is quite bland, read off a script but chock full of trivia and details on the production and history of The Raven. Of course my favorite extra on this disc on the other Poe releases is the introduction from the Iowa Public Television series on the Vincent Price Poe series as performed by VP himself. Unlike the first set, you can’t remove these introductions, but I prefer them anyway.

COMEDY OF TERRORS

Comedy of Terrors is a sore spot for me. I don’t find it as funny as The Raven and while it has that Burke and Hare feeling, it doesn’t truly feel like a horror picture save for a few choice back drops. While I enjoy seeing some of the biggest names in horror meeting up post-Raven including a Basil Rathbone in addition to Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, Richard Matheson’s story doesn’t thrill me. This one was directed by Jacques Tourneur famous for Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie which gives it a different, legendary feel. While I respect Tourneur work, I’ve never really raved about it. His vision is more artistic, less campy and perhaps more moody.


In the extra features for this release Matheson discuss the movie and his experience getting Jacques Tourneur to do a Twilight Zone episode. Matheson felt the title may have been a mistake. You also get trailers and stills in addition to a Price introduction and outro, this time the outro is truly heartfelt and something to pay attention to (they all are really).

TOMB OF LIGEIA

This is the last in line of the famous Corman/Poe/Price creations. It’s a desperate movie with plenty of gloom and doom without the powerhouse umph of a Pit and the Pendulum or other more gratuitous or visually stunning work. Still I can safely say that I enjoyed this picture better than Comedy of Terrors and better than The Masque of the Red Death (often considered a superior AIP Poe picture).


The Extra Package includes a trailer and gallery with 3 separate commentary tracks! One is with Roger Corman, another with Elizabeth Shepherd and the last with film historian Constantine Nasr. Pay attention to the menu on this one. The blinking cat is a nice touch. It bares mentioning that all the menus are top notch and great care was taken to given this a collector’s experience.

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

My qualm with The Last Man on Earth is that after about 30 minutes the whole thing starts to feel downright depressing. It isn’t as big or as badass as it could be for a post-apocalyptic romp through a land filled with evil beings. That beings said I think Price plays the lead brilliantly and it’s actually one of his best roles. I do not fault him for second and third act of the picture becoming forgettable. The strength in this story is isolation. Once we begin to see Price venture out and interact with the seemingly dead world you’re ready for bed. I like to think of this as what we would see if the Time Enough at Last episode of The Twilight Zone were to have continued after we see Burgess Meredith crying, broken glasses on the ground, unable to read.

While I’ve watched The Last Man on Earth several times in my life, this was the most beautiful it has looked. Typically this picture is just thrown on cheap box sets and left to rot among fifteen other unrelated movies. This is not one of those half-assed releases. Even better, this version features a tremendous commentary track starring friends David Del Valle and Derek Bothelo. These fellas know their stuff and provide a sound historical perspective as well as a meaningful dialogue about the picture that actually gave me a few nuggets of interest to make this movie feel more fresh. It’s strange that I never drew the connection between this picture and Night of the Living Dead and the influence it must have had on George Romero. You can tell that Derek and David are good friends and that makes the commentary very listenable. We get used to hearing actors or filmmakers do commentaries that when a film historian does one it almost feels removed from the onset production. Not so with this commentary track. It feels relevant and appropriate as well as lively.


Remember to pick up David’s book, The Argento Syndrome. We featured it during Italian Horror Week this past July. A great read. I’m glad to know Derek and to have recently met David through social media.

DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN

I own the double pack of The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again. It’s a fine way to watch the two movies, but Scream Factory has really helped to bring out the vibrant nature of both pictures (the original featured on the first set). Unfortunately Dr. Phibes Rises Again is extra-lite containing only stills and the trailer.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this particular film is that Vulnavia was recast. Virginia North is one of the women of my dreams. It was so easy to fall for her as a kid. Replacing her with an inferior actress feels like we’re being cheated. Of course Phibes destroys his opera house at the end of the first picture which means no more Clockwork Wizards (I don’t care that a band has used that name, I still want to use it one day). I love the organ music from the original, the score and the interludes by the big animatronic band. No more. In their place you’ll find less creative, less violent kills that feel moderately disjointed. The story as a whole isn’t terrible, and the progression to the end makes sense, but it’s about what’s lacking in between. No more frog masks. No more locusts, boils or bees. No more removing all the blood from your victim or raining down hail… in the backseat of a car. I guess. Dr. Phibes Rises Again feels less creative. 


See if you can spot the actors that return to this production even though they were killed in other roles in the original film. There are a few.

RETURN OF THE FLY

I prefer the original. Simple as that. What one comes to hope for as a continuation of a classic tale of scientific morality turns into a rehash of the first movie with some shots simply reshot to feel like the original picture. Nothing is added to the lore, and the best thing to come out of Return of the Fly is a Misfits song of the same name. The Misfits song’s lyrics are simply the poster/credits being sung by Glen Danzig with a boppy rock beat behind it. That’s probably the best way to describe this movie. Still, it’s nice to see it on Blu-ray, preserved. If you’re looking for the original picture, it was released this past year on Blu-ray as a solo release. It is a fine transfer looking gorgeous. 


This disc includes a trailer and TV Spot as well as another commentary track from David Del Valle this time joined by actor Brett Halsey who plays Philip Delambre in this picture. It’s a solid commentary that flows nicely and is informative. 


HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

Here’s the big slam dunk for me. House on Haunted Hill is one of my favorite horror movies and not simply my favorite Vincent Price movies. It’s the movie that made me know that Vincent Price is my favorite horror actor. This is a superb tale for the month of October. It is a ghost story of sorts though it has elements of pure mania and murder mystery as well. From the introduction given by Vincent Price as Frederick Loren and cast to the coffin boxes filled with “part favors” to the famous emerge-o bit in the wine cellar, I adore this movie. This was my first experience with the great showman William Castle. I have since gone on to see every picture I could that he has made and appreciated most of them if not fell in love with them. This is worth the entire set, just to get this one movie looking as good as it possibly can. This picture is on my bucket list for movies to see on film on the big screen.

The audio commentary is with Steve Haberman which means it is a read track, somewhat flat, but absolutely filled to the brim with information about the production and cast. You also get a trailer.


In addition to the feature film an extras for House on Haunted Hill this disc also contains three featurettes: Vincent Price Renaissance Man, The Art of Fear and Working With Vincent Price.

The whole set is packaged in new artwork featuring price on the cover. This mirror the first volume which gives consistency to the series. This edition also contains a booklet with plenty of stills and movie posters from featured Price films as well as an essay by David Del Valle. It’s great as an introduction to Price and helps to put this entire release in perspective as Del Valle create connections between those that surrounded Price and the man who terrified us on screen.

If you are a fan of Vincent Price than there is only one question that this box set will leave you with: when is Scream Factory going to release another collection to set more of the Price legacy to Blu-ray. I hope next October we are discussing Theatre of Blood, Madhouse and a few other tasty morsels from the man who terrifies us even long after his death. Thank you Scream Factory for releasing something that helps me to enjoy Halloween each year with one of the scariest and prolific actors in all of horror history. Let the young ones know his name! May this set be as successful as the original set and may you release another set next year. This is a release that will help you to learn who Price was and what Price did beyond some of his more obvious hits. It’s an education in horror.

Pick up THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II now available October 21st from Scream Factory.

As an added October bonus to this here review, here's the aforementioned Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House and Thriller by Michael Jackson including the Vincent Price diabolic dialogue. May it scare you through the holiday season.

Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House 


THRILLER:


Full product details and extras:

THE RAVEN
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1963/Color/Not Rated/86 minutes

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1964/Color/Not Rated/83 minutes

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1964/Color/Not Rated/82 minutes

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1964/Black & White/Not Rated/87 minutes

DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1972/Color/PG/89 minutes

THE RETURN OF THE FLY
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1959/Black & White/Not Rated/86 minutes

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1)/DTS Master Audio Mono/1959/Black & White/Not Rated/75 minutes

Also Includes 32-Page Booklet With An Essay By Author David Del Valle And Rare Photos

Bonus Features
--- THE RAVEN ---
Introduction And Parting Words By Vincent Price
Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven
Corman's Comedy Of Poe
Promotional Record
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery
--- THE COMEDY OF TERRORS ---
Introduction And Parting Words By Vincent Price
Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy Of Terrors
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery
--- THE TOMB OF LIGEIA ---
Introduction And Final Words By Vincent Price
Audio Commentary By Producer/Director Roger Corman
NEW Audio Commentary With Elizabeth Shepherd
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery
--- THE LAST MAN ON EARTH ---
Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man On Earth
Still Gallery
Audio Commentary With Authors David Del Valle And Derek Botelho
--- DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN ---
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery
--- THE RETURN OF THE FLY ---
Audio Commentary With Actor Brett Halsey And Film Historian David Del Valle
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spot
Still Gallery
--- HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL ---
Audio Commentary By Film Historian Steve Haberman
Theatrical Trailer
Vincent Price: Renaissance Man Featurette
The Art Of Fear Featurette
Working With Vincent Price Featurette

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