The ‘Price’ is right for Halloween

BY TRAV S.D.  (travsd.wordpress.com)  |  The actor Vincent Price starred in films of every genre throughout his long career, but above all he will forever be associated with horror. Tall, mustachioed and cultured in a manner alien to all contemporary American movie stars, Price excelled at playing villains in the sort of campy Gothic horror film that reigned at the cinema prior to the slasher movie craze that took hold in the late 1970s.

Just in time for Halloween, Scream Factory is releasing “The Vincent Price Collection II,” a 4-disc compendium for Blu-ray featuring seven of the late master’s spookier vehicles. As with the first volume, the set is a cross-section of work from different phases of his career. The picks are of equal quality and importance to those in the first release — it is more of a continuation than a comedown. (Actually, Scream Factory would have to put out many such volumes until they ran out of excellent Price horror films).

Volume II is a cross-section of vintage Vincent

“House on Haunted Hill” (1959) was Price’s first collaboration with schlockmeister William Castle, an “old dark house” confection where insane millionaire Price locks a group of friends and associates in a haunted house overnight and challenges them to survive the night in exchange for $10,000. “The Return of the Fly” (1959) was a big-budget shocker for a major studio (20th Century Fox) in which Price reprised his role from the original hit, his part now expanded into buzzing anti-hero. The Italian-made “The Last Man on Earth” (1964) was the first of three film adaptations of Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend,” in which Price struggles alone in a world in which everyone else has been transformed into a vampire.

Volume II of Scream Factory’s Vincent Price Collection has seven of the late master’s spookier vehicles. Courtesy of Scream Factory As in the first volume, this set contains several of the low-budget classics Price made for American International Pictures with Roger Corman. Two are from the so-called Poe Series: “The Tomb of Ligeia” (1964), considered by many critics and Corman himself as the best of the bunch, and “The Raven” (1963), a comical riff suggested by Poe’s famous poem, featuring Price and Hollywood veterans Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre as a trio of quarreling medieval sorcerers. “The Comedy of Terrors” (1963) goes even farther down the path to silliness, with Price, Lorre and Karloff being joined by Basil Rathbone and comedian Joe E. Brown in his last screen performance. And for sheer camp heaven, you cannot beat “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972), the sequel to his camp hit of the previous year (which is included in the first volume of this Blu-ray series).

The films are all in the most pristine, watchable versions currently available for home video, and this goes also for many of the extras, such as the trailers. While some of the bonus material, such as commentary by Roger Corman, has been previously available, there are new treats — including comments by Price historian David Del Valle, and Elizabeth Shepherd, co-star of “The Tomb of Ligeia.” And, best of all: from beyond the grave, introductions and “parting words” from Vincent Price himself. If you don’t go in for parties or trick-or-treating, you could do far worse than to barricade yourself in your dungeon this Halloween and spend 20 hours or so with this boxed set.

—Additional research by Ian W. Hill

Scream Factory presents
Commercial Release on October 21
7 films on a 4-Disc Blu-raAy set
Bonus: audio commentaries, rare photos & archival materials, 32-page collector’s book
Available in stores
Also available at screamfactorydvd.com