Whilethis American International Pictures horror classic was released in the US in the summer of 1963, it wasn’t until 21 February 1966 that UK cinemagoers got to enter The Haunted Palace.
In 1875, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Ann (Debra Paget) inherit a mansion in the New England village of Arkham, where they find themselves shunned by the local townspeople who live in fear of a curse placed on them by Charles’ great-great-grandfather Joseph Curwen, a necromancer and warlock, who was burnt at the stake for practising witchcraft 110 years previously.
But, just as the Ward’s decide to pack their bags, Charles is taken over by the spirit of his evil ancestor who then sets out to wreak revenge on those who stopped his ‘work’…
Roger Corman’s sixth Gothic horror in his Edgar Allan Poe cycle, borrows its title from an 1839 poem by the macabre writer, but owes a huge debt to the nightmarish Cthulhu-verse of HP Lovecraft, as it is loosely based on the 1927 novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
With suitably atmospheric cinematography from Floyd Crosby, and probably one of the best film scores ever from Ronald Stein, this entry in the Corman/Price/Poe cycle is a true classic, while the restrained performance by Price in the dual role of the evil Curwen and the ineffectual Charles adds to the sense of underlying horror.
Along for the ride are some genre favourites, Lon Chaney Jr and Elisha Cook Jr (who adds being burnt alive to his many screen deaths), while this was the last film of Debra Paget, who quit acting soon after.
‘You’ll need someone to hang onto when you come face to face with the blood-chilling terrors in the tower!’
In this tale of murder, ghosts and guilt directed by Roger Corman for Admiral Pictures, 1960s cinemagoers were dared to spend 83-minutes (actually 79-minutes) in the Tower of London – a monument to the corruption of the soul – according to the film’s narrator (Paul Frees).
It is the year 1483 and the body count begins following the death of Edward IV as Vincent Price’s Richard murders his way to the throne of England, killing his brother Clarence, his political rivals, his nephews and even his beloved wife Anne.
Tortured by guilt, the ghosts of his victims return to haunt the newly crowned monarch, and ultimately lead him to his death on a muddy field at the Battle of Boswell from the sharp end of a double-edged battle-axe.
Produced by Roger Corman’s brother, Gene, Tower of London was an attempt by Admiral Pictures to cash in on the success of American International Pictures successful Poe pictures, but was ultimately let down by its cut-price production values. But the one thing it has got going for it is Vincent Price.
Being the go-to guy for gothic horror in the early 1960s, only Vincent could take on this twisted sibling to the macabre Poe-universe, which made him the King of Horror following his genuinely menacing turns in The Fall of the House of Usher and Pit and the Pendulum, and his multiple roles in Tales of Terror.
Plagued by Hamlet’s ghosts and cursed to die like Macbeth, Vincent Price’s take on Richard III – based on ‘a screenplay by Leo Gordon from stories by Poe and Shakespeare’(*) – is like no other – and nor should it be. It’s a virtuoso one-man show in which he goes from quietly ominous to all out ham hysterics – the kind of which would enshrine Vincent’s unique style forever more.
While its not his best work – Price himself admitted he could have done more with the character– his trademark arched eyebrows, wild-eyes and lip curling leers are certainly worth the price of admission, while the occasional flashes of subtlety serve to remind us that Vincent was also capable of truly great performances when reigned in. This would be most evident in 1968’s Witchfinder General, but also in Roger Corman’s HP Lovecraft horror The Haunted Palace.
Vincent’s Richard is not purely evil, unlike his satanic Prince Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. Instead, he presents Richard as a man whose guilty conscience drives him to madness. Before the histrionics begin, Vincent does inspire genuine sympathy for his character in a couple of genuinely poignant scenes: one in which the ghosts of the little princes try to lure him into committing suicide, and when Richard’s mother, the Queen, shows her hatred for her son’s physical deformities (a hump and a limp hand).
Of course, when Vincent turns on the ham, you can’t help but be reminded of his horror film opus, Theatre of Blood, in which he played the vengeful Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart. Venting in the same ‘voice beautiful’ that Lionheart was accused of by his critics in the black comedy horror, Vincent becomes Lionheart personified. It’s quite a hoot.
Arrow’s High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of Tower of London has been transferred from original film elements by MGM, and includes the original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray) and optional English subtitles. This is a super transfer and a must-have in your Vincent Price library, although the cover art really isn’t to my taste. There’s also a collector’s booklet with an article by John Upton (but this was not included with my screener).
Included in the disc are two archive interviews with Roger and Gene Corman, who spill the beans on the problems behind making the picture, as well as a splendid slideshow featuring behind-the-scenes photos (that I have never seen before) from the collection of Brett Cameron, which plays alongside Michael Anderson’s rousing theme tune.
The other bonus is an audio commentary from Hollywood historian David Del Valle in which he describes Vincent’s Richard as ‘a Todd Slaughter performance’, which he ‘dials up to 12’ in the ‘Plantagenet fun house’ haunting scene, and gives a ‘150-watt leer’ in the battle scene. It’s all great fun to listen to. Del Valle also sets the record straight about Vincent’s acting prowess: that for all the camp barnstorming, he was indeed an actor of wide range, which culminated in his one-man show Diversions & Delights. Nice one, David.
The film’s supporting actors also get the Del Valle once over, including Richard Hale, who appeared in The Incredible Docktor Markesan episode of TV’s Thriller and the chap playing the Duke of Clarence (Charles Macaulay), was Dracula in Blacula.
Tara Gordon, the daughter of the film’s screenwriter Leo Gordon, also features in the commentary. Her father’s amazingly varied career could have made a feature-length commentary by itself, and though I would have like to know more, we do get to hear from her about her dad’s association with Roger Corman and his co-writer Amos Powell, who shot himself, while her story about her dad’s fart machine is hilarious.
(*) Roger Corman interview (Arrow Blu-ray, bonus feature)
To celebrate the UK Blu-ray release of the Roger Corman-directed 1962 hysterical historical horror, Tower of London, starring Vincent Price as Richard III, check out this fine Gallery of Horrors, which includes the full set of original lobby cards and excerpts from the UK Pressbook.
Please do share feel free to download and share, just tell them the Vincent Price Legacy UK sent you… and don’t forget to check out our 20 Frightfully Fun Facts about Tower of London (CLICK HERE).
Over the years the 1970 sci-fi horror conspiracy thriller Scream and Scream Again has aged surprisingly well. Its seemingly unnconnected plots actually look quite hip in today’s channel hopping, attention deficit, age. And the horror thriller was certainly hip in its day, earning big at the box office for its producers, Amicus and American International Pictures.
Vincent Price gets top billing as cancer scientist Dr Browning, conducting mysterious research in a rural Surrey mansion; while Alfred Marks’ London detective is tracking down a homicidal sex maniac dubbed, The Vampire Killer, who is targeting girls in local nightclubs. Meanwhile, in some unspecified Eastern European totalitarian state, Peter Cushing gets bumped off by Marshall Jones’ Konratz (though everyone calls him Konrad in the film) as part of his climb to the top job, while back in Blighty, Christopher Lee’s British Intelligence official is trying to secure the release of a lost British pilot.
Vincent only really gets to shine in the film’s final reels – for a quick tour of his modern Frankenstein-styled lab – before an undignified acid bath death at the hands of Lee’s man from the ministry.
Still, Scream and Scream Again is one of the most unusual and unique British sci-fi’s ever made, and now that its available in HD on Blu-ray and DVD, with the restored the original soundtrack, including Amen Corner’s eponymous theme tune – its one to watch again and again…
To celebrate the film’s original cinema release in the UK on 8 February 1970 (it went on general release in the US on 13 February), check out our gallery of original US Lobby Cards from my own collection. CLICK HERE
The Theatre Guild and Joel Schenker
Vincent Price and Patricia Routledge
In a new musical
DARLING OF THE DAY Based on Arnold Bennett’s Buried Alive and his play The Great Adventure.
Also starring Brenda Forbes, Peter Woodthorpe and Teddy Green.
Composed by Jule Styne
Lyrics by EY Harburg
‘…thoroughly delightful. It has charm, tunefulness, humour, imagination, a good book, impeccable taste and a handsome production. Mr Price is convincing and charming as the artist in hiding… a superior musical comedy!’ (Richard Watts, The New York Post)
Darling of the Day is set in the England of 1905 – Edwardian and elegant – and it’s the story of a great and painfuly shy painter named Priam Farll (Vincent Price) who is summoned back to England after 20 years as a virtual recluse in the South Seas, to be knighted by his King.
After the death of his butler, Henry Leek, Farll assumes his identity, falls for a young widow called Alice Challice (Patricia Routledge) and they marry and settled in (what was then) lower middle-class Putney.
Life becomes complicated for Priam and Alice when his identity is unveiled and he ends up in court. However, when Farll warns that if there’s a ‘Butler in the Abbey’ the social structure of Britain will be shaken, the judge hastily rules that Leek must remain Leek…
Following Darling of the Day‘s pre-Broadway run, the York Theatre Company show had three previews before its premiere performance at the George Abbott Theatre (152 W. 54th St., New York, NY) on 27 January 1968. Following mixed reviews, the show folded after 31 performances, but it did earn Routledge the 1968 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Nominated for four Oscars and winning one, this is the ultimate classic noir mystery.
Dana Andrews plays the detective who delves into the murder of Gene Tierney’s enigmatic Laura, with whom everyone is in love with. But it is Clifton Webb who steals the show as the titular ingenue’s creepily elegant social mentor, Waldo Lydecker.
Vincent Price, in a role he regarded as one of his all-time favourites, plays the polished Southern playboy Shelby Carpenter who loves the ladies and plays a mean piano. It’s just a shame that the scene of him serenading a party of lovelies is now all but lost…
Laura was released on 11 October 1944 in the US, while the UK had to wait until 15 January 1945 before the film could cast its spell on audiences on the other side of the pond.
As the sun set on Camp Vincent 2016 and a supermoon rose over the Malibu coast on Sunday (13 November), I feel so blessed to have spent the past 10 days celebrating the life and legacy of Vincent Price with a wonderful group of friends – and it ended so beautifully.
But first, on a surprisingly hot Saturday morning, Victoria Price escorted us, plus a handful of new recruits, on a tour of her dad’s old haunts and former homes.
First up was Hollywood Forever Cemetery where both Vincent and Coral Browne (Mrs Price No3), had their funeral services, and where Coral’s were scattered amongst the white rose bushes by the entrance gates.
After catching up with old friends like Cecil B De Mille and Peter Lorre (whose funeral Vincent gave the eulogy), we headed out to Pinks, an LA institution for hotdogs (Vincent’s fast food of choice) and Koontz Hardware in West Hollywood (where he hung out daily).
Then it was up to the Hills where we drove past Vincent’s former homes as Victoria gave us an insight of what it was like growing up in the glare of the Hollywood sign, before decamping at the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel for cocktails and cake.
In the evening, we were Carson bound to the Phantom Carriage Brewery, where a special dinner was held to celebrate the launch of the reprint of Vincent and Mary Price’s Come Into The Kitchen cookbook.
This took the form of a four-course meal paired with the brewery’s craft beers, accompanied by screenings of The Tingler and Comedy of Terrors, which were introduced by Victoria and myself, and some horror movie-inspired music. It was a super evening, where we all made new friends with some LA-based Vincent Price fans.
And so we come to Sunday. Following lunch at Paradise Cove in Malibu – the setting for hundred of films and TV shows, including the Beach Party films – and where the Price family enjoyed coming to to eat and fish, we headed out to Nicholas Canyon Beach.
It was here where Vincent Price once owned several acres and had a beach house where his children, Barrett and Victoria, spent many a summer before the land was repossessed under the Reagan regime.
At the bottom of some ruined stairs (the only reminder of where the house once stood) our group created an altar of flowers, shells, rocks, kelp, and a drawing done by the ever talented Gregg Buxbaum of a baby seal wearing Vincent’s favourite straw hat.
As incense and a sage smudge stick – bought during our Southwest travels were set alight – were set alight, we held hands and vowed to go out into the world with love and hope. Then, just as we finished, a flock of pelicans soared above us – very slowly – in a V formation. Now, was that a sign or what?
This year’s tour was an opportunity for fans to ‘Explore. Savor. Celebrate‘ life just like Vincent – something both Victoria Price and myself plan to continue for the foreseeable future, beginning with organising Camp Vincent 2017, which will take place in Madrid, Barcelona and Sitges in Spain in September, as well as some pop-up events in the UK and the US.
We are also working on some cool online swag. So, if you’re interested in hearing and seeing any of Victoria’s presentation, Vincent Price: Master of Menace, Lover of Life — then you can sign up right here to receive more information. There are lots of personal family photos and behind-the-scenes pictures and stories. But mostly, this gives you a glimpse of the glorious life philosophy of Vincent Price. We will also have a live virtual Q&A, which we plan to roll out in the new year.
After a flying visit of Arizona’s Painted Desert; visiting iconic hotels on Route 66 much favoured by Hollywood stars of the Golden age; an inspiring immersive tour of the sacred Hopi lands; and going off-road to view ancient petroglyphs and the famed red rocks of Sedona, Camp Vincent flew out of Phoenix bound for Los Angeles, where we have a series of legacy events set up.
The first one literally brought me to tears. Not tears of sadness, although the sight of seeing hundreds of homeless people living in tents on the sidewalks of Downtown LA was quite startling. These were tears of pure joy and excitement.
As guests of the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College, we were treated to a private tour of the archives where some 2000 items of historic and artistic value donated by Vincent Price and his second wife Mary (Victoria’s mother) between 1957 and 1993 are carefully stored in a new state of the art facility.
Over a decade ago, I visited the collection when it was housed in a bungalow on the college grounds under the curatorship of the late Thomas Siliman. But seeing them in their new home was breathtaking and inspiring…
Victoria Price gave an impassionate speech about the VPAM and her parent’s legacy, which you see in full here. https://www.facebook.com/imvictoriaprice/videos/830503863718613/
The event also marked the opening of the gallery’s latest exhibition, Rise of the Fly II in which artist Peter Wu has been inspired by the 1958 and 1986 Fly films to create a dynamic installation fusing painting, video projection and sculpture. Its on until March 18 2017.
Of course, this begged a screening of the 1958 classic itself which, of course, went down a treat with all the invited guests.
The evening also saw some delicious treats created by the talented college kitchen staff, who took recipes from Vincent and Mary’s Treasury and put their own modern spin. I’ll be doing a post on this real soon, so watch this space.
Today, Camp Vincent sets off on the legendary Route 66 following two days of art, food, film, ghosts, comedy and movie memories.
Our guide, Victoria Price, led us through her beloved Santa Fe, visiting its many galleries, including the inspiring Georgia O’Keefe, which are the heartbeat of this artistically inclined city.
We also marvelled at the unique abode design of the city’s buildings, visited the oldest home in the US circa 1600s, and heard tales of restless spirits that haunt old hotels like La Fonda and La Posada from one of Santa Fe’s leading ghost walk tour guides.
Check out the apparition alledgedly on camera at La Fonda in the pic we were shown. This wasn’t taken by us, but we did have our own weird encounter – a swaying chandelier at La Posada. But the jury is out on whether it really was a spectral message or just a prank.
The folks over at the George RR Martin-owned Jean Cocteau cinema held a screening of Sam Fuller’s 1950 drama The Baron of Arizona, which was fitting as its real life tale of 19th century swindler James Addison Reavis (Vincent Price) was partially set in Santa Fe.
I was on hand to provide some trivia on the film’s production during the Q&A with Victoria, who spoke about her dad’s connection with the city and also got to sign copies of the new anniversary reprint of her parent’s Come Into the Kitchen cookbook.
A big highlight was a lecture given at the Institute of American Indian Arts where Vincent Price served as a very active board member from 1956 to 1972, and where he oversaw the Vincent Price Poetry Contest,which was created by in 1963.
Personally, it has been Vincent’s lifelong love for indigenous art, and its preservation and development, that is cornerstone to my own journey in celebrating his legacy. So listening to his recordings from the IAIA archives while looking at photos of Price in situ was a very moving experience for me personally.
Another hugely memorable highlight was the opportunity to meet and dine with retired British actor David Frankham (b 1926) a longtime Sante Fe resident who shared some terrific memories about working with Vincent on The Master of the World, Tales of Terror and Return of the Fly – as well as his many TV appearances on cult shows like Star Trek and memories of working with some of the greats of Hollywood’s golden age. What a wonderfully warm and entertaining human being, and so fit and alert, it must be something to do with the climate…
Sadly, our Santa Fe adventure has come to an end, but I do hope to return one day and continue my conversation with Mr Frankham and those spirits of yesterday. Now, its time to hit the road.