Our Weird Weekender was a howling success

What better way to celebrate Friday the 13th and the Harvest Moon than with a tour of London’s iconic Highgate Cemetery, followed by a weekend in Wales exploring haunted locales, classic castles, and the real-life locations used in An American Werewolf in London.

On the morning of Friday 13 September, 20 of us joined Victoria Price and expert guide Peter Mills for a private tour of Highgate’s West Cemetery Highgate where we heard about the history of Victorian burials, the famous and infamous people resting there, and the classic horror movies filmed there — including, of course, The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

The two-hour tour was followed by a fun scavenger hunt devised by Victoria in which everyone paired up with someone they didn’t know and, armed with eight clues, searched the East Cemetery for the answers to Victoria’s cryptic quiz (which we’ve included at the bottom of this post).

Then it was off to lunch at the nearby 17th-century pub, The Flask , where the likes of Dick Turpin, and Keats and Shelley were regulars — and where the first public autopsy was performed! Luckily, the only incisions made today were on our veggies and roasts.

After lunch, Victoria and I loaded up the Mystery Machine (aka our rental van) with a small group of fans and headed out to Wales for our weird weekender adventure.

Our first stop on Saturday was Raglan Castle. Built and occupied between the 15th and 17th century, this impressive ruin is steeped in local legends and spooky apparitions, with visitors reporting sightings of a man in a Shakespearean garb, the ghost of the castle’s former librarian, and a ghostly figure of a man with hollowed out eyes. But for one our group, film location fan Andy Ellis, it was particularly special, as it was also used in Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy Time Bandits (for the Napoleonic War sequence).

Next up, lunch at the Mountain Skirrid Inn, said to be the most haunted pub in Wales. Standing for over 900 years, the inn is built on a mountain that once ‘shivered’ and Shakespeare himself is said to have taken inspiration from this place. It also claims to be the home of several ghosts or spirits as well as the scene of numerous supernatural occurrences or paranormal activities. We didn’t find any spirits ourselves – except for the ones poured into our glasses of course!

Back on the road, we stopped off at the ruins of Llantillo Castle (aka the White Castle), which was established by the Normans in the wake of the invasion of England in 1066, and ended up playing a key role in defending the region for several centuries. Then we explored the magnificent Tintern Abbey, which was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131 and was the first Cistercian foundation in Wales. Unfortuntately it fell victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the England’s religious houses in the 16th century.

Newport came next, where Victoria gave everyone a big challenge – to find the grave of her maternal grand-parents at Saint Woolos cemetery. And thanks to an eagle-eyed Roni, Victoria was able to take some snaps of the grave where Marianne Grant (1825-1913), William John Grant (1850-1930) and Alice Diana Grant (1865-1958) are all buried together.

With the full moon on the horizon, we ended the day at the Riverfront performing arts theatre, where Victoria gave a heartfelt presentation about her dad, followed by a screening of The Abominable Dr. Phibes to a full house of local VP fans. Thanks to everyone who came along. You were a fantastic crowd, and hope you all enjoyed the books and records that we brought along.

Howl!

Sunday was all about An American Werewolf in London. First, we headed to the Black Mountains through the Brecon Beacons National Park for the tiny village of Crickadarn, which stood in for the Yorkshire hamlet of East Proctor in John Landis’ 1981 horror classic.

It was here that a small cottage was dressed up in the film to become The Slaughtered Lamb pub where David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) get a not-so warm reception from the locals.

No pints were ever pulled here (the interiors were actually shot in The Black Swan in Cobham, Surrey), but our gang did take the opportunity to recreate all the scenes shot that were shot around here. Check out the Vincent Price Legacy UK and The Abominable Crypt that Dripped Blood Facebook pages, for more now and then snaps.

Then it was a short drive to Hay Bluff, where the opening scenes were shot. This a truly stunning place, with some spectacular vistas, and it was packed with people out hiking and taking pony rides – (Now, I wonder how many of them knew of the area’s horror film heritage?).

Our weekend concluded with a super lunch at the 17th-century tavern, The Old Black Lion, in Hay-on-Wye, which is book heaven and famous for its annual literary festival. Safe to say, I came away with quite the haul – as well as some fantastic memories. Thanks everyone for making it such a fabulous time – and to Victoria and Sarah who took on the driving and navigation duties. And also thanks to Joni Rogan, Stu & Roni, Simon Flynn and Andy Ellis for letting me use some of your pics in the montages I’ve created here. And finally, a big thank you to Graham Humphreys for the fantastic poster you designed especially for our guests. Cheers!

If you are interested in joining one of our tours: register your interest now. Just click on the link: https://www.esctours.com/contact

TRY VICTORIA’S QUIZ – HOW MANY CAN YOU GET?
1) She said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” She took that to heart — and became one of the greatest writers in England. . .though many thought he was a she. So don’t be fooled by her name!

2) He wrote, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please.” Mark my words: That certainly proved true for the way his philosophical manifesto manifested in the 20th century!

3) He hated being thought of as a Pop artist, but his gravestone certainly reflected the witty gimmicky ethos of Pop Art in pronouncing this artist deceased AKA DEAD.

4) Critics confounded this pop punk impresario his whole career. They continue to hound him after death, wondering whether his headstone is a spectacular failure or a benign success.

5) The daughter of a famous composer, this woman became a famous sculptor in her own right. But many of her most famous subjects were musicians like her father. Her grave sculpturally reflects her talent.

6) If you’re hitchhiking through the galaxy, be sure to donate a pen to the writer who helped you find your way there!

7) Vincent Price’s third wife gave this actor — himself the son of a famous actor and brother to two famous actresses — his start in acting. 

8) Though the Lumiere Brothers might believe otherwise, on his grave at least, this man was the father of movie technology!


7) Vincent Price’s third wife gave this actor — himself the son of a famous actor and brother to two famous actresses — his start in acting. 

8) Though the Lumiere Brothers might believe otherwise, on his grave at least, this man was the father of movie technology!

Love this pic that Joni Rogan took.

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Thank you for a Vin-tastic year!

As we usher in 2019, I just want to thank you all for making 2018 one of the best years celebrating Vincent Price’s enduring legacy.

It all kicked off last spring when a group of us spent the weekend of 21 and 22 April in Suffolk and East Anglia exploring the original film locations used in Witchfinder General, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Witchfinder General WeekenderLots of new friends were made during our adventures that coincided with Ian Ogilvy (one of the film’s stars) visiting London. While he wasn’t able to join us (but hopes to in the future), he kindly signed the fantastic souvenir poster designed by Graham Humphreys that was given out at the end of the tour to each of the attendees.

By popular demand, our annual walking tour of the Theatre of Blood London film locations returned in the summer, with 30 attendees (our biggest group yet) taking all manner of transport on Saturday July 28 to different parts of London as we sought out some of the most iconic sites used in the black comedy horror.

Theatre of Blood Film Location Walking Tour 2018This year we visited Kensal Green Cemetery, one of the key locations, and also returned to some of old favourites, including Meredith Merridew’s house in Putney and the old shipyard in Brentwood where Edward Lionheart is plucked out of the Thames by the meth drinkers. It was a great day, blessed with great weather again (I think Vincent was looking out for us).

2018 marked the 90th-anniversary of Vincent Price’s Grand Tour of Europe. As such, Victoria Price and myself wanted to honour her dad’s trip by exploring a bit of Europe ourselves as one of our ESC Tours excursions.

Austria and Germany were our destinations and our group had an amazing time in the first week of October visiting Vienna, Salzburg and Munich, with side trips to Colmar in France and Liechtenstein.

Highlights included Burg Kreuzenstein near Vienna (which was used in Mario Bava’s House of Wax homage, Baron Blood), the awe-inspiring ice caves in Werfen, and the Whale House in Frieberg (whose frontage was recreated as for the Dance Academy in Dario Argento’s Suspiria). Plus, we all got a private tour of the real-life Castle Frankenstein near Frankfurt.

Next year, we shall continue following in Vincent’s European footsteps with a trip to Amsterdam and Paris, and we’d love you to join us.

CHECK OUT OUR 2019 ESC TOURS HERE

Darlington Film ClubNovember was a very busy time as Victoria Price returned to the UK for a number of engagements, including a first time visit to Darlington to introduce Pit and the Pendulum at the local film club there and a return to Birmingham, where she accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of her dad at the annual Cine Excess conference. This was also attended by Pete Walker, who directed Vincent in House of the Long Shadows.

Our Birmingham trip also included a screening of Theatre of Blood at the Mockingbird Cinema where Victoria wowed the audience with her recollections of her dad making the film back in 1972.

Victoria Price and Pete WalkerBack in London, Victoria conducted an inspiring talk at the fantastic Cinema Museum hosted by the wonderful Misty Moon gang and also took on another role – as an ordained interfaith/interpsiritual minister – to conduct a wonderful wedding for our dear friends Roni and Stu, who chose Somewhere Over the Rainbow, sung by Vincent, to end the proceedings. Now that was a truly touching moment that will stay with me forever.

Victoria Price at Cinema MuseumWe capped off 2018 with our Yield Up the Mystery Weekender, which sought out places in Norfolk where the spiritual and the spooky connected. It took us from King’s Lynn to Norwich and onto Long Melford in Suffolk via the fabulous ruins of Castle Acre Priory, the original film location used in Tomb of Ligeia. Big thanks again to Graham Humphreys, who conjured up another fantastic souvenir poster for our attendees.

Photos: Gina Minichino

Yield Up the Mystery Weekender

***** COMING IN 2019 *****

So what’s coming up in 2019? Well Victoria and I are putting the final touches of our Amsterdam-Paris excursion that will take place from Saturday 25 May to Sunday 5 June. We will only be taking a small group, so if you want to join us, please sign up to the ESC Tours website. We shall release full pricing and a schedule in early January.

And if you have ever wanted to spend Halloween in New York, then you’re in luck as Victoria and I will also be conducting a guided tour of the Big Apple in late October/early November. We are currently putting that itinerary together also, which will have a suitably spooky theme, so expect some ghosts, ghouls, the headless horseman and a touch of Price and Poe.

SIGN UP HERE FOR MORE ABOUT ESC TOURS

I shall, of course, be conducting another Theatre of Blood walking tour in the summer and another Witchfinder General weekender in the autumn. I have also got a few suprises in store during 2019, with the first one coming in February.

This will be the release of a brand-new limited edition EP by London band The Core featuring Vincent Price reciting Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm (from a rare recording never released before). Only 300 copies will be available, and the EP features another amazing cover design by Graham Humphreys. Here’s a first look at it…

The Conqueror Worm by The Core and Vincent Price

This is going to be a must-have collectors item, so if you want to bag yourself a copy then do sign up to the Vincent Price Legacy UK newsletter (if you haven’t already) as subscribers will be first in the queue about the release and also will get first preference to join our other Legacy events.

SIGN UP TO THE VINCENT PRICE NEWSLETTER HERE

Thank you all for making 2018 such a Vin-tastic year. Here’s to an even better 2019!

Happy New Year everyone!

Peter Fuller
Curator
Vincent Price Legacy UK

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Tomb of Ligeia at Castle Acre | Mapping the Norfolk film location

Tomb of Ligeia posterDid you know that Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk was used as the primary location for 1964’s Tomb of Ligeia, Roger Corman’s last hurrah in American International Pictures’ Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price?

Founded in 1089 by Earl Warenne,  Castle Acre Priory served as a Cluniac monastery inhabited by some 30 monks until it was dissolved in 1537 under Henry VIII, when it was turned over to Sir Edward Coke, whose descendant, the Earl of Leicester, now owns the ruins (under the administration of English Heritage).

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre
Castle Acre Priory, as it appeared in Tomb of Ligeia and as it looks today

Back in 1964, however, it famously stood in for the home Vincent Price’s tortured hero Verden Fell who, against his better judgement, takes a new wife – the headstrong Lady Rowena Trevanion (Elizabeth Shepherd), but is soon haunted by the spirit of his late first wife, the ungodly Lady Ligeia.

Roger Corman
Director Roger Corman sets up a shot at Castle Acre

Roger Corman and cinematographer Arthur Grant (who was also a regular Director of Photography for Hammer Films) make great use of the Priory ruins, which haven’t altered a bit over the past 50 years.

To point you in the right direction, I have used a map which is available at the ticket office attached to the Priory, and used the same numbering.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre

THE PRIORY
There are a few long shots of the Priory (taken from No3 in the map) used throughout the film, with the last one being a matt painting.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre

LIGEIA’S FUNERAL
Ligeia’s coffin is carried through (10), where the monks infimary chapel and ward originally stood, to where her tombstone stands (in an area that was the later infirmary). This is also where Rowena falls from her horse and where Verden and Christopher (John Westbrook) share some scenes.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre
Fellow film location hunter Martin Skipper does his best Vincent Price impression

ROWENA’S ARRIVAL
Following the fox hunt, Rowena rides her horse from (11), the old latrine block, through (9), the former day room and dormitory, and into (10), the infimary, towards Ligeia’s tombstone. Christopher takes the same route following Rowena’s frightful first encounter with Verden.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreVERDEN TO THE RESCUE
Rowena is carried by Verden through (6), where the Presbytery once stood, and (5), the Nave, and they stop at the main doorway in the west front (when Rowena takes off Verden glasses) befor heading into (17), the West Range and Prior’s lodging house. This area was used in a scene in which Rowena pays Verden a visit and a night-time shot when the couple return from their honeymoon.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTOMBSTONE DEFACING
Verden leads Christopher through (5), the main doorway, to show him Ligeia’s defaced grave at (10), the later infirmary, where he also voices his concerns that Ligeia’s spirit has returned.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreTO THE BELL TOWER
Verden and Christopher run through an arch in (9), former the Chapter House, on hearing the tolling of the bells (after Rowena follows the black cat into the belfry).

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreAFTERNOON TEA
In a scene that always reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, Rowena and Christopher take tea outdoors in (7), originally the Cloister. In the distance, you’ll see a power line and a plyon, which are still in tact today.

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle Acre
The pylon you see in the film remains in place today, although its obscured by foliage

Tomb of Ligiea at Castle AcreIf you are ever in Norfolk, I do recommend a visit to Castle Acre. Of course, it wasn’t the only film location used in this classic Gothic horror – the others were Stonehenge, Polesden Lacey in Dorking, Surrey and St John’s Rectory in Wotton – and I’m looking forward to checking them out soon.

If you have any then and now pics (especially ones I may have missed) and you’d like to share them, then do get in touch. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this lovely signed pic of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Shepherd

 

 

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2018 Theatre of Blood London Locations Walking Tour

This year’s Theatre of Blood Locations Walking Tour, which took place on Saturday 28 July, was a resounding success (again), and I thank everyone for coming and enjoying the very long trek around London (which was greatly helped by some perfect summer weather).

Kensal Green Cemetery
Group shot by Andy Ellis

Kensal Green Cemetery
Photo by Mike Grant

This year, we started off at Kensal Green Cemetery, one of London’s Magnificient Seven –  where I conducted a tour around the Anglican chapel. It was here that the entire cast of Theatre of Blood assembled for the funeral of the first critic to meet their demise, George Maxwell (Michael Hordern), while Dennis Price’s Hector Snipe turned up as as corpse tied to the back of a horse. It is also the location of Lionheart’s memorial, and where Vincent Price’s Edward Lionheart disguises himself as gravedigger.

Kensal Green Cemetery
Photo by MIke Grant

Loudon RoadNext up was the site of the fencing school where Lionheart reveals himself to his nemesis, Peregrine Devlin (Ian Hendry), located in St John’s Wood, just a short stroll from Abbey Road Studios; then we had lunch on the banks of the river Thames in Hammersmith, where George Maxwell’s apartment lies in the shadow of the iconic Hammersmith Bridge.

Digby Mansions Hammersmith

Photo by Martin Skipper

Following lunch, we all took a bus ride to Dock Road in Brentford, where the site of Lionheart’s resurrection can still be viewed today above a working shipyard. Unfortunately, a couple of boats moored on the spot obscured the location  – but during my reccie a couple of weeks beforehand, I was lucky to photograph the area. However, a few of us did paid homage to the scene by downing some ‘Meths’.

Dock Road Brentford
You can see the bridge that our group is standing on can be glimpse in the top right hand corner of the film screen grab.

Dock Road Brentford
photo by Martin Skipper

Meths drinkersAfter a well-earned pint at a pub nearby (whose patrons were rather suprised by 30 people – many in our special Tour tees – descending on the place), we all headed to Putney – another key location as three key scenes where all shot in the area.

First up were the sites of the abandoned warehouse where Maxwell is butchered in a gory reenactment of the death of Julius Caesar and the Putney Hippodrome (which stood in for Lionheart’s lair, the Burbage Theatre). While both these buildings were demolished and replaced with a housing estate in 1975, our group had a lot of fun picking out the correct angles from some of the shots in the film.

Putney Hippodrome
inset photos by Mike Grant and Stuart Carroll

Weimar St Warehouse
This shot was taken last year, as I’d forgotten to get a shot this time round. But even after all these years, the black metal gate is still standing

Walker Place Shylock
Here’s me attempting to recreate Vincent’s Shylock pose on the same spot

And, a couple of streets away, we visited the exterior of the house that stood in for the home of Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley), where he is forced to eat his pet poodles baked in a pie, and where a comical police chase was staged.

Charlwood Road
Group shot by Andy Ellis

Next up, it was short bus ride to Wandsworth Town to visit The Causeway – the site of Devlin’s abduction and where Eric Sykes’ Sergeant Dogge has a deadly date with a speeding train.

The Causeway, Wandsworth
Group shot by Mike Grant

Our final destination was Vauxhall, where we took a close-up view of Devlin’s riverside apartment, Peninsula Heights (now the home of author and former politician Jeffrey Archer), were Lionheart takes his swan dive into the Thames. After one last group photo, we all said our goodbyes before some of us went for a well-earned dinner…

Peninsula HeightsVisiting all of the locations used in the film would really take two days, so each year we try to mix them up a bit, so it’s always an adventure and a great way to see parts of London even Londoners rarely visit. If you’d like to join us next year, then do sign up to the Vincent Price Legacy UK newsletter (click here to sign up) and join the Theatre of Blood Facebook Group (click here join).

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Witchfinder Weekender | Exploring the Suffolk film locations

On the weekend of the 21 and 22 of April, I hosted a trip to Suffolk in East Anglia for two days of exploring the original film locations used in the 1968 British cinema classic Witchfinder General, starring Vincent Price as  the eponymous Matthew Hopkins.

Blessed with the best weather of the year, our 15-seater van which we dubbed the Mystery Machine ambled through Lavenham, Kersey, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford, Orford, Dunwich and Manningtree, with a few other people joining us on their own steam over two days.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Selene for taking the reigns of the Mystery Machine and to Graham Humphreys for the fantastic poster that he produced, and got signed by the film’s second big star, Ian Ogilvy, which attendees received on Sunday afternoon over some well-earned pints in Manningtree, at the very location where the real Matthew Hopkins conducted some of his evil deeds.

Witchfinder General_Graham Humphreys_Poster

Here’s a snapshot of the film locations that we covered.

Witchfinder General_Kersey

KERSEY
This quaint little village was the setting for the film’s opening sequence in which a woman is led through a side street to a field where she is lynched, while Vincent’s Matthew Hopkins looks on from a distance.

Over the years, trees have grown to obscure St Mary’s church which appears the opening title credits. The pathway where the villages drag the woman lies next to the former home of thriller writer Hammond Innes.

Witchfinder General_Kersey

Witchfinder General_Kersey

Witchfinder General_Kersey

RUSHFORD
The former Rushford College and St John’s Church in this quiet backwater proved the ideal location to double as John Lowes’ Brandeston church.

The scenes shot at the College (now a private residence… which we inadvertently trespassed) included Hopkins and his assistant John Stearne (Robert Russell) setting Lowes to running and pricking, and Sara (Hilary Dwyer) trying to secure her uncle’s freedom by giving herself to Hopkins; while the church was used for a scene in which Richard (Ogilvy) swears his oath of revenge over Sara’s rape at the hands of Stearne.

Witchfinder General_Rushford

Witchfinder General_RushfordWitchfinder General_Rushford

Witchfinder General_Rushford

Witchfinder General_RushfordWitchfinder General_Rushford

LONG MELFORD
The 15th-century Kentwell Hall doubled as the magistrate’s house where John Lowes’ trial by water and hanging took place. Visiting the stately manor also gave us an opportunity to recreate  recreate the infamous publicity shot of Vincent and director Michael Reeves, in which their difficult relations during the shoot is quite visible in their body language.

Witchfinder General_Kentwell Hall
This picture is courtesy of Stuart Carroll

Witchfinder General_Kentwell HallWitchfinder General_Kentwell HallWitchfinder General_Kentwell Hall

Witchfinder General_Kentwell Hall

IXWORTH
While many of the riding sequences were filmed on military ground which has restricted access today, one scene involved Richard and his platoon meeting with Oliver Cromwell (Patrick Wymark). This took place at Ixworth Mill, which today is a self-catering B&B. It is also situated not to far from Great Livermere, the childhood home of the ghost writer MR James.

Witchfinder General_IxworthWitchfinder General_Ixworth

LAVENHAM
The medieval town was used for a number of key sequences in the film, including when Hopkins oversees the burning of Elizabeth (Maggie Kimberly) in the town square where Sara lodges, and where Hopkins resides in a local pub. Another key scene takes place in a nearby Water Street, where Stearne informs Hopkins of Richard’s desire for revenge.

Guildhall, Market Place, Lavenham
Witchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_LavenhamWitchfinder General_Lavenham Little Hall, Lavenham
This building doubled as the rooming houses for both Sara and Hopkins. We were very excited to find that little has changed in the room used for Hopkins’ bedroom, but we also discovered that while the outside of the building was used for Sara looking out a window, the interior was not. This was, in fact, a set constructed in an aircraft hangar in Thetford.

Witchfinder General_Little_HallWitcfinder General_Little HallWitcfinder General_Little Hall

Water Street, Lavenham
This street, around the corner from the Guildhall, is where Stearne runs to warn Hopkins and where Hopkins spies Sara across the road.

Witchfinder General_Water Street_LavenhamWitchfinder General_Water Street_Lavenham

Witchfinder General_Water Street_Lavenham
This photo is courtesy of Stuart Carroll

ORFORD CASTLE
The cellar of this 11th-century keep was used for the bloody climax in which Hopkins is shot by Nicky Henson’s Trooper and then hacked to death by a vengeful Richard. English Heritage are proud of its film legacy and even include it on their audio tour, with some Kensington gore thrown in for good measure.

Witchfinder General_Orford_Castle Witchfinder General_Orford_Castle Witchfinder General_Orford_Castle Witchfinder General_Orford_Castle Witchfinder General_Orford_Castle

DUNWICH
It was quite a trek (over an hour) to drive to the coast where the scenes of Richard and his platoon meeting a fisherman where shot. But on our arrival, we discovered we were in the wrong place. One of our group has now found the correct location, the Seven Sisters cliffs on the Sussex coast. So another outing is in the offing.

WIitchfinder General_Dunwich

BURY ST EDMUNDS
The Angel hotel in Bury St Edmunds is where the cast and crew stayed while filming. Vincent stayed in room 215, the Charles Dickens suite, which still contains the bed that the writer slept in. The bar is where he got drunk with Nicky Henson and the rest of the cast, and the kitchen is where he rustled up pasta for the crew.

The Angel_Bury St Edmunds

MANNINGTREE
The real Matthew Hopkins operated many of his dark deeds in Manningtree. So, on our return to London, we stopped off at The Red Lion, where, in 1644, eight local women were suspected of witchcraft and into the prison, which used to sit on the land to the right of the pub.

witchfinder_general-manningtree

Thanks for reading… If you fancy joining us for another tour in 2019… then please do sign up to the Vincent Price Legacy UK newsletter and join the Facebook page.

For more pictures about the Witchfinder Weekender, check out the dedicated Facebook Group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/112107102984052/

 

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The Last Man on Earth | Touring the original Italian film locations in Rome

In the winter of 1961-1962, Vincent Price starred in the first cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, re-titled The Last Man on Earth. Although ostensibly set in Los Angeles, the film was actually shot in Rome, Italy, making effective, atmospheric use of the Immortal City’s unique business and residential district, EUR.

This area was originally conceived as the Esposizione Universale Roma, Benito Mussolini’s grand plan to celebrate 20 years of fascism for the 1942 World’s Fair. But it remained unfinished due to the Second World War, and was finally completed in time for the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

The austere new buildings that rose up became symbols of a new wave of Italian rationalism inspired by ancient Roman Imperial town planning; with the most iconic being Marcello Piacentini’s travertine-marble clad Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (or Square Colosseum). Today it’s the HQ for the Fendi fashion label, and has featured in quite a few films, but The Last Man on Earth was the first to use the location, followed by Federico Fellini’s Boccaccio 70 segment Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio in 1962.

On a recent visit to Rome, I decided to start tracking down the original locations used in the film, and I was surprised to find quite of few. Some, however, remain elusive owing to the passage of time. But here are the ones I have found – so far.

The film begins with the sun rising over an unidentified suburb in Rome, with vista shots of the Tiber, deserted streets littered with corpses, tower blocks and a freeway overpass (to link it to LA obviously), a petrol station, supermarket and a Community Church displaying a sign The End Has Come.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth

This is Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense in Piazzale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo 8 in EUR, which was completed in 1955 and was intended to be Mussolini’s mausoleum, but is now where Cardinal Priests are appointed. In my Now shot, my travel companions were quite willing to play ‘dead’ while the odd churchgoer passed by.

The camera then pans on a bungalow where Price’s eponymous Last Man, Robert Morgan resides. Now,  I’m unsure whether this was a set or not, but scenes of Morgan driving towards the entrance reveals an incline and a wood or forest in the distance, so the jury is out on that one.

The Last Man on EarthWhile heading to dispose of his latest ‘victims’, Morgan passes Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense and a couple of tower blocks, and ends up on the outskirts of Rome where the burning plague pit is situated.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on EarthAfter picking up some chilled garlic at a modern (1950s style) supermarket, Morgan tracks stakes some more sleeping vampires. A montage reveals a new housing development, an amusement park (most probably the same one that appears in 1966’s Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs) and a large sporting arena.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on Earth

This Then/Now shot shows the Palazzo Dello Sport, which was completed in 1960 for the Summer Olympics in Rome, and is today known as PalaLottomatica, the home of the Vitus Roma basketball team.

Morgan then falls asleep while visiting his wife’s mausoleum, a modernist building at a cemetery under construction, where he finds himself fighting off a band of vampires. This another location I have yet to find.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthFlashbacks reveal Morgan’s family life (which takes place in a villa with a terraced garden) and his work at the Mercer Institute of Chemical Research (an unidentified 1930s office building lined with columns), while army trucks drive through EUR’s wide streets.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthBack in the present, Morgan gives chase to a black dog, heading down the street from his home, over a verge (where the same two columns we see at the beginning of the film can be seen), and onto the steps of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana.

At the four corners of the podium of the iconic Square Colosseum are placed four equestrian sculptural groups by Publio Morbiducci and Alberto de Felci, representing the Dioscuri, the two mythical Greek heroes, sons of Zeus and Leda. Other films shot here include Peter Greenaway’s Belly of an Architect (1987), Hudson Hawke (1991) and Titus (1999) with Anthony Hopkins.

Here’s a fun pic of myself beside one of the statues that grace the podium, with Vincent’s Morgan in situ.

Fusing elements from the original film with what the Square Colosseum looks like today. It’s now the HQ for the Fendi fashion label.

Morgan then runs across a road flanked by a colonnade. This can be found beside the Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense.

The next sequence features another iconic EUR structure, Il Fungo, which is situated on a hill across the road from the Palazzo Dello Sport.

This Piezometric water tower was completed in 1960 and continues to supply water to the EUR gardens today. In 1961, tenor Mario del Monaco turned the top of the tower into an exclusive restaurant (although it probably wasn’t open at the crack of dawn when Price filmed his scene). Il Fungo was also used in the opening scenes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse in 1962.

Here’s Vincent in front of Il Fungo today. Note that the street lights are the same ones that you see in the film.

Following shots of a street featuring a statue similar to the ones adorning the Square Colosseum, Morgan finds three vampires staked at a clearing. This is a hill bearing two rows of trees and some white building in the distance. Here, Morgan encounters Ruth who proves his undoing.

In the final eight minutes, Morgan tries to evade capture by the new order of human/vampire hybrids by taking refuge in a unidentified building before being cornered and killed on the altar of a church.

The Last Man on Earth

The film’s climax takes place at the modernist-designed St Pius X Catholic Church via Attlilio Friggeri 87 in Trionfale, Balduina, which was built in 1961. Apart from some recent modernisation, and the installation of the pipe organ (in 1969), the interior has hardly nchanged.

I’m currently putting together a video of my film location finds, but until that’s completed, I shall leave you with one last montage.

Our final picture fuses Vincent’s big death scene with what the altar looks like today.

The Last Man on Earth

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Expedition to the Dr Phibes Rises Again desert locations

While on a visit to Malaga over Christmas, I took a 2-hr drive north to Almeria to check out the Fort Bravo cinema studios where films such as Valdez is Coming, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Patton and The Hunting Party were shot. Just 10-minutes away, however, there’s also a location that was used to stand in for the Egyptian desert in 1972’s Dr Phibes Rises Again.

Was I excited about finally tracking this down after all these years? Hell yeah! It was the best Christmas present ever, and I found them in the Rambla del Buho – right next to each other (X: 552275 Y: 4100774).

Dr Phibes Rises Again in TabernasThe first is the small hill where Vincent Price’s Phibes and Valli Kemp’s Vulnavia dine on the local fish and quaff champagne in a tent. It appears in a comic scene in which Phibes almost chokes on a fish bone. Despite the ‘Keep Off’ signs, I couldn’t help but take a climb to the exact spot where the tent was pitched (can you spot me in the pic below?).

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

The second, featuring a very noticeable rock fomation, marks the entrance to the ancient temple hidden in the mountain where Phibes discovers the River of Life.

Dr Phibes Rises Again in TabernasThe film shows Phibes and Vulnavia heading towards the promotory. Unfortunately, the advancing years has seen some major rock and sand shifts, which made climbing it a little risky – and I couldn’t quite get to the exact position. But hey! It was still cool to be here.

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

This location also appears in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade in which Harrison Ford, riding on horseback, picks up a rock to render a tank useless.

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Another scene that took place in this area involved John Thaw’s Shavers climbing towards the entrance just before his grisly death at the claws of an eagle. This was a bit hard to track down exactly, but I’m sort of close in the above pic).

But you see what it looks like in these now and then shots coutesy of the Western Locations Spain website (www.moon-city-garbage.agency), which was a great help in starting out on my expedition.

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Finally, the Biederbeck campsite (which Phibes spies on) is also located in the region, between the main highway heading to Tabernas and just before Mini Oasis Hollywood. However, in my excitement at finding the Phibes mountain, I completely forgot to visit it.

Dr Phibes Rises Again in Tabernas

Dr Phibes Rises Again in TabernasBut I did score an informative book called Almeria in Film which has so many great locations that pop up in classics like Valley of the Gwangi that I’m now planning on returning soon in order to fill in the gaps – and also to find out where the sand dune shots were filmed (which feature in the scenes in which Gerald Sim’s Hackett encounters the Clockwork men).

almeria in film

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Witchfinder General Film Locations Weekender

Myself and a group of friends will be exploring the Witchfinder General Film Locations Tour over the weekend of 21-22 April 2018.

Apologies to those who registered their interest but didn’t get a seat in our van, but we only had room for 15 – and it was first come, first served.

However, If you have your own transport and want to sort out your own accommodation, you are more than welcome to join us.

If you have any enquires contact Peter at: tours@thesoundofvincentprice.com

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Checking out the Dr Phibes crypt at Highgate Cemetery

Last weekend I took a much-belated return visit to London’s Highgate cemetery to hunt down the locations used in THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES. Here’s what I found….

Dr Phibes at Highgate Cemetery

Believing Phibes still alive after the bizarre deaths of four doctors, Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and Dr Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) head to Highgate’s West Cemetery to check out the Phibes mausoleum.

We first see them entering the famed Egyptian gateway inside the East Cemetery, where John Franklyn’s graveyard attendant has some choice words about worms.

The next shot is taken from St Michael’s Church overlooking the Circle of Lebanon above the catacombs. Here we see Vesalius and Trout heading towards the Egyptian Avenue entrance with the graveyard attendant. Logically, they should be coming the other way – but it does makes for a better shot.

Dr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryDr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryVesalius and Trout are then led by the graveyard attendant down a path beside the Egyptian Avenue, before heading down into the Avenue itself (although we don’t actually see that).

Dr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryDr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryDr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryDr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryFollowing a brief sequence in which the ‘fashionable’ Vulnavia presents Phibes with some flowers, we return to Highgate for a brief shot of the graveyard attendant letting Vesalius and Trout into the Phibes crypt.

Dr Phibes at Highgate CemeteryNow this was bugger to locate as a prop entrance masks the actual tomb that was used. However, I did notice that the crypt of singer Mabel Batten, which also has poet/author Radclyffe Hall interred there, has the same curved architrave that you can see on the tomb beside the Phibes crypt (check it out in the top left hand corner of the picture above), so it could very well be the one on its immediate left. Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph that particular tomb – so I will just have to return to Highgate very soon.

Dr Phibes at Highgate Cemetery

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