Fantastic news everyone! Into The Velvet Darkness: A Celebration of Vincent Price is one of the nominees for Best Book of the Year in this year’s Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, which honour the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservations.
But in order for it to win, it needs your vote.
Can you please send off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with – I vote for Into the Velvet Darkness: A Celebration of Vincent Price for Book of the Year – in the both the subject and message lines, and include your name in the message.
In rich husky tones, English actress Elizabeth Shepherd (Tomb of Ligeia, Damien: Omen II) brings a chilling sensuality to her reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic romance on this brand new CD.
Published in 1838, the haunting tale revolves around an unknown narrator who is married to the enigmatic Ligeia – a woman with whom he is so in love with that she seems almost unreal in both appearance (her eyes are described as orbs, her hair like ravens, her lips blood-red) and intellect (she knows all about ‘forbidden’ wisdom, the metaphysical, and has a proficiency with classical languages).
But their love is suddenly cut short when Ligeia falls ill and dies. Grief-stricken, our narrator turns to opium and marries again – to the Lady Rowena. But Ligeia is always on his mind. And when Rowena also falls ill and dies, the painful memories of Ligeia come back to haunt him – so much so that he is horrified to witness Rowena coming back to life, now transformed as Ligeia…
There’s a wonderful androgynous quality to Elizabeth’s deeply rich tones as she take on the role of Poe’s ‘male’ narrator, and the way she describes the qualities of the titular character: a beautiful, passionate and intellectual woman, raven-haired and dark-eyed, feels quite sensual. Elizabeth also masterly brings out all of the anxieties and fears that our opium-smoking narrator endures, and it all comes to a chilling climax when he has his drug-induced hallucination, wherein he believes Ligeia has returned from the grave.
Taking on Ligeia as her first spoken word project is great idea, especially as Elizabeth originally played both the Lady Rowena and the wilful Ligeia in Roger Corman’s final Poe adaptation, Tomb of Ligeia, starring Vincent Price.
In the film (which was released here in the UK on 6 December 1964), future Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne expanded on Poe’s recurring themes about death and resurrection by incorporating elements of mesmerism and necrophilia; but he left in Poe’s fabricated quote attributed to the philosopher Joseph Glanvill, which fans of the film will be familiar with:
‘Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.’
Hearing Elizabeth utter those lines again is a real thrill – and will certainly send shivers down your spine. But there is more…
Poe’s tale also includes The Conqueror Worm, his five stanza allegorical poem about how mankind’s fate is controlled by unseen forces. The title was erroneously used by American International Pictures for the US release of 1968’s Witchfinder General in a bid to link the film to their Poe cycle, but Vincent Price did go on to perform it during his many college lecture tours and presentations – and one of those recordings can found on The Core’s 12″ green vinyl record (check it out here) alongside a super electronic score.
Recently, I had the honour of meeting with Elizabeth at the famed theatrical restaurant, Sardi’s, in New York. She was a special guest at a private dinner celebrating Vincent Price organised by myself and Victoria Price as part of our week-long ESC Tours Spooky New York programme. It was during this dinner that Elizabeth officially launched her CD release and, as a treat, she performed the poem to our dinner guests. Here it is in full.
If you love the works of Edgar Allan Poe, spoken word, or are a fan of the Price/Corman Poe films, then this CD is a must-have for your collection. It also includes readings of the poems Annabel Lee, Romance and Elizabeth.
The Vincent Price Legacy UK has a handful of CDs signed by Elizabeth and these are available (to UK and European residents only) on our Vincent Price Store (click here to order).
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.
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!
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!
It was back in 1928 that a 17-year-old Vincent Price first stepped foot on European soil as part of his Grand Tour, where he finally got to see the great works of art that he was so passionate about. His tour took in seven art capitals, beginning in the UK on 14 July and ending in France on 26 August.
Recently, ESC Tours – which is run by his daughter Victoria Price and Vincent Price Legacy UK curator Peter Fuller – put together a series of bespoke tours in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, that not only followed in Vincent’s footsteps, but also paid homage to his life philosophy – to be forever curious about the world around you. Here’s what happened…
On Tuesday 21 May, our first port of call was the historic Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk, where Vincent Price stayed with his tour group in 1928. It was here that, according to his personal diary, he had a transcendental connection with his mother back home in his home town in St Louis, Missouri. We took a bracing walk along the beach, attempted a little ESP connection to those who had gone or lived apart from us – just as Vincent did – then toured the hotel where Vincent’s group stayed 91 years ago. Much has changed of course — lots of renovation and extensions have taken place on the historic hotel (where the Dutch royals once resided alongside the upper classes here) — but it was a great start to our journey.
We then headed off to Delft, famous, of course, for the Dutch Baroque Period painter Johannes Vermeer and its iconic blue and white tiles. Our tour of the city mainly centred on the town square, which was featured in an iconic sequence in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre.
On Wednesday 22 May, we headed into Wallonia, famous for its ancient castles, fortresses and beautiful scenery, where we visited a museum dedicated to the Belgian cartoonist Hergé (of Tintin fame), took lunch at Maredsous Abbey, where they produce their own beer and cheese, and toured some castle ruins in Montaigle. We also happened to chance upon a film shoot taking place at remote property that looked ever so spooky — we think it may have been for a horror film.
Thursday 23 May and it was time to board our Mystery Machine again for the drive to Ghent where we strolled through the famous ancient city, visited St Bavo’s Cathedral to see the famed Ghent Altarpiece, Het Lam Gods, and took a self-guided tour Gravensteen Castle (where we were rather disappointed to find that its dungeon was no more).
After some retail therapy and a rest-up at a local cafe, we headed to the coast, to Oostende, where we checked into the glorious Thermae Palace hotel — a real gem and reminder of the past — where Harry Küme’s classic Belgium vampire horror, Daughters of Darkness (aka Les Lèvres Rouges), was filmed (check out my now and then shots below). During our walk on the beach at sunset we couldn’t resist recreating our own version of the Ghent Altarpiece when we chanced upon a steel sculpture inspired by it.
Our road trip concluded on Friday 24 May with us heading back to Schipol via the abandoned city of Doel. Now this is not on any normal tour, but is a must. It’s a ghost town that’s turned into living art – and the total antithesis of the other attraction we visited – Kinderdijk, a picture postcard Dutch village filled with windmills and coachloads of tourists (which the locals hate BTW).
Saying goodbye to our Mystery Machine, and to some of our group, we took the train into Amsterdam, where we met up with a new group of campers for a welcome dinner at De Kas, a fab farm-to-table restaurant located in a set of greenhouses that date back to the 1920s. This would be the first of three elaborate meals that we would have during our stay. The Dutch love their taster menus — and boy do they know how to do them.
Our Amsterdam adventure kicked off properly on Saturday 25 May with a visit to the Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (one of the key works of art that Vincent saw for the first time – up, close and personal – in 1928).
We also visited the All the Rembrandts Exhibition, which presented 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 best examples of Rembrandt’s prints. Interestingly, Vincent’s first piece of art that he bought was a Rembrandt etching. Unfortunately, it was never recorded as to which piece it was — so we shall never know what became of it.
One of the activities we do on our tours is pick our favourite piece from each art collection that we visit and then discuss it later. This piece, Saul and the Witch of Endor, attracted the attention of three of us in the group — probably on account of its occult themes and its fantastical creatures.
We were also treated to a mammoth three-hour five-course lunch at the Michelin-starred Rijks restaurant, which had ‘traded spaces’ with a farm-to-table restaurant in Bali called Locavore. The quality was excellent, and the quanity bountiful — but no room for dinner this evening.
The Museum Quarter in Amsterdam was a great place to start our city break, and some of our group took the opportunity to visit the new Moco Contemporary Art Museum, which was dedicated to the works of the street artist Banksy, as well as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Daniel Arsham. I think I loved the setting, the historic Villa Alsberg, as much as the artwork.
Sunday 26 May found our group splitting up to visit Rembrandt’s House and the Amsterdam Dungeon (which was whole lot of fun), then we all met up to tour the Anne Frank House, where Anne, her family and four other people who hid from the Nazis in rooms in the secret annex during World War Two. This was truly a sobering, educational visit, and is a must-do when in the city.
The evening was all about Vincent Price as we headed to Lab 111 for a presentation by Victoria about her dad’s legacy, followed by a screening of House of the Long Shadows starring Vincent alongside Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing — which was perfect as it was Peter’s birthday today, while Vincent and Chris’ birthday is May 27.
And speaking of birthday’s, on Monday 27 May, we celebrated what would have been Vincent’s 108th birthday by doing the things he would have done – we headed to an art museum, of course. In this case, it was the Van Gogh Museum, which was a true delight and a place I could happily return to time and again.
You can’t not head to Amsterdam without doing a canal cruise, which took in the well-known districts of the Pijp, the Jordaan and the Red Light District, as we sailed past iconic bridges and the picturesque merchant houses — including ones that featured in the Bondclassic, Diamonds Are Forever, starring Sean Connery.
We ended the day with a meal at the Restaurant La Rive in the Amstel Hotel, where Vincent and Mary Price also visited and included in their acclaimed culinary tome, A Treasury of Great Recipes. This was another gastromonic affair where we got a true taste of haute cuisine.
On Tuesday 28 May, we had planned on a day trip to of Haarlem before taking the train to Paris — but misfortune struck in the form of a public transport strike. So we ended up on a Eurolines coach — which took many hours. Not a great start to the final part of our European adventure, but we are all laughing about it now.
Vincent Price ended his Grand Tour of 1928 in Paris, where he visited so many of Paris’s justly famous cultural sites. We planned to do the same — and added in a few more that have since become part of the pantheon of the City of Lights.
So, on Wednesday 29 May, we began with a morning tour of the Musee d’Orsay art gallery set in a stunning converted Beaux Arts railway station, followed by lunch at 1.30pm at the Eiffel Tower’s 58 Tour restaurant (which has the best views of Paris in my book). In the afternoon, we cruised the Seine, and concluded with dinner at Café de l’Empire, where confit duck was the speciality. A big day indeed… and much needed after that long journey the day before.
For horror fans, visiting Notre Dame and the Palais Opera Garnier is a must when in Paris — especially regarding their links to those classics of the horror genre, The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While Notre Dame was closed due to the recent devastating fire, when we visited on Thursday 30 May, some of the group took a tour of the Opera House while others explored the nearby Galleries Lafayette, for a bit of retail therapy.
Then it was off to the Louvre – unquestionably one of the finest art galleries in the world with some 380,000 objects from pre-history to the 21st century with 35,000 works of art over 8 departments on display. After a good few hours there, we finished the day with dinner at La Grande Mosquée de Paris — which was so relaxing after the hussle and bustle of the Louvre and its many tourists.
On Friday, 31 May, we had a couple of different options. Some went off to explore some obscure sites of Paris, others wanted to rest, and another group headed to Fontainebleau to visit the historic town and take in an equestrian fair.
On Saturday 1 June, Victoria lead an EverWalk excursion through the Marais, while I took a group to visit the Catacombs — but a yellow vests demonstration resulted in the police closing it for most of the day.
But all was not lost as we headed to Père Lachaise Cemetery for the rest of the afternoon and ended the day with one of the most touristy things ever — dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge.
Our adventures ended on a real high on Sunday 2 June with a trip to Disneyland Paris. Yes, I know its for kids and families — but we were guests of Disney because they have reintroduced Vincent’s original narration into the Phantom Manor attraction.
This was a fantastic opportunity to accompany Victoria as she listened to her dad’s voice again after so many years. We also got a personal guided tour of the park and were first in line for all the classic rides. It was, without doubt, a day to remember — and the perfect end to such an adventurous tour. Until next time, that is!
As HorrorConUK returns with ‘Something Wicked‘ this coming weekend at Rotherham’s Magna for its fifth spine-chilling year, Victoria Price will be one of the special guests, alongside Sean Pertwee, Corey Feldman, Dario Argento, Denis O’Hare, Ed Neal, Duncan Regher, John Carroll Lynch, Scout Taylor-Compton, Jennifer Ruben and horror genre artist Graham Humphreys, who has designed a specially commissioned print (available only at the event) featuring all the 2019 guests. Pre-order yours here
An inspirational speaker, blogger, interspiritual & interfaith minister and author, Victoria will bring her unique story to HorrorConUK during a Q&A moderated by author/journalist Tony Earnshaw, and is greatly looking forward to meeting and talking to fans of her dad, Vincent Price.
Joining Victoria, will be Vincent Price Legacy UK curator Peter Fuller who will be bringing along a wealth of Price Family books, including Victoria’s critically acclaimed biography of her father, Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography, which was re-printed in 2018 with some special new essays by Dover Publications.
Also available (and for the first time in print) will be the limited edition (100 copies only) book, Some of My Best Friends are Actresses, featuring Vincent’s personal memories of some of the famous women in his life ( Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Georgia O’Keefe among them ), and the limited edition green vinyl 12″ EP The Conqueror Worm, featuring the voice of Vincent Price and a superb cover by Graham Humphreys.
Victoria will be happy to sign all these items as well as your own treasured Vincent Price memorabilia.
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.
Lots 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.
This 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.
November 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.
Back 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.
We 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.
***** 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.
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…
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.
Did 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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
VERDEN 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.
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.
TO 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).
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.
If 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.
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).
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.
Next 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.
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’.
After 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.
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.
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.
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…
Visiting 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).
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.
Here’s a snapshot of the film locations that we covered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.