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).
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 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.
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….
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.
Vesalius 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).
Following 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.
Now 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.
What a ‘Priceless’ Bank Holiday weekend we’ve just had celebrating Vincent Price’s 106th anniversary with his daughter, Victoria Price, flying in from the US to spend it with us.
First up, on Vincent’s actual birthday (27 May), a small group of fans joined Victoria and myself took a stroll through Portobello Markets (just as Vincent did back in the 1960s when he was filming Masque of the Red Death), finishing with an al fresco Spanish lunch in the sunshine.
Then it was off to Vincent’s favourite London museum, the V&A, which is a treasure trove of art, antiques, fashion, furniture and ephemera. Boy, were we all tired after that…
Sunday found Victoria and I bringing a slice of Vincent Price to Birmingham’s wonderful Electric Cinema (the UK’s oldest working cinema) for a packed-out event where Annabel from Conjurer’s Kitchen presented the audience with a spectacular cake honouring Vincent’s horror classics and topped with a working pendulum (which was won by one of the guests – called Vincent).
We also showed a special clip show that honoured Birmingham’s love of curry, with a video of Vincent demonstrating how to make a curry from scratch. You can watch it here…
On Tuesday evening we held a special evening at the Hitchcock-themed North by Northwest pub in Islington. It’s a fab venue filled with posters and prop replicas from Hitchcock’s films – including a life-size Norma Bates.
It was also the perfect location to honour the Masters of Suspense and Menace, so we kicked off with a screening of The Perfect Crime, an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show in which Vincent guest starred, while everyone tucked into some delicious pub grub with a menu that had been given a Vincent Price makeover.
The audience were then treated to some never-before-seen clips, courtesy of my private collection, and a wonderful presentation by Victoria about her dad’s legacy, which has led to the two of us creating a new venture: ESC Tours.
If you’d like to know more about ESC Tours and sign up to our mailing list, then head over to the website: CLICK HERE
If you’d like to join us next time, or keep up to date with all the project that we are doing to keep Vincent’s legacy alive and relevant, then do sign up to our Vincent Price Legacy UK mailing list, as well: CLICK HERE
Finally, here’s just some super comments about the events we hosted this past weekend. Thank you everyone for coming and making this so special.
Curator, Vincent Price Legacy UK
‘Thanks so much for the evening Liz Hopkins. Will stay with me. Thank you Peter Fuller for squeezing us in, a huge success! What an inspirational talk by Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price. What a human being Vincent was and indeed his daughter is.’ Matthew Hopkins
‘It was brilliant – thank you for organising another great event!!!!‘ Selene Paxton-Brooks
‘Such a moving and inspirational talk from Victoria Price.‘ Julia Morgan
‘A fantastic evening with lots of laughter!’ 😁 Merlyn Roberts
‘Loved every moment of it’Jason D. Brawn
‘A marvellous affair’ Pete McDonnell
‘Thanks Peter, was wonderful! The past couple of days have been pretty special’🙂 Stuart Carroll
Today, 27 May 2017, marks the 106th birthday of Vincent Price. So, let’s all raise a toast to the actor, art lover, Anglophile and all-round legend…
Here in the UK, The Vincent Price Legacy UK will be celebrating throughout the Bank Holiday weekend with two very special events happening – one in Birmingham on Sunday and another in London on Tuesday. The London event is sold out, but there is a handful of tickets left for Birmingham. GET THEM HERE
But today, we shall be following in Vincent’s footsteps and doing something that he would have loved… a trip to Portobello Road Market, the V&A and the British Museum.
Have a great weekend everyone.
Here’s some super pics of Vincent at Portobello Road with Jane Asher, his co-star in 1964’s Masque of the Red Death.
On Tuesday 30 May, Victoria Price will host a very special evening in London at the Hitchcock-themed North By Northwest pub in Islington, in celebration of Vincent Price’s 106th birthday anniversary (Vincent was born on 27 May), and you’re all invited.
This event coincides with the UK reprint release of Vincent and Mary’s Come Into the Kitchen Cook Book, so we are offering all attendees the chance to purchase a signed copy of the book when you get your ticket to attend.
In honour of the venue, we shall be screening Vincent’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, The Perfect Crime, plus some exclusive never-before-seen treats.
Some great pub grub will be available to purchase on the night. Plus, everyone who attends will be entered into a free raffle to win some fantastic prizes.
As part of the BFI Southbank’s Girls Like Us: British Women and WWII Cinema season in April, the 1946 melodrama Piccadilly Incident, starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding, gets a NFT2 screening on Wednesday 19 April (6.15pm) and Sunday 20 April (5.40pm). Co-starring is Coral Browne, the third wife of Vincent Price.
But she’s not the only spouse of the beloved actor to be gracing the BFI, for Vincent’s first wife, Edith Barrett co-stars in the celebrated Val Lewton 1943 horror, I Walked With A Zombie, which screens on Sunday 2 April (8.40pm), as part of their Cult series.
In Piccadilly Incident, Wren Diana Fraser (Anna Neagle) returns to England after three years stranded on a desert island to find that Alan Pearson (Michael Wildling), the man whom she married in a London air-raid, had thought her dead and has remarried a woman called Virginia (Coral Browne). This hugely popular weepie teamed Neagle and Wilding for the first time, establishing them as top box-office stars in five more films, beginning with The Courtneys of Curzon Street and ending with The Lady with the Lamp in 1951. It also scored Neagle a Best Actress of the year nod by the readers of Picturegoer magazine. BOOK TICKETS HERE
In producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur’s famous voodoo chiller I Walk With a Zombie, Canadian nurse Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) arrives in the West Indies and soon gets involved in menacing goings on in the moonlight with Tom Conway’s zombie wife Jessica (Christine Gordon). Much better than its title would indicate, this beautifully made drama is a sort of Haitian voodoo offshoot of Jane Eyre. A little on the slow side, it nonetheless remained Tourneur’s favourite film, mainly because of its poetic qualities. It’s very moody, with a commendably firm central performance by Dee, and great support from Edith Barrett as the mysterious Mrs Rand, who harbours a dark secret.
BOOK TICKETS HERE: 29 March
BOOK TICKETS HERE: (2 April)
‘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)