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Directors: Roger Corman, Jacques Tourneur, Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow, Robert Fuest, Edward Bernds, and William Castle
Writer: Richard Matheson, Robert Towne, Furio M. Monetti, Robert Blees, George Langelaan, and Robb White
Cast: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: Various
Type: Color and B+W
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Introduction And Parting Words By Vincent Price for The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, and The Tomb of Ligeia
- Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, and The Last Man on Earth
- Corman’s Comedy Of Poe
- Newly Commissioned Audio Commentary With Elizabeth Shepherd for The Tomb of Ligeia
- Audio Commentary With Authors David Del Valle And Derek Botelho for The Last Man on Earth
- Audio Commentary With Actor Brett Halsey And Film Historian David Del Valle for The Return of the Fly
- Audio Commentary By Film Historian Steve Haberman for House on Haunted Hill
- Vincent Price: Renaissance Man Featurette
- The Art Of Fear Featurette
- Working With Vincent Price Featurette
- Promotional Record
- Tv Spots
- Theatrical Trailers
- Still Galleries
Today marks the 21st anniversary of Vincent Price’s death, and, despite the large amount of time passed, his stature remains as iconic and impressive as ever. Last year, Scream Factory released The Vincent Price Collection, a Blu-Ray release featuring six of some of Price’s most beloved pictures. The collection included The Masque of Red Death, The Pit & the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and Witchfinder General. While the collection was a hit among fans, it only graced the surface of the best of Price’s oeuvre. Following up their efforts, this week Scream Factory brought us closer to presenting a complete high definition collection of Price’s masterpieces with The Vincent Price Collection II. The collection features seven more of Price’s best performances and just in time for the Halloween season.
The Raven/The Comedy of Terrors
Both of these AIP produced pictures offer a great insight into the range of some of Hollywood’s most iconic character actors. Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff really deliver on both of these films—although health restrictions did lead to Karloff taking a smaller role in the latter film. Poe fans may take issue with this loose—strong emphasis on loose—adaptation of The Raven, but if you bracket the connection to Poe’s iconic poem, the film is strong enough to stand up for itself. Directed by Corman, with a script by Richard Matheson, The Raven follows Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price) a magician in mourning over the death of his wife, Lenore. On a night when a talking raven visits him—whom it turns out is really the transformed Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre)—he gets wrapped up in a battle against the wicked, powerful Dr. Scarabus (Karloff). The film is a real treat; self-aware camp performed with upmost care. Lorre shines as the bumbling drunk, where Price somewhat takes the back seat as his straight man. There is even the added entertainment of an extremely young Jack Nicholson in one of his earliest screen roles.The Comedy of Terrors sits nicely as a companion piece to The Raven, marking the last collaboration between these three great actors. The Comedy of Terrors, again penned by Matheson but with Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past, Cat People) directing, is a far less comical, far more sinister tale. With Lorre and Price, however, you are always a stones throw away from a good laugh; so, while the film is much darker than its predecessor, it is self-aware enough to have fun with the subject matter. In The Comedy of Terrors, Price delivers one of the most likeable villains in cinematic history. Cast as Waldo Trumbull, Price plays a conniving undertaker who, alongside his blundering assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre), make a habit of reusing caskets in order to keep their failing business alive. When business slows to a halt and rent is due, Trumbull takes to an act far more severe: murder. The film follows a series of dark follies that place characters at odds with each other, climaxing in an absurd but worthwhile conclusion that is sure to please.
The Tomb of Ligeia
The Tomb of Ligeia is a notable for numerous reasons. It not only marks the final installment of the AIP Poe-Corman series, it is also the last film featuring Price that Corman would direct. Finally, The Tomb of Ligeia is the only film, out of the eight adaptations, to be shot on-location. For this, Ligeia emerges as one of the more expansive, attractive of all the Poe-Corman films. Ligeia is perhaps the most complex of the series, which is probably, in part, due to Robert Towne’s (Chinatown) script. While by no means faithful, the film carries a stronger embodiment of Poe’s own style than any of the prior efforts. In a trope that embodies much of Price’s career, his character in Ligeia, Verden Fell, is haunted by the death of his wife Ligeia, whose spirit resides over his manor. When Fell remarries the younger Elizabeth, he is forced to encounter the spirit of Ligeia, which culminates in a fiery climax. For Ligeia, the film’s power is two-fold. While the script is a bit convoluted, Price’s brings it to life with his unique style. In Ligeia, Price is larger than life and his performance carries the film. In addition to Price, Corman’s direction is exceptional, a gorgeous use of the gothic setting. Perhaps not as colorful, expressionistic as some of the other Poe-Corman pictures, Ligeia manages to entail a naturalistic edge that enhances the film.
The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth is the first in a series of adaptations of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I am Legend. One of the most interesting aspects of the film, and the novel as well, is the ambiguity of the living dead. Predating the Romero’s ‘reinvention’ of the Zombie in 1968, Matheson’s creatures are a halfway point between the vampire of the Gothic tradition and what would become the contemporary zombie. This is by no mere chance, as Romero has pointed to both Matheson’s novel and The Last Man on Earth as being significant in crafting his vision. While not a fact that has gone unnoticed, The Last Man on Earth’s contribution to the modern Zombie subgenre has often been glossed over in favor of treating Romero’s work as revolutionary, completely singular—which even a cursory glance of The Last Man on Earth could refute.
Dr. Phibes Rises Again
The follow up to one of Price’s greatest films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rise Again takes Phibes—and of course his outlandish murderous tactics—to Eygpt in search for the key to everlasting life. Substituting the revenge plot of the first film with a more adversarial match up between Phibes and Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry)—also in search of the river of life—, Dr. Phibes Rises Again harkens back to the Universal Monsters era, where elaborate tales, ‘exotic’ settings, and the supernatural are exploited for maximum gain. Rises Again may not live up to the predecessor but it is a wild ride nonetheless, loaded to the brim with humor and the macabre. The film is, as the original, shot beautifully under Robert Fuest’s direction. A cavalcade of color and extravagant set designs are packed into every shot, complimented of by Price’s over-the-top performance.
House on Haunted Hill
Of all the films in the collection, it is arguable that House on Haunted Hill has sustained the greatest impact on the greater collective consciousness. Directed by William Castle from a script by Robb White, House on Haunted Hill has—like many of Price’s films—become part of the horror lexicon. In order to entertain his bored wife, millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) invites five strangers to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house for the chance to win $10,000—the catch, they have to make it through the night alive. Produced in the wake of the 1950s, the film blends horror with a taste of noir, and the result is a gorgeously shot black and white tale full of twists and duplicity. The film also contains an excellent performance—perhaps one that even rivals Price’s—by the great character actor Elisha Cook Jr. (The Big Sleep, The Killing).[divider]
There can, perhaps, be only two critiques of Scream Factory’s efforts in restoring and collecting Price’s work. The first is more an observation that a direct critique, but both collections retain a quasi-haphazard intentionality to them. There is no rhyme or reason as to which films are chosen. They are not chronologically presented, nor are they thematically collected. In the face of Arrow Video’s more categorical collections, it begs the question as what justifies the inclusion of each picture. This is, as aforementioned, merely a minor complaint and one that warrants little more than a short reference. The second issue comes with the inclusion of The Return of the Fly, which begs at two potential problems. The first is the fact that the original film, The Fly, is neither included in this or the former collection. For those completists out there this offers a strange conundrum. While certainly, The Return of the Fly works individually to its predecessor, it still exist as an odd choice—probably one that was necessitated by a lack of rights than a conscious decision. Further, it exists as the only film in the series where Price plays a rather small role. Because of this, it would have been nice had The Return of the Fly been substituted by another of Price’s films that aren’t on either box set, like House of Wax or Theatre of Blood. At most, these issues are but minor blemishes on an otherwise outstanding effort.
When addressing these releases it must be kept in mind that the large majority of these films were shot with meager budgets, and rather quickly. With that in mind, these Blu-Ray presentations are exceptional. Certainly, no one can expect Scream Factory to perform alchemy and remove all of the errors present. What is evident, is a strong concern for both contrast and color depth. The outcome is seven gorgeous transfers with little-to-no digital enhancements, resulting in a fine respect paid to naturalistic film grain.
Overall, the audio tracks for the collection are of considerable quality. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes feature a great deal of depth, preserving the nuanced nature to many of the films’ respective soundtracks. There is a fine balance between the dialogue and sound effects and music. Finally, there are little-to-no signs of distortion or damage to any of the tracks on display.
For this box set there aren’t a great deal of newly commissioned features, but there is still a wealth of entertainment in store. While most Price fans will probably be familiar with them, still, one of the best features on the box set is the inclusion of the three separate introductions/parting words that Price filmed for the televised showings of The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, and The Tomb of Ligeia. Even in his old age, Price never lost sight of his enthusiasm for the genre, and his passion is an infectious and welcomed treat. In addition, there are three featurettes that highlight the work of novelist and screenwriter Richard Matheson who wrote The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, and contributed to The Last Man on Earth—adapted from his novel I am Legend. The sole newly commissioned piece is an audio commentary for The Tomb of Ligeia with actress Elizabeth Shepherd, which accompanies a commentary ported over from a prior release with Roger Corman. There are also three other commentary tracks for Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill respectively. Rounding out the collection are a series of featurettes including Corman’s Comedy on Poe; Vincent Price: Renaissance Man a 27-minute documentary that broadly focuses on the life and career of Price; Working with Vincent Price; and finally The Art of Fear. There are also a great deal of TV Spots, Trailers, a commemorative booklet, and Galleries included.
Vincent Price is one of horror’s greatest icons. His work remains enjoyable to this day and this collection offers a great deal of value for anyone, ranging from the most novice of to the most seasoned of Price enthusiasts. Featuring seven outstanding, varied performances, the collection is an insight into Price’s acting prowess. The films oscillate from humorous to disturbing with ease. The bottom line is that Vincent Price has remained a legend for a reason, and Scream Factory’s collection honors his work in the manner it deserves. With a wealth of special features, beautifully preserved prints, and at less than ten dollars a film, the collection is, needless to say, a necessary addition to any horrophile’s collection. Vincent Price is an actor who devoted his life to horror, and we are happy to see such a great deal of care paid back to a man we all owe so much to.