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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tuesday Top 10: Favorite Vincent Price Roles

Perhaps no other genre of film has been as dominated and epitomized by a single actor the way that horror has been by Vincent Price. The gloriously histrionic Price has attained a position unlike anyone else in the history of terror cinema, and with a mere glance over his resume, it's quite simple to see why. When looking back on such a deeply enjoyable body of work, it is almost impossible to select just a handful of favorite roles out of a career built with one unforgettably iconic turn after another.

So you'll gave to excuse me if I left out any of your favorites. Being the died-in-the-wool Vincent fanatic that I am, I agonized over what to include, but in the end I think I managed to put together a fitting collection of some of the performances that have forever etched him into the minds and hearts of fright fans worldwide. Enjoy!

10. Professor Hubert Whitehead
Yes, the two-part Brady Bunch tiki episode rears its perm-covered head. For baby boomers and genXers alike, Price's guest spot alongside America's whitest family in 1972 is a pop culture flavor explosion that still resonates.

9. Fortunato Luchresi
In perhaps the most memorable portion of 1962's Poe anthology Tales of Terror, Price plays the proud and doomed Fortunato of The Cask of Amontillado, alongside a decidedly over-the-hill Peter Lorre. To this day, this remains the definitive adaptation of Poe's chilling tale of revenge.

8. The Inventor
In one of his final roles, Price takes to the screen in 1990 with his young admirer, Tim Burton, directing behind the lens. And although a small part, the aging legend injects so much pathos into it that it becomes one of the most powerful elements of the entire film. The master reminds us one last time that there will never be another.

7. Dr. Warren Chapin
Price played a lot of men of science, and without doubt his character in William Castle's gimmicky 1959 masterpiece, The Tingler, is one of the finest of these. Dr. Chapin is a scientist delving into the nature of fear itself, and unleashing a hideous creature in the process.

6. Matthew Hopkins
Despicable, debauched and devious, Price is at his villainous peak here, playing a cynical and unscrupulous witch hunter in the 1968 British film Witchfinder General. Reportedly, director Michael Reeves instructed Price to reign in his trademark hamminess in exchange for more subtle realism, and in this case it paid off with one of the actor's most chillingly realistic roles.

5. Frederick Loren
And here we have another classic Vincent Price role brought to us by William Castle. In 1959's House on Haunted Hill, Price is both chilling and wryly humorous as the sardonic, scheming Loren. If you're looking for Price at his classy, sophisticated and self-satisfied best, then look no further.

4. Dr. Robert Morgan
In one of his most influential turns, Price once again plays the part of a scientist--only this time, one whose experiments are for the purpose of saving humanity. In The Last Man on Earth (1964), the first of three screen adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Price exudes a Larry Talbot-esque blend of regret, guilt and outrage as the last human holding down the fort against an army of vampire/zombies out for his blood.

3. Edward Lionheart
Here we have one that is truly dear to my heart, from 1973's Theater of Blood. Price is quite literally priceless here, playing a self-deprecating role that is clearly a spoof of himself. Ever the sport, Price attacks the part with relish, delivering one Shakespearean soliloquy after another as he dispatches his critics with violent aplomb.

2. Prof. Henry Jarrod
The part that put Price on the map, and skyrocketed him into the horror pantheon for all-time. A 3-D extravaganza from 1953, House of Wax gives us Price as the deranged and disfigured Jarrod, transforming unsuspecting victims into museum exhibits. This role would literally set the tone for much of the rest of Price's career.

1. Dr. Anton Phibes
Not only my favorite Vincent Price role, but very easily one of my favorite roles in any horror movie, period. It gets no better than The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and in this role, Vincent is given his greatest palette ever. The ease with which he commands each scene--without ever even moving his lips, no less--is awe-inspiring. To watch Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes is to watch an inspired god of genre cinema at his over-the-top best, managing to be both sublime and ridiculous simultaneously.

7 comments:

bagman974 said...

Being a die-hard Price-phile myself,most of your list I agree completely with except for Prof. Whitehead,that's a cheat in the fact that it's a one shot part on a TV series and NOT one of his legendary horror film roles.I would've gone with either Roderick Usher from "House Of Usher",Prince Prospero from "The Masque Of The Red Death",or Paul Toombes/Dr. Death from his final AI film "Madhouse" over that one TV role,as memorable as it may be.Besides you wanna go with a iconic pop culture TV role Price played,you gotta be talking about when he portrayed Egghead on "Batman",that is leaps & bounds ahead on the PC (pop culture) recognition scale than the Brady bit,lol.

Lee Russell said...

Pretty solid list. Phibes is hard to argue against. I'm glad you included Matthew Hopkins. It's one of those roles that proves his detractors are dead wrong in thinking he was a hammy hack. Price knew what he was doing and wasn't afraid to make fun of himself. Something a lot of actors today could stand to learn.

Kevin Maher said...

Excellent list. Looking at this line-up, it's hard to imagine any other actor playing these parts. I suppose a casting director might've hired Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, but (with all due respect) neither of them can compete with Vincent Price's distinct style.

Rabid Fox said...

My first Vincent Price memory comes as a young boy watching The Hilarious House of Frankenstein, where he'd recite haunting poems that half the time wound up being some kind of punny limerick.

Then, there was the Scooby-Doo stuff. :)

le0pard13 said...

So glad you included Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General and Edward Lionheart from Theater of Blood on this list, B-Sol. I also have a warm place in my heart for his Inventor from Edward Scissorhands. Thanks for this.

lazlo azavaar said...

Dr. Phibes! Yes, yes, and hell yes!

B-Sol said...

Sorry Bagman, but the Brady Bunch appearance was simply too priceless (sorry...) to pass up!
Lee, I completely agree about Witchfinder. That flick brought out something in Price that was rarely seen.
Kevin, I knew a fellow Price-worshiper like yourself would appreciate this. Yes, the man was one in a million, and we will not see his like again.
Leopard--you're very welcome!
Lazlo--couldn't have said it better myself!!

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