Vincent Price - The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price – 5 Films From the Enigmantic Master of Horror

In the dimly lit corridors of cinematic history, there exists a name that sends shivers down the spines of horror film enthusiasts — Vincent Price. With an ominous voice that curdles blood and a dark presence that haunts the darkest of nightmares, Vincent Price emerged as an enduring legend in the realm of horror cinema.

His contribution to the genre transcended mere on-screen performances; it carved a mark on the collective psyche of generations of horror fans. In this exploration of the life and legacy of Vincent Price, we delve deep into the enigmatic world of this maestro of macabre, unraveling the life of the man who became the very embodiment of cinematic terror.

From his early years on the stage to his iconic collaborations with legendary directors, we will journey through the life of a man who made horror his art form and, in doing so, became an enduring legend in the pantheon of frightful tales. Welcome to the chilling world of Vincent Price, where fear is a work of art, and horror is an eternal masterpiece.

The Legendary Vincent Price
The Legendary Vincent Price

The Life and Career of Vincent Price

Vincent Leonard Price Jr. was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, into a family of means. His father, Vincent Leonard Price Sr., was the president of the National Candy Company, which later merged with the Childs Restaurant Company. This privileged upbringing afforded young Vincent access to a world of culture and refinement.

Here is as good as a place as any to point out that my grandmother attended school with Vincent Price. She always seemed surprised by his success in horror as she remembered as nothing but a wonderfully nice person and consummate gentleman.

Price’s early education was diverse, reflecting his parents’ interests in the arts and culture. He attended Yale University, where he studied art history and fine arts. During his time at Yale, Price honed his interest in theater and became involved in various stage productions. Price’s passion for the performing arts led him to pursue a career in theater. He initially worked with various regional theater companies, gaining valuable experience and honing his acting skills.

During World War II, Vincent Price served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a liaison officer between the military and the entertainment industry. This unique role allowed him to work on morale-boosting projects, including radio broadcasts and theater productions, which further deepened his involvement in the world of entertainment.

Finding the Mad and Macabre

After the war, Price’s transition to film was gradual. He began with supporting roles in various movies, often cast as a charming and suave character. While Vincent saw his break into horror with The Invisible Man Returns (1940), his breakthrough in film came with the 1953 House of Wax, a 3D horror film that showcased his talent for playing sinister roles. One of my most vivid 3D memories is the sight of saw dust ripping from Vincent’s saw in House of Wax.

House of Wax marked the beginning of Vincent Price’s meteoric rise in horror cinema and solidified his status as a bonafide star. His distinctive voice, commanding presence, and ability to convey both menace and charm made him a sought-after actor for horror and suspense films. Price worked with renowned directors like Roger Corman, starring in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the 1960s.

The Fly (1958) - Vincent Price as Francois Delambre in an iconic horror scene
Vincent Price as Francois Delambre in an iconic horror scene

Must See Vincent Price Films

The Fly (1958)

The Fly (1958) is regarded as one of Vincent Price’s most iconic horror films. The film’s success and enduring popularity are due in no small part to the talent and gravitas that Price brought to his supporting role as François Delambre. Price provides the critical role of driving the post-teleportation narrative and ultimately brings clarity to the events of the film. Delambre gets sucked into the madness of his brother to an astonishing ending where Vincent Price must make the most brutal mercy decision.

David Cronenbergs 1986 revisionist love letter to The Fly (1958) provides the ultimate compliment to this brilliant film.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Directed by William Castle, House in Haunted Hill (1959) centers around an enigmatic millionaire, Frederick Loren, impeccably portrayed by the iconic Vincent Price. Loren invites five seemingly unrelated individuals to spend the night in a notoriously haunted mansion perched atop a foreboding hill.

The catch? If any of them survive the night, they’ll each receive a substantial cash prize. With this tantalizing premise, the stage is set for a night of unrelenting terror and psychological suspense.

The supporting cast, including Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, and Carolyn Craig, all deliver solid performances, with each character harboring secrets and ulterior motives that keep the audience guessing.

This film single-handedly kicked off my life-long love of the genre and earned its place in 10 Essential Films to Know Malevolent Dark. Please check out our full review House on Haunted Hill.

The Tingler (1958) - Vincent Price wrestles with the Tingler
Vincent Price wrestles with the Tingler

The Tingler (1959)

Vincent Price once again collaborates with William Castle Dr. Warren Chapin, a dedicated scientist exploring the concept of fear. He discovers that a peculiar creature, known as the “Tingler,” resides within the human spine and grows stronger when its host experiences intense fear.

Armed with this unsettling knowledge, Chapin embarks on a quest to prove his theory, even if it means triggering terror in unsuspecting victims.

William Caste remarkably employed a number of gimmicks into this film. One, he filmed the majority of the film in stark stark black and white. He then unexpectedly juxtaposes this against a bathtub brimming with the reddest blood that I had see up until that point in horror cinema. Second, those lucky enough to see this film in the theaters would have felt their chairs vibrate as the film climaxed into terror.

The Tingler serves not only as a window into Vincent Price’s brilliant horror career, but also serves as a microcosm of 50’s cinema as it transitioned into fantasticallyJosh exploitative forms of entertainment.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), directed by Robert Fuest and featuring the legendary Vincent Price in a tour-de-force performance, is a one-of-a-kind horror film that combines elements of gothic horror, black comedy, and surrealism to create zany and macabre masterpiece.

Vincent Price portrays the titular character, Dr. Anton Phibes, a brilliant and deranged organist who embarks on a gruesome vendetta against the medical team he believes responsible for his wife’s death on the operating table. What sets this film apart is Dr. Phibes’ bizarre and elaborate murder spree, each death meticulously staged to mirror one of the ten plagues of Egypt. Interestingly, Phibes’ lair possesses a litany of colorful Art Deco design sensibilities that Dario Argento would later use in Suspiria (1977).

Price’s portrayal of Dr. Phibes is a testament to Price’s talent and versatility as an actor. He brings a unique blend of pathos and dark humor to the character, making Phibes both sympathetic and terrifying. Despite his heinous acts, there’s a strange charm in his obsession with art, music, and revenge.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes may be both the greatest and most implausible character ever portrayed by Vincent Price.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) - Vincent Price in one of his most iconic roles
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is arguably one of Vincent Price’s most memorable roles

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands (1990), does not represent the best of Vincent Price, although it is a wonderful film in its own right. We added it because it unexpectedly served as Vincent Price’s last role. The director Tim Burton unwittingly penned a beautiful love letter to Vincent Price in this film.

As the nameless inventor of Edward Scissor Hands, he displayed a wonderfully nuanced. The voice that Vincent Price had used to convey terror now conveyed deep and unconditional love. He loved beautiful things, yet he was driven by a macabre desire to create life from nothing. Much like Dr. Frankenstein before him, his creation is left unfinished and left in a cold and cruel world. While his intentions were pure and beautiful, he ultimately created a modern day tragedy.

Price’s role in Edward Scissorhands exemplifies Vincent Price’s love of art, culture and horror. The role was as enigmatic as the man himself.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Vincent Price portrays a complicated man with good intentions and unforeseen consequences
Vincent Price portrays a complicated man with good intentions and unforeseen consequences

Paying Tribute to a Wonderfully Complicated Man

Price’s influence extends far beyond the realm of horror cinema. He left an undeniable mark on popular culture, inspiring generations of actors, writers, and filmmakers to embrace the macabre and explore the dark corners of the human psyche. His legacy continues to thrive in the hearts of those who revel in the art of fear.

In the end, Vincent Price’s life was a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. He reminded us that horror, when crafted with intelligence and creativity, can transcend mere fear and become a canvas for exploring the complexities of the human condition. Through his work, he beckoned us to confront our deepest fears and, in doing so, find catharsis and a deeper understanding of ourselves.

As the curtains close on the life of Vincent Price, we are left with a legacy that will forever haunt our imaginations and inspire a love for the darkness that resides within us all. He was not just a master of horror; he was a master of the human experience, reminding us that even in the shadows, there is beauty and artistry to be found.

Vincent Price, the master of the macabre, lives on, his legacy forever enshrined in the haunted corridors of horror cinemas collective memory.

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