Halloween is just around the corner and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate then with possibly the greatest horror icon there is: Vincent Price. Scream Factory (a division of Shout! Factory) will be releasing their Vincent Price Collection later this month and it’s definitely worth a buy. The collection has 6 movies from Price’s American International Pictures (AIP) collection, 4 of which are part of the 8 films in which Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaborated on Edgar Allan Poe tales. While watching the movies in this collection it was important for me to focus on the quality of transfer rather than the films themselves (being they are already classic movies), but will give a brief synopsis for the uninitiated.
While watching these films I quickly lost that sense that I was watching a movie as old as it was. Scream Factory has done an amazing job transferring the original material to blu-ray. The colors are rich and deep with very clear edges. The colors are not exactly bright, but it feels very intentional. The color palette serves the somber tones of the films very well. For possibly the first time ever the cinematography of the films can be appreciated fully. That, combined with removal of imperfections and scratches makes a much more appealing visual experience. More importantly; gone are those cracks and hisses of previous releases. The audio has been noticeably cleaned up and is a welcome change from the previous DVD versions.
The set itself comes with 6 movies on 4 discs. At first I was disappointed each movie didn’t get its own disc but then realized I prefer the slimmer packaging that 4 discs affords. Plus, the running time on some movies doesn’t require an entire disc. Here is a breakdown of the discs and their content:
The Pit & The Pendulum (1961): Directed by Roger Corman from a script by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend). In post-Inquisition Spain, a young Englishman travels to the seaside castle of his brother-in-law to uncover the circumstances behind the death of his sister. Price plays dual roles; the bother-in-law and his father.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964): Directed by Roger Corman. This movie is arguably the best of the Price-Edgar Allan Poe movies, both in creepiness and has an excellent set design and aesthetic. Prince Prospero, a devil-worshipping sadist, throws lavish parties while the countryside is ravaged by the plague until a red-cloaked stranger appears at a party.
The Haunted Palace (1963): Directed by Roger Corman. Price co-stars with Lon Chaney Jr. in this H.P. Lovecraft inspired movie about a man and wife that inherit a house thought to be cursed by the townspeople. The man begins to fall under the influence of the house and seek revenge on those that killed his great, great, grandfather.
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960): Directed by Roger Corman from a script by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend). Price’s strong performance outshines his co-stars in this film about a family with a cursed bloodline. Roderick stops at nothing to prevent his sister’s marriage as he believes it will only pass the family curse onto future generations.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971): Directed by Robert Fuest. Dr. Anton Phibes blames incompetent doctors for his wife’s death and engages in a gruesome vendetta against the medical community. All the while, a Scotland Yard Inspector is always one step behind him. This movie is really great for its use of dark comedy to relieve some of the terrible things going on in the movie.
Witchfinder General (1968): Directed by Michael Reeves. A sadistic 17th-century witchfinder uses barbaric methods to identify, and of course execute, suspected witches. This has to be Price’s most serious performance; played serious with no sense of humor or comic-relief.
Special features include:
• Theatrical Trailers for each movie
• Still Galleries
• Audio Commentaries (various, but includes Roger Corman on his films)
The collection also comes with a 24 page behind the scenes booklet just as fascinating as the films themselves.
Overall, this new set is definitely worth the upgrade to blu-ray for those that already own all or some of the films. For those new to Vincent Price this is the place to start. I can’t think of a better Halloween movie marathon than turning out the lights and popping in these films. You won’t get the overt gore and blood of today but you will discover why Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price are truly masters of horror.
The Vincent Price Collection will be available for purchase online and in stores on October 22 from Scream Factory.