Vincent Price made over 100 movies and I’ve only seen 17 of them. I can’t claim to be a serious fan with that kind of ratio, can I? Perhaps I’m only a minor fan, but I’m a fan nevertheless. Price is a big deal in St. Louis, his hometown, and a proper celebration of the Vincentennial has been going on since May 19. Tonight Price’s daughter Victoria will be speaking about her father at the Missouri History Museum. Tomorrow night the Vincentennial wraps up with a free showing of Edward Scissorhands in Forest Park.
Do you know that there’s a blog devoted to Vincent Price’s voice? Sure the lean figure and the sharp features served him well, but it was the voice that made Price an icon. On film his voice is a rich, insinuating baritone; elegant and oily at the same time. It’s fun to watch old talk show interviews and hear Price relax into what must have been his “offstage” voice: higher, and almost midwestern. He was a great talk show guest because he was a man of endless enthusiasm (for art, for food, for people) and because he never took himself too seriously. That, too, is part of his stardom – the self-mockery built into many of his roles. But Price could play it straight, too, and do it well. My favorite Vincent Price film is The Last Man on Earth, a 1964 adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. The film is hampered by low production values, but Price’s performance transcends technical issues. In a way that neither Charlton Heston nor Will Smith could, Vincent Price communicates the grinding hopelessness of surviving in a world occupied by no one else but the living dead. Watch it alongside Night of the Living Dead and you’ll see not only how much Romero’s zombies were inspired by the vampires of “The Last Man on Earth”, but how similarly bleak in tone both films are.
As his film career began to slow down in the late ‘6os, Vincent Price’s television career ramped up. That’s what comes of being such a beloved, iconic actor: everyone wants you on their show. And because he didn’t seem himself as above such things, Price appeared everywhere. He’d already had a recurring role on “Batman”: now he added appearances on “Get Smart”, “Love American Style”, “The Brady Bunch”, “Columbo”, “The Love Boat”, and many more. He also hosted “Mystery” and was the voice of Vincent Van Ghoul on “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo”. And then, of course, there was “Thriller” and “Edward Scissorhands”.
In honor of the big day, I’m passing along a few clips that serve as a reminder of what a one-of-a-kind Vincent Price was.
This trailer doesn’t do it justice, so you need to watch the entire movie.
Tim Burton is a great fan of Vincent Price and made this short film way back in 1982, in honor of his idol.
Finally, who could forget this sound? Or adequately imitate it?