Vincent Price – Master of Menace

Day 171 of Colourisation Project – October 25

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

As a child, my first ever horror movie was the House of Wax made in 1953.  A 3-D horror flick that combined the atmospheric eeriness of a wax museum set in the foggy gaslight period of 19th century New York, it was screened repeatedly on Australian TV screens in the 1960s, causing me to have untold nightmares. Touted as the best US horror film of the 1950s, it is tame by today’s standards but it still makes the hairs on my arms stand on end.

House of Wax was one of the biggest hits of 1953, earning an estimated $5.5 million in rentals from North American box offices alone. A gothic-styled thriller it stars Vincent Price, playing a vengeful and disfigured sculptor, who repopulates his destroyed wax museum by killing and using the dead bodies of his victims as wax displays. He is assisted by his deaf-mute assistant sculptor, Igor played by a young Charles Bronson. (One of his victims is played by a young Carolyn Jones, better known as Morticia Addams from the TV comedy horror spoof, The Addams Family.)

Vincent Price

Publicity Still: – Vincent Price – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Part of the film’s success was that it was shot in 3-D, although that was lost on its director, Andre De Toth, who was blind in one eye, and thus could not see in three dimensions. Some modern critics agree that DeToth’s inability to see the depth in the film is what makes the film superior, arguing that his focus was more on the story telling and getting believable performances from the actors rather than on playing with 3D gimmicks for the camera.

Making his screen debut in 1938, Vincent Price went on to enjoy a film career spanning six decades, becoming one of America’s greatest actors and a horror film icon. It was this film, House of Wax that established his place in the horror genre.  At 6’4″ (1.93 m), his towering height and slender frame always lent to a chilling presence on screen, earning him the title, ‘Master of Menace.’ With a distinctive air of culture, his quizzical mock-serious facial expressions and a low-pitched and strangely mellifluous voice, Price’s die was cast. He soon developed a reputation for portraying campy villains in a number of horror films, including the acclaimed Gothic horrors, House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). In 1964 he brought Edgar Allan Poe‘s masterpieces to life in The Masque of the Red Death.

Price possessed in real life the same sense of black humour that he often carried over into his horror films. In his later years, when asked for his autograph, he would often sign ‘Dolores Del Rio’ instead of his actual name. When once asked why, he replied earnestly, “I promised her on her deathbed that I would do what I could to keep her name alive!”

Another time he told the story of a middle-aged woman who came up to him while on a flight to Barcelona for a fantasy film festival. Asking for his autograph, she said “I can’t tell you how many years I have enjoyed your films, Mr. Karloff.” Not wanting to disappoint her, Price reincarnated himself as Boris Karloff and gave the woman an autograph fifteen years after Karloff’s death. Ironically, Price’s first venture into the horror genre was in the 1939 Boris Karloff film, Tower of London.

Vincent Price died on this day, October 25 in 1993 at age 82 of lung cancer and emphysema.

He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

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“Suddenly in the ’50s, a whole new group of actors came out: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Paul Newman, who were very moody and realistic. So actors like myself and Basil Rathbone and so on didn’t really fit into those realistic dramas and we began to do costume pictures. This was really the only place we could go on working if we wanted to survive as actors. Most of the things of my later career have been costume pictures. They require a certain knowledge of the language, they require enunciation and a poetic approach to the language. Really, the one thing we have over the apes is our language, isn’t it? That’s about all.”   –   Vincent Price

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One Response to Vincent Price – Master of Menace

  1. Pingback: Gene Tierney – The Luckiest Unlucky Girl | Random Phoughts

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