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Blu-ray Review: The Vincent Price Collection III

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Vincent Price was an actor with few peers. Sure it’s easy to think of Price as the Prince of Darkness who took over the horror genre from Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. But Price was an actor who had great roles in historical romances, film noir and action films. Even when it came to scary films, Price was not a one trick emotional pony actor. He had an amazing tone range. Price could be misunderstood, comic or just straight up diabolical in a horror. He had the skills to be believable in all of them. He wasn’t the same character in different wardrobes. He brought a richness to the horror genre that made him a thespian evolution from the previous stars. The DVD era has allowed the genius of Price a chance to shine. The Vincent Price Collection III is another prime retrospective of his career.

Master of the World (1961 – 102 minutes) was American International Pictures stepping up in a big way as they dared to compete with big budget Jules Verne flicks 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. The fireworks over the AIP logo made it feel like a Disney production. A town in Pennsylvania hears strange noises from a nearby mountain. A ballooning party featuring Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster and David Frankham soar up to investigate. They are shot down and captured by Robur (Price) and his crew of the Albatross, an airship. Robur sails around the globe bringing peace by dropping bombs on warships. He’s like Captain Nemo of the clouds. The captives aren’t too happy being stuck in the air and keep figuring out ways to escape. It is fun to see Price getting to act with Hull best known for being the Werewolf of London.

The Tower of London (1962 – 79 minutes) allows the Prince of Darkness to become crowned as the King of England. Price plays Richard, the duke of Gloucester. He’s upset when his dying Kingly brother names another brother to take charge of his kids and future kings of England. So he helps his dying brother into heaven and frames others so that he’d have control of the princes. Then he does his best to get someone to admit the princes are illegitimate. He’s wanting that job pretty bad. He won’t even back down when the ghosts of his victims attempt to spook him. He’s a driven man. Even though this isn’t a Poe film, Corman and Prince bring out the historical scares.

Diary of a Madman (1963 – 96 minutes) adapts Guy de Maupassant, “The Horla” into a tale of French homicidal madness. After the funeral of French magistrate Simon Cordier (Vincent Price), his friends gather to be read not his will, but his secret diary. Turns out that none of them really knew the guy. Otherwise they would have known that he’d been battling an evil spirit that had already possessed one man to kill. The spirit is known as the horla and is out to destroy Simon’s life. He attempts to avoid it by taking up the hobby of sculpting. This proves to not be a good course of action when he has an accident with a model. When the horla attempts to take control of Simon, a green light shines on his eyes like a pair of Yoko Ono’s sunglasses from the ’90s. It’s another great Price performance that rightfully became the title of an Ozzy Osbourne record.

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970 – 53 minutes) was a TV special that allowed Vincent Price a chance to do a one man show of various Poe tales. He performed “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. With minimal staging, Price gets into the characters and the drama of Poe’s words. Hard to imagine any of today’s horror actors attempting to pull off such a cultural event by themselves. Price pulls the audience into the material. AIP was behind the project since it was a great way to get people interested in seeing all the Poe films that Price made with Roger Corman. This was shot on video so it isn’t 1080p. Price’s skills add resolution to the screen.

Cry of the Banshee (1970 – 91 minutes) is brought to us in two cuts. There’s the original AIP release and Gordon Hessler’s director’s cut. You’ll want to watch the Director’s cut for two big reasons. First is the opening credits were animated by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). In AIP’s version, they use a few of the monster images as still shots. The director’s cut has Gilliam being Gilliamesque including the head of Vincent Price cracking open like an egg. Was this an homage to Price’s role of Egghead on Batman? The second reason the director’s cut is superior is the R-rated heaping of flesh and violence. It’s five minutes longer than AIP’s cut. Price and his sons are sadistic in hunting down witches in their area. Price doesn’t camp it up as he orders the torture, humiliation and death of the witches. There’s no holding back visually in this cut. AIP wanted a GP version (PG back then). The ending works just right for the established tone. This is the best of the three films he made with Hessler in this short period.

The five films on The Vincent Price Collection III allow him a chance to show his strengths as an actor. He wasn’t merely a scare merchant, but a force that could provide the depth needed to make his characters alluring and horrific. He wasn’t just a prop who relied on lighting, camera angles and editing to make an audience jump in their seats. He really needs his own postage stamp to celebrate the gifts he gave movie fans. The first Vincent Price Collection has gone out of print and is now being sold online for nearly $300. If you care about enjoying Price in high definition, do not hesitate to pick up The Vincent Price Collection III. You don’t want to experience the horrors of the second hand market.

Master of the World
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 1080p master was created from from The interpositive film element. The colors pop on the screen. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio in mono and stereo. The stereo track used the Original 4-Track Mag so it sounds great. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary With Actor David Frankham talks about how the small studio went large although not out of control. Frankham sounds like he’s having a lot of fun watching the film and remembering the production. Vincent Price landed him the role.

Richard Matheson: Storyteller – Extended Cut (72:05) is a longer version of the Matheson interview from 2001 that was used on various Midnite Movie collection. Richard delves into his long career as a screenwriter that included The Twilight Zone and Roger Corman’s Poe films with Vincent Price.

Theatrical Trailer (2:28) makes this look like a classy AIP production.

Posters, Lobby Cards And Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (2:18) has the cast dangling in the air.

Photo Gallery Of Images From David Frankham’s Personal Collection (1:59) are more shots from the production.

Tower of London

The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer was struck from a fine grain film print. The black and white image has a sweet glow even as Richard goes bitter. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio mono. Price sounds madly royal as his plot intensifies. The movie is subtitled.

Interview With Director Roger Corman (7:11) lays out how they made this film to give a sense of the Poe films with Vincent Price for United Artists. The strange downside was the major studio wanted to save money and make the film in black and white.

Producing Tower Of London – An Interview With Producer Gene Corman (14:04) gives him a chance to talk about working with his brother Roger. Gene brought together the project and then hired Roger. The brothers both went to Stanford and had no dreams of being filmmaking. But they were lured into the life.

Two Episodes Of Science Fiction Theatre (1956): “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) And “Operation Flypaper” (26:09) both star Vincent Price. The series was put out in one boxset from Timeless. The transfers are in standard definition.

Posters, Lobby Cards And Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (4:31) shows a fierce Price.

Diary of a Madman

The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The transfer was made from an interpositive film element. The colors sparkle especially when Vincent has the green glow around his eyes. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio mono. You can heard Joseph Ruskin clearly as the evil spirit. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary With Film Historian And Author Steve Haberman gives details about the production.

Theatrical Trailer (3:16) promises spine tingling horror. Vincent Price wants to expose the audience to The Horla.

Poster And Lobby Card Gallery (1:44) shows the eye glow on Vincent.

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers was made from the original 2″ tape masters. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio mono with the focus being Vincent’s monologues and Les Baxter’s fine soundtrack. The performance is subtitled.

Audio Commentary With Film Historian And Author Steve Haberman give plenty of facts about Price and Poe.

Interview With Writer/Producer/Director Kenneth Johnson (21:26) is an astounding tale of how a 24 year old kid became the executive producer of The Mike Douglas Show. He met Vincent as a guest and had him read “The Tell Tale Heart on the show. It was a hit and evolved into this TV special. He really gives amazing details about the production. He also has a cool Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox on display.

Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (1:27) has details of the one man show.

Cry of the Banshee

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer for the Director’s Cut came from the interpositive film element. The AIP version is from a color reversal intermediate. The director’s cut looks best.

Audio Commentary With Film Historian And Author Steve Haberman (Director’s Cut) explains a lot about the production and how they faked it to be a Poe film with the opening card.

A Devilish Tale Of Poe – An Interview With Director Gordon Hessler (17:52) lets the director talk about being stuck in horror films. He had learned filmmaking as part of Alfred Hitchcock’s crew. He would go on to direct Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Hessler died in 2014.

Theatrical Trailer (2:28) sets up the horror nicely.

TV Spot (0:58) promises a witchy tale.

Radio Spot (0:30) gives a touch of Poe.

Posters, Lobby Cards And Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (4:09) includes a few R-rated shots.

The Vincent Price Collection III is another fine batch of films from the Prince of Darkness.

Scream Factory presents The Vincent Price Collection III. Starring: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and Henry Hull. Rated: Unrated except R for Cry of the Banshee. Boxset Contents: 5 movies on 4 Blu-ray discs. Released: February 16, 2016.

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