Blu-ray Review: The Vincent Price Collection II

Vincent Price may be called the Prince of Horror, but he’s really a king. The actor became a major fright figure in the 1950s and proceeded to give scary performances until his final appearance in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Why was he only given the title of prince? Mainly because he arrived after Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr, the kings who made Universal the horror headquarters. Vincent was no mere pretender to their throne. He assume their roles of Frankenstein monsters, mummies, werewolves and vampires. He made his own path in the world of Horror. The Vincent Price Collection II shows a man who knew how to bring a suave nature to horror that handle a comical touch.

The Raven (1963 – 86 minutes) does feature Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” but not as the real storyline. Price reads the iconic poem at the start of the film. Once that business is out of the way, the comedy begins. Vincent Price is a wizard who gets visited by a raven that turns into Peter Lorre. He’s also a wizard who has failed in a magic battle with Boris Karloff (Frankenstein). Price wants to take out Karloff. Joining them on the battle is Lorre’s son played by a very young Jack Nicholson (The Shining). The interplay between the legendary actors and a future superstar is enthralling.

The Comedy of Terror (1964 – 83 minutes) was the comedic follow up to The Raven. In addition to reuniting Price, Lorre and Karloff, Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) gets to join the fun. Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People) fills the slot of Roger Corman. The film feels like The Raven since it was also written by Richard Matheson and scored by Les Baxter. Price is an undertaker running a funeral parlor started by his father-in-law (Karloff). His chipper assistant is Lorre. Business isn’t going well. He’s already reusing caskets. His landlord (Basil Rathbone) wants his money. What’s Price to do in such a bleak situation? He looks to drum up business by recruiting customers who don’t quite have a foot in the grave. There’s a scene where Basil chops open a door with an axe to get to Price and Lorre. He repeats Shakespearean lines while hacking away. Does seem like it was the inspiration for the “Here’s Johnny” moment in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. This small film is a pure delight thanks to the work of all the talent.

The Tomb of Ligeia (1965 – 82 minutes) was the final movie of the Poe-Corman-Price series. The film changes up the atmosphere by placing the action in sunlight. No longer is everything dreary on the outside. Price buries his beautiful wife in the ruins of a castle. He’s rather out of it until he meets a young woman (Elizabeth Shepherd). This brings him back to life. Shockingly, this also brings back the spirit of his first wife. Vincent is in trouble. But at least he has rather cool sunglasses during this lovers triangle.

The Last Man on Earth (1964 – 87 minutes) has been remade twice as The Omega Man and I Am Legend. But Vincent rules the role when compared to Charlton Heston and Will Smith. He’s a scientist who has become the last man. Rome has been taken over by undead creatures that are a cross between zombies and vampires. He does his best to find out what went wrong to changed everyone, but himself. Are there any other humans alive? This film set the tone for Night of the Living Dead and ultimately The Walking Dead. The black and white cinemascope image brings out the bleakness to Vincent’s lonely plight.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972 – 89 minutes) brings back Vincent as the disfigured doctor who just wants get his wife moving. The sequel has Dr. Phibes heading towards Egypt to find a magical liquid that will revive his not-quite-belated wife. Trouble is that he has competitors also looking for the hidden tomb with the promised miracle. Among them is Robert Quarry ( Count Yorga, Vampire). Dr. Phibes does his creative best to eliminate his fellow explorers. The way he puts them to death will warm the heart of Jigsaw. The first film is in the original Vincent Price Collection.

The Return of the Fly (1959 – 86 minutes) revisits a transporter device that can’t handle two people inside the booth at the same time. The son (Brett Halsey) inherits his dad’s electrical empire and his secret lab. His uncle (Price) doesn’t think it’s smart to fix the teleporter. But you can’t stop kids. What neither knows is that a lab assistant might have fudged his resume. The assistant knows mobsters and wants to use the technology for evil. This leads to another Fly being created in the lab. Can the son have a better fate than the swatted father? This is a rather strange film in the film is black and white while the original The Fly was in full color. The lack of hues adds to the gritty noir quality of the story. The Return of the Fly actually plays better than The Fly.

House on Haunted Hill (1959 – 75 minutes) teamed up Vincent with the master of the movie going experience William Castle. This is the simple tale of Price inviting five people over to a house for a simple party. He gives them an interesting offer that if his guests can spend a night in the house, they’ll collect $10,000. What’s the catch? The building is haunted. The original audience is in for a treat with Castle introducing “Emergo” to enhance the viewing experience. The movie has been released by numerous companies over the years because it had fallen in the public domain. None of them have looked as good as this transfer.

Price jokes at the end of one movie introductions that his tombstone will read, “I’ll be back.” Thanks to these high definition upgrades, Price is back and looking better than ever. The Comedy of Terrors deserves to be seen as classic of macabre humor. The Last Man On Earth needs to be seen with comapny. Your Halloween won’t be complete until you sit back and treat yourself to all of Vincent Price’s unforgettable cinematic tricks.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for a majority of the films. Dr. Phibes Rises Again! is 1.85:1 anamorphic. House On Haunted Hill is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers for all the films are amazing. This look even better than the previous Midnite Movies releases of the AIP titles. The audio is DTS Master Audio mono. The mix brings out the richness in Price’s voice. The movies are subtitled.

Intros and Outros from The Vincent Price Gothic Horror series are featured on The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors and The Tomb Of Ligeia. The PBS movie series had Vincent give little snippets about the films from a spooky mansion. These were shot in video so Vincent is a bit blurry.

Audio commentaries include three different ones on The Tomb of Ligeia including solo talks from Roger Corman, actress Elizabeth Shepherd and historian Constantine Nasr. You will know everything about this movie. The Last Man on Earth brings together historian David Del Valle and author Derek Bothelho to give the significance of the often remade movie. The Return of the Fly returns the memories of actor Brett Halsey and historian David Del Vale. House on Haunted Hill gets spooked up by historian Steve Haberman. He goes into the tales of William Castle.

Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven (6:37) lets the sceenwriter describe taking liberties with Edgar Allan Poe. Matheson had written the scripts to the more serious Poe-Corman-Price films. He has praise for Karloff.

Corman’s Comedy of Poe (8:13) lets the director talk about getting to infuse comedy into the Poe universe. He speaks of how Peter Lorre’s love of improvising threw Boris Karloff off his game. It was up to Vincent Price to make the fun work between the trio.

Promotional Record (5:41) is an audio promo for The Raven. They really don’t sell this as a comedy. Peter Lorre reads the poem.

Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors (9:35) lets the writer explain how he came up with the concept. Everybody enjoyed his script. Rathbone was supposed to play Karloff’s character except they swapped roles since Karloff couldn’t move that well.

Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth (6:24) dips into how he came up a world covered in vampires. He wrote this script originally for Hammer. They had an issue with the censorship department in England and sold the script to another producer.

Vincent Price: Renaissance Man (27:20) gets covered by the curator of the Vincent Price exhibit. His family invented baking powder. This deals with how Vincent loved collecting art. He also painted.

The Art of Fear (12:13) focuses on how Price worked in horror.

Working with Vincent Price (15:26) discusses his amazing demeanor on the set. He was a giving guy.

Introductory Price (13:16) tells how Iowa’s PBS ended up making Vincent Price’s Gothic Horrors. They hooked up with Price while he was doing a tour of the Midwest as Oscar Wilde. They revisit the house where the openings and endings were shot.

Theatrical Trailers are included for all the films except for Last Man on Earth.

Trailer Collection (19:27) are for films that aren’t already in this collections including House of Wax, Tales of Terror and The Tingler.

Still Gallery is provided for all of the films. You’ll see how the movies and Price were marketed to audiences.

The Vincent Price Collection II upgrades the career of the Prince of Horror. Price returns in seven films that show his ability to spook an audience even with a comic aside.

Scream Factory presents The Vincent Price Collection II. Starring: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone. Rating: Unrated. Boxset contents: 7 movies on 4 Blu-ray discs. Released: Oct. 21, 2014.