Monday, February 13, 2012

Vincent Price Appreciation Post

I had no internet this weekend due to financial fiasco going on, so I watched some of my Vincent Price collection. I don't have nearly enough of his movies in my possession, but that will change, precious. Oh yes. Because he is my favorite.

Part of my fondness is nostalgic. I watched several Vincent Price movies when I was a teenager, and I've been hooked since. I think the first I watched was House on Haunted Hill, but I swear to nothing. Oh, and Edgar Allen Poe-based movies. I went through this Edgar Allen Poe phase as a kid where I couldn't stop reading and re-reading his stories- stories like "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "Cask of Amontillado", which is my favorite. Vincent Price starred in something like a jillion (approximately) Poe-based movies, and that plays into why I am so fond of him.

I have not, by any means, seen all of his films. I tend towards movies where he's killing people through hilariously improbable means, like "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" or "Theatre of Blood" (how much fun is he having with that Shakespeare?)

I love how many things he's narrated through the years, and it's always fantastic to start watching something and suddenly Vincent Price. If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is go back in time and meet Vincent Price.

Because of reasons.
The movie I wanted specifically to talk about is Madhouse, which stars Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. We missed the ultimate horror trifecta by not having somehow cast Christopher Lee as well, but what can you do?

I really like Madhouse because it's kinda... well, meta. Vincent Price plays an actor named Paul Toombs who's known for doing horror films. I know, what a stretch, right? Well, he was famous for a character known as Dr. Death. But there's a scandal- his fiancee dies after they quarrel under suspicious circumstances. By which I mean someone dressed as Dr. Death cuts her head the fuck off, and then leaves it on her neck, so when Paul Toombs goes to make up with her, her decapitated head falls off, scarring Paul life. Then he spends a few years in a mental institution.

That's the first, like, fifteen minutes of the movie. Paul Toombs eventually gets back into film, reprising his role as the infamous Dr. Death, and more mysterious murders happen. It's set up so that Paul could possibly be Dr. Death, though he doesn't believe he is (there's an indication early on that someone might be hypnotizing him or something).

I love this film because A: they try to pretend Peter Cushing and Vincent Price are of a similar enough build to be mistaken for each other (ha!) and B: because it has both gory and inexplicable deaths and an air of actual mystery to the perpetrator. Also, Vincent Price, but that pretty much goes without saying. If you like Price and you've somehow missed this one, give it a once over.

I couldn't resist this one.
Edit: I have more things to say.

I call "Madhouse" meta and never really delve into why, because I'm easily distracted by shiny things.

The film references many of Price's earlier films, "Tales of Terror" and "Pit and the Pendulum" most notably, and serves partially as a commentary on how fucked up the movie business is. It also feels like the prologue to every Vincent Price film ever. Like, if there had been a follow-up film called "Toombs' revenge" or "Back from the Toombs" (I crack myself up) where Paul Toombs was killing people for trying to fuck with Dr. Death or something, it would not have surprised anybody in the slightest.

It makes sense to me that Price would do a picture like this, because he preferred playing bad guys who have a compelling reason to act as they do. He likes characters who, while they may have lost their grip on sanity or reality, have a clear motivation. Not just IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE or BECAUSE EVIL, but often out of revenge and grief, motivators that most people can sympathize with.

I can never completely hate the characters he plays, just because they all have a core to them that is just a wounded and broken man who can't make sense of anything. The worlds rules have ceased to mean anything to him and he responds in kind. He also tends to have fun with all of his roles, which makes him very watchable.

...okay, I think now I'm done talking about him. For now.

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