It’s my fault.I tried to get my son to watch something other than “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by playing him a short film on one of the bonus discs. And now he wants to watch “Vincent” on repeat.
“Vincent” is a short, black-and-white stop-motion film Tim Burton made when he was still working for Disney in the early to mid-1980s. The story is about Vincent Malloy, a 7-year-old boy who wants to be Vincent Price.
Price even did the narration for the short, giving it his personal twist. Like most things Price was involved with, “Vincent” is goofy and a bit scary. He’s the quintessential actor to watch during October.
Some of his more oddball stuff are among my all-time favorites. “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” are, in many ways, precursors to movies such as “Saw” and anything with a trap-based scare. They aren’t as bloody by a longshot, but they are fun and interesting.
Price starred in the original “House on Haunted Hill” and the first version of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” which was called “The Last Man on Earth.”
My personal favorite, however, is one called “Madhouse.”
The 1974 film stars Price and fellow old-guard horror icon Peter Cushing. Price plays Paul Toombes, an actor famous for the role of Dr. Death in a slasher horror franchise. Cushing stars as Herbert Flay, the man who wrote all the Dr. Death films. Toombes has a mental breakdown after being accused of the murder of his fiancée. After a few years, he returns, officially cleared of the murder but still suspect in the eyes of many.
With Flay’s help, a ruthless producer tries to resurrect Dr. Death but a series of accidents befall the set, pushing Toombes deeper and deeper into madness.
No one does madness like Price. In many ways, his versions of insanity are unrealistic: He tends to remain somewhat respectable while either murdering someone, plotting to murder someone or being accused of murdering someone. Watch one of his Edgar Allan Poe films such as “House of Usher” and you’ll see it.
In “Madhouse” (and “Theatre of Blood,” which come together on DVD), Price also remains sympathetic. We understand why he’s gone over the edge, but we still don’t entirely trust him. The end of “Madhouse,” which I won’t spoil for you, gets bonkers in a way that would now seem silly, but in 1974 – and to those who can suspend disbelief enough now – blurs the lines between reality and the supernatural in a most satisfying manner.
It might be a few years before my son gets to enjoy much of Price’s work, but I will have it ready for him when the time is right.
For you, it’s October, so go find an old horror movie. Vincent Price is always right.
Tranchell, a published author of horror stories, teaches journalism at the University of Idaho while advising student media. He first learned of Vincent Price by watching “Mystery” on PBS. For more, check out his blog at www.warning-signs.net.