The Last Man on Earth~

   Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to this late installment of the Vincent Price -a- thon. In this series of posts we are studying the works of the immortal known as Vincent Price, the comedy, the horror and last week the horrible comedy that was Comedy of Terrors. Thankfully this week there is nary a pratfall to be found since Vincent Price is The Last Man on Earth. Adapted from a science fiction story by one Richard Matheson called I Am Legend and if that name sounds familiar it would likely be from the Will Smith film of the same name. Mr. Smith and our own Mr. Price are not the only ones to take a crack at the leading role of this film, either, with Moses taking the role in the film Omega Man. Out of these three films The Last Man on Earth is the only one that has Vincent Price and so it wins by default, but mostly based on a few strengths. Firstly, it’s easy to get atmosphere when want you want is emptiness. All you need is some empty streets, have a few extras lounge around face down on the set and Vincent Price and you’re golden. What sets this film apart, in my not so humble opinion, is the stellar performance by Vincent Price and the very good character acting from the extras. So it’s time to dig in, ladies and gentlemen, a few thoughts on The Last Man on Earth.

     We open during our post-apocalyptic nightmare vampire attack already in progress. I’ve heard that it wouldn’t take long for the world to collapse if not maintained and these opening scenes really show it. Granted, with all the bodies scattered around the streets it looks like the world had one really big kegger and decided to sleep it off somewhere quiet like Main Street in the middle of the afternoon or the doorway of a Sears Department store. That also totally changes the meaning of a sign in front of a church saying “THE END HAS COME” in all capitals. Yeah, even the greatest party of all time needs to come to a close at some point and that’s why we have Vincent Price, whom we are going to pretend is the hero in this picture. He’s sleeping it off too in a house that clearly needs some fixing up. At least in this movie Vincent has the common sense to live in a small, modest home that we can be pretty sure will not collapse or catch fire but don’t quote me on that one. Leave it to Vincent Price to be the picture of regularity. Not even the end of civilization can stop the man from looking presentable and having some sort of daily routine. Granted, his habit of scrawling a calendar on the wall is a little messier than normal but they kind of stopped putting them out when mankind when extinct save one.

     The opening half of this film is really the best and there are a lot of little touches of genius. They let Vincent Price wander around the house, check his generator, make himself some coffee and sharpen wooden stakes to kill the undead hordes who hunger for his blood. So pretty much business as usual for Mr. Price. His narration is kept to a minimum and they really let the atmosphere carry the film for a lot of the opening. I love how as Vincent wanders around his house he tucks his shirt in and buttons it up. Why does he do this? It’s a habit, but it’s such a great little moment. Kind of like when he gets on the radio and starts trying to trick survivors into finding him even though he is by far the most deadly thing left on the planet that has two legs. I’m not entirely sure that he really is the so called last man on Earth or if everyone suddenly got a massive dose of common sense and decided to just get the hell out of whatever city he’s in. I think it’s on the West Coast, but I’m not sure why. If that is the case, the East Coast is sounding pretty good about now. Vincent going through his check list is great too. Gotta get garlic, some fuel and also drop off the vampire corpses in the fiery Gahanna pit where there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth, if he didn’t stake them first.

   I suppose we should take comfort since Vincent Price is the last man on Earth he can’t bury his wife alive or have her cheat on him and then try to kill him with another man. So Vincent packs up the corpses into his station wagon and heads out for town. His gas stop is a fuel tanker just sitting in the middle of the road. Not sure one tanker would fuel a car for three years, so I’m just going to assume that Mr. Price uses black magic or something. And then we do get a brief scene of Vincent Price tossing bodies onto a giant fire before pouring some more gasoline on it and throwing a flaming torch in. This is what we came for people. Vincent Price lighting people on fire. The rest of the day is a little boring, and isn’t that something you wouldn’t expect me to say? Perhaps it’s because Vincent Price is so methodical that killing these monster people really does come across as mundane and rather boring. I will say that I never realized Vincent Price is killing people who, barring their hideous mutations, are reacting as pretty much any normal person would to Vincent Price showing up and shoving a giant wooden stake into your chest. Not very well overall, then. The first night is where the real genius of this film is revealed. Once it gets dark, Vincent settles down and pops open a bottle of the good stuff while he plays a record.

     The nights are the worst because this is when the zombie vampire horde, presumable angry with Mr. Price for having killed most of the local vampire PTA, try to break in. This is psychological warfare and Mr. Price seems to deal with it pretty drunk…ah, well. He deals with it pretty well. And now we get round two, or round two for us, of Vincent Price kills the world. But it seems today is not a good day to kill, so Vincent heads off to the cemetery. The trip and the subsequent mourning take a little longer than Vincent thought, so the trip back is a harrowing rush through a mosh pit of zombie vampires and back inside. It’s days like this that must make killing vampires seem like such a hassle. To wind down, Vincent watches old home movies and remembers a time when people knew him as something other than a homicidal maniac with an incredible moustache. The home movie has some clips of a circus for some reason, and the scene of Vincent laughing hysterically at the clowns before starting to cry is perhaps some of the best acting we have seen from him so far, and that is really saying something. It also goes beyond Mr. Price just being diabolical, this is genuine Oscar worthy stuff. It’s the memories that we’re really interested in, wherein Vincent Price remembers a better time and we get to see the sort of windup to the situation we found ourselves in with Mr. Price.

     It starts off with a party, as one might imagine given the kegger aftermath we just saw. Man, that party goes on for three years. No wonder nobody thought it would ever end. Really what we’re interested in is a potentially airborne plague that seems to be wiping our large portions of Europe. Vincent Price is part of a team that is working on trying to find a cure, spoiler alert he doesn’t find it. The flashbacks run a little long for my taste, we’re not here to watch Mr. Price play house after all. They do skip to after the rest of Mr. Price’s family has gotten whatever one calls the vampire zombie plague in this world. I choose to call it Cheeto’s, mostly because they have an orange color that doesn’t exist in nature. So the Cheeto’s virus has infected the rest of the family and apparently most of the rest of the neighborhood. In fact, quite soon they have roaming death squads looking for victims of the Cheeto’s virus like Mr. Price’s daughter. Work does continue at the lab, but to little or no avail. Mr. Price has an assistant named Ben who believes they are zombie vampires, and they are, and he presumable wants to go kill them all or something. Time keeps moving forward, and it makes me wish they had split this sequence up a bit. I wanted to spend this movie vampire hunting and looking for a vampire zombie woman who can learn to love! You do remember that ad right?

     Oh goodness, you should totally find it because it looks like something out of a reality show. Vincent has to keep convincing his wife to not take their kid do the doctors, which does sound a little bit more like the Vincent Price that I know and love, but he is doing it for her own good, so it hardly counts. Vincent heads off for work and finds that he’s the only one who came to work, barring his boss. Physician, heal thyself. At least don’t get Cheeto’s disease. Is Vincent Price driving the same car as the one we saw in the opening three years later? Oh yeah, it is. I didn’t recognize it at first because its trunk wasn’t filled with dead bodies. So Mr. Price goes to pick up his assistant who has pretty much gone crazy by this point. Too bad going crazy didn’t stop him from contracting Cheeto’s. When he gets back from work, Mrs. Price cracked and called a doctor. And now his daughter will be taken to the fiery pit where all the Cheeto people go. Every time I read that work I think about how I used to put that product in my body. Why am I not a zombie vampire? So you may expect Vincent to give up, but lest we forget Vincent Price came back from beyond the grave using nothing but the power of love, the army isn’t gonna stop him from getting his daughter back. Well, they might not but the fact that she’s on fire in the middle of a fiery pit of fire might. Yeah, she ain’t comin’ back from that.

     Next is the wife. Yeah, he’s all alone later on and visiting her grave so one can assume that the Cheeto virus got her. Ok, this music playing while Vincent Price drives along a dark road with his undead wife is a little too jaunty. Also, fun note, Vincent Price is pulling double duty as the jealous lover. I suppose that would make the fire the husband in this one? It’s a little hard to tell, given how dark the film is, but I think he just buried his wife alive…or undead…it still doesn’t count though because he did that one on purpose and it doesn’t stick anyways. It makes me realize that this is how the world will end, not because of the disaster but because of the sheer stubborn stupidity of everyone in the world, Vincent Price included. He even opens the door for his soon to be Facebook official dead wife. And what that other guy Ben? He’s been wandering around outside his colleague’s house for years now since he just can’t find anything better to do I guess. Did he decide to let a really friendly milk man or something? He’s also a little passive aggressive, since he destroys the car Vincent Price had. Which is kind of dumb, since Mr. Price just goes to a car lot and picks out a new one, making sure it has plenty of trunk space of course.

     That’s when everything changes. Vincent Price finds a dog. Naturally, the dog runs away when it sees Mr. Price as well it should, but the changes are just beginning. You see, Mr. Price then runs into a woman running around in the daylight who is clearly not dead. No, she is, you see this is the zombie cheeto vampire who hungers for unnaturally colored love. Did I lie? And this is where the movie pulls the drag chute and grinds to a halt. Vincent sees some bad zombies staked to the ground with iron stakes, not the wooden ones that he made. Now one would think that Mr. Price would see this setup coming from a mile away, but let’s just bear with him. He hasn’t had to deal with any subterfuge for a very long time, or really any human interaction at all. He does find the dog, but the dog is quite rightly scared of the idiot vampire zombies that are constantly trying to break down the door. You would think someone would have gotten some heavy construction equipment and just knocked the place down. Vincent Price and structures of any kind have a history together. But it seems the dog was not meant to last as it too had tasted the Cheeto virus. As the dog exits so enters our mystery woman. The interaction between Mr. Price and the woman grind things to a complete halt. You see, she doesn’t want him to know she’s a spy and he figures out pretty much immediately by ramming garlic right into her face. Our hero, everyone.

     It’s at this point that we find out what I would call the twist of the film. Vincent Price, his blood is what could have killed the virus. He was immune the whole time. The problem is that she warns him more vampire not zombies are coming to kill him and he doesn’t run, he stays. She’s half infected one might say. Vincent Price finds out about this new society of non-infected people for whom he is the boogie man. Vincent Price finds it ironic that he was going to cure her when she was sent there to essentially kill him. Somehow it hits him that his blood can cure her and so he does it but that’s not enough to stop the hammer of justice from falling. One could say that he actually did this out of a twisted sense of revenge, or I will read it that way because it’s Vincent Price. When he dies, the last man on Earth, she’s now cured so that makes her the last woman. Will she spread the cure? Who knows? But for now, let’s get back to the cured woman waking up. I have to admit, the growing realization that she’s cured plays out really well. The last scene is essentially vampires of sorts chasing down Vincent Price and isn’t that something I never thought I would see. In point of fact, they’re even more brutally efficient about killing the really real bad vampires than Vincent Price ever could have been. They even have guns. Of course, Vincent Price has to die in a church, since we need a cross around when the dark one passes on into his kingdom.

     I really loved this movie, so let’s be serious for a bit and with your leave I’m going to skip the ending in detail because you deserve to see it on your own. The best kinds of stories in many ways are the should haves and the almosts. This almost worked out if Vincent Price hadn’t mouthed off, he was the cure and yet he got killed, staked in much the same way that he had staked so many others. This is by far the best film that we’ve seen in this journey of ours so far. It’s a dark film with very little to offer in the way of humor and whole it does have some uplifting moments, the ending is appropriately flat. Life goes on despite the almost cure with a large overdramatic THE END sending us off to the ending credits. I love this movie and I can not recommend it enough. You can likely find it floating around the internet somewhere, though I would imagine finding it on DVD as I had would be more satisfying in its own way. Next week we go back to that wonderful year of 1963 because I missed one of the Edgar Allen Poe monstrosities and really who could blame me? Here’s hoping this one is less depressing than the Comedy of Terrors and just as bleak as this film. It’s Poe, I can’t be too far off.

House of Usher~

     So here we are at last. The House of Usher, the first in a series of movies that Vincent Price did based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. These movies, as the comments from the last film knows quite well, are a match made in heaven. Or Hell. They pair quite nicely. For those of you just coming in, this is our Vincent Price -a- thon where we are going to talk about all the horror films that Vincent Price was a part of. Before we talk about the film proper, a few small points. Firstly, did you guys know there was a film starring Vincent Price about Richard the third? Neither did I, but I am there if I can find a copy. There was another one I was excited about non-horror, but I can’t seem to find it. Anyways, the film. This is the first film I recall seeing thus far in color and this is a very important point. The only color I remember seeing is they did the blood to be red in The Tingler. The House of Usher is an Edgar Allen Poe story revolves around the House of Usher and the fall thereof, and that may seem self-explanatory but in the story the house falling down is merely the last piece of the puzzle. In the movie the fall is even more tied together, both in terms of the house and the family. I bring this up because the movie starts off with the main character, a young stud of a suitor, riding towards Usher place and all the trees are dead and warped. A thick fog hangs over the place, and not a healthy London fog either. More a stabbity stab stab dead prostitute fog over London. It really makes the neat riding coat and boots of the young man riding to the house seem quite out of place.

     He knocks on the door and the manservant answers. You see, he’s a suitor and so he naturally wants to suit Miss Usher but that’s quite impossible sir. The reason I bring this up in such detail is that it took me the whole movie to realize that, barring one of two small scenes, there are only four or so actors in the entire film. There are no action sequences, unless you can’t a rather slow paced chase scene at the end. Almost no expositional dialogue of any note and the characters tell us very little about themselves or how their lives before we meet them at Chez Usher. You would think this would be an important detail given that Miss Usher and Mr. Suitor are suiting. So why does this movie hold my attention? It does atmosphere really, really well. The house is pretty much a character on its own. Dark, foreboding and mysterious, it has giant cracks in the walls and the whole thing just feels wrong somehow. The name of the suitor is Phillip Winthrop and apparently they are engaged. Note this for later, I will bring it up surely when we meet Miss Usher herself. Roderick Usher has apparently told the manservant that nobody is to see his sister so Mr. Suitor will go and see Roderick instead. Yes, I know he has a name, but I hate the name and so I will keep calling him Mr. Suitor.

     The manservant himself, much like the house and the Ushers is an odd fish. He asks Mr. Suitor to give him his coat and boats. Once he has taken his boots off, the servant gives him a pair of shoes and takes him up to see Roderick Usher. I’m telling you this now and I mean it with all sincerity. I am about to describe to you my exact reaction to seeing Vincent Price in this film. And I can tell you right now that even though I have told you here and now you will still not be ready for this. The servant is about to knock on the door when Vincent Price opens the door. “Oh, sweet holy mother of God what the hell is that!? Vincent Price with blonde hair and no moustache! I thought his moustache made him look more evil, but really it was saving us. This is nightmare fuel right here.” He looks cruel and the kind of cruel, to be clear, that only someone born of generations of high aristocracy can be. The only thing that might save you is how ineffectual the character actually is, again like many people born of generations of high aristocracy. Roderick does let him and thus begins the first of our many conversations on the one subject that Mr. Suitor is willing to talk about. Taking Mr. Usher’s sister away from him so he can marry her.

     In many ways this one running conversation, along with Vincent Usher reminiscing about the twisted and dark history of the house could pretty much sum up the movie. Is it worth it? Should I keep watching at this point? Yes, you fool! Press play and shut up! And now we find out why Roderick had Mr. Suitor take off his boots. The man hears all. Like the sound of Mr. Suitor riding up on his horse, climbing the stairs and the awkward laugh that died before it ever began when Roderick Price started to explain his malady. See, Mr. Suitor wants to see Madeline and Madeline is confined to her bed. Leave the house. I love how Vincent Usher keeps referring to the house as sick, which is a good choice of words. Finally, Madeline arrives on the scene and the music becomes romantic…ish. The house itself, much like a Tardis twisted house of fun mirrors, is bigger on the inside and creepier than all reason. I keep losing track of where things are and how many rooms there are, something that comes into play later. But the house clearly does not like Mr. Suitor and tries to spit fire on him. Vincent Usher comes back in and they start the weirdest conversation in the entire movie. You see, Mr. Suitor on occasion refers to himself and Madeline in Boston but the specifics are vague at best.

     It really gets weird because apparently it never occurred to Mr. Suitor that they were not destined to be together as he puts it but later on Madeline seems surprised by the idea of leaving their ugly, sick and evil house and getting married. Dem Ushers, amirite? It’s during this opening one on one conversation with Usher that their other favorite topic of dispute pops up. You see, dear readers, it’s not just the trees, water, land, house and every other animate and inanimate object that are cursed. The whole line of Usher is tainted. But of course, love is one helluva drug so Mr. Suitor starts asking your basic questions. How do you know you two are dying? Examples please? No more questions, fool. Vincent Price is master of life and death and if he says he’s dying than he got a tip from the Grim Reaper. But he does start talking, which is kind of funny. For a man who, not two minutes ago, was telling Mr. Suitor to get out he seems remarkably willing to discuss intimate medical details with a complete stranger he’s known for like five minutes. It’s their senses, you see. They can’t take intense sound, touch, taste or even emotion. Hence the boot removal earlier. But apparently this comes with a perk. Live on mashed potatoes and wear silk long enough and gain superhuman strength. Seems legit.

     Oh yes, and this is the first time we see Vincent Usher playing his stringed instrument which seems like it is very off-key. But it works for him. So Mr. Suitor gets taken to his room where he makes a shocking discovery. While getting changed for dinner, the whole building starts to shake. You see Mr. Usher doesn’t believe in paying Union people to do construction work on a house of evil and so he’s just letting it fall apart. When Mr. Suitor leans out the window to look it seems like someone picked up the whole house and dropped it a few times. But enough talk of life threatening structural damage easily and plainly visible to the naked eye, it’s dinner time! Dinner time with Vincent Usher, who already has admitted to living on a diet of mashed bland stuff. Oh, yippee. Chef the only servant in the house has truly outdone himself with tonight’s bland paste. But just in case you were getting bored, on the way down to dinner the House of Usher tries to murder Mr. Suitor with a chandelier. Dinner is a brief affair followed by some light entertainment. Mr. Price playing on his stringed instrument in melodic discordant tunes. Well, this party is just off the chain but I think I need to go to my creepy room and pray the house doesn’t collapse in on me while I sleep.

     So at this point Mr. Suitor tries to butter up Mr. Usher by pretending to like his song and saying, “Please sir, may I have another.” He tries to tell Mr. Usher that if he is pretty much forced to leave than he is going to take his fiancée with him. So without really waiting for Mr. Usher, the man with the world’s greatest hearing, to at least go to sleep Mr. Suitor just shows himself into Madeline’s room and starts kissing her and telling her all sorts of sweet nothings. That’s right, Madeline. Everything will be fine once we leave this nightmare behind. Oh look! There he is now. Keep it down, you crazy kids! Those sweet nothings might as well be broadcasted over a megaphone and some of us are trying to sleep. But sleep doesn’t last long because apparently Madeline sleepwalks into the family crypt every night, solidarity and all that. So Mr. Suitor does eventually discover her and give the man credit where it’s due, he wanders around this creepy old falling apart house owned by ultra-evil Vincent Price and actually goes into the basement looking for her. Oh yeah, the house tries to kill him again on the way. Death by faulty railing Good God, it’s like this house has life insurance policies out on every single person in the house and they all pay double if they die in natural and yet somewhat suspicious circumstances.

     My personal favorite part is where he wanders into a room and says, “Medline?” and then the door slams behind him as though the house were saying, “Over here, big boy.” “And how long has my fiancée been sleepwalking down to the creepy basement?” “Ever since she got back from Boston.” “Oh yeah, we were made for each other! Clearly!” The next morning Mr. Suitor offers to take her breakfast tray up to his fiancée. See, she eats gruel for breakfast so two bowls of gruel. Which they keep pronouncing gruueelll. Once he gets up and brings her breakfast even gruel seems too much for her, leading to one of my favorite lines in the entire movie. “Now Madeline, I’ll have no scrawny woman in my house so open your mouth!” That’s right, Madeline! Eat! Here’s comes the airplane right into the house of Usher. So he does try very hard to convince her to come with him and in response she takes him down to the crypt. You see she, this house, the land and Vincent Usher are all dying. So it’s date night at the crypt. Oh, I see why she brought him down to the crypt! Family reunion! Guys, check out this sucker that wants to marry me. Now granted, Madeline and her brother both have coffins but Mr. Suitor doesn’t have one made up yet. He can either share with her, or we can make one. What do you guys think? If you agree, say nothing and show up and in creepy drug fueled dreams tonight. Sounds good.

     But when Mr. Suitor says come away with me apparently Grandma Miriam takes offense at this and shoves her box on the floor so she can give them both a disproving stare. Madeline faints and Mr. Suitor starts to carry her upstairs only to be intercepted by her brother who tags in at this point. Oh yes! Yes! As Mr. Suitor leaves the tomb he takes one last look at the skeleton in the coffin and the soundtrack goes full on House on Haunted Hill for like two seconds. So at this point, Mr. Usher decides to explain to Mr. Suitor about the horrible nature of the house, the land and everything. He goes on a long and rambling speech about how things used to be before the house of Usher went completely bats hit insane. Mr. Price goes through this gallery of horrors that he painted and lists off all his ancestors and their jobs. Which are all entirely awesome! Jewel thief? Assassin? Blackmailer? Is that even a legit job? You know what? Screw it, just sign me up for this family. Yeah, the blighted the land with their evil. Their awesome evil! I am so in. So this works about as well as you would think and Mr. Suitor runs off to grab Madeline and get the hell out of Usher.

     But you see this doesn’t work because Mr. Usher gets there first and they argue. Though the door is locked and no violence seems to have been done to her, by the time Mr. Suitor gets in it is too late. So let’s go bury her in the crypt like now. I mean immediately. What? She already has a spot called down there and she sleepwalks into the creepy basement. I don’t see the problem. But while they pray for her downstairs in the creepy basement in the creepy chapel creepy creepy she starts twitching her fingers. Mr. Usher has the most priceless look on his face when he see it like, “Yeah. We have to put a stop to this.” It also has one of the best Vincent Price lines ever here. “Is there no end to your horrors!?” “No. None whatever.” So Madeline does, in fact, wake up and start screaming. Of course Vincent hears it. He hears it all, but my real shock is that Mr. Suitor does not. Now is time for Mr. Suitor to leave but he stops for one fateful cup of coffee on the way out. It is at this point that the servant drops the bomb on accident. She was not actually dead when they buried her. She had the epilepsy! That’s what happened. So now it’s a race against time to get Madeline out of her coffin. Even though it’s been a whole night.

     The music is actually pretty awesome here. Now this is the part of the movie where things go into overdrive, but before we get into the dramatic, and I do mean ultra –crazy dramatic stuff at the end, we have a dream sequence. The best. Dream sequence. Ever. You see, in this dream sequence we find Vincent Price along with his sister Usher surrounded by the Ushers of awesomeness. They’re all in the chapel, waving at him like… “One of us, one of us, one of us, one of us…” They all look really encouraging too, like one of them is waving a knife around. Come on down, Mr. Suitor. Come on doooowwwn! But in this dream he watches Vincent Price put her in his secret place, where all the other Ushers who didn’t really deserve tombs go. Honestly? This movie is worth it for the dream sequence alone. After the dream sequence, things go into overdrive. Here is the storm too! I had my early tip off in the comments so I’ve got my eyes open for nightmare fuel. Of course, the soundtrack provided by Vincent Price doesn’t help. The description that Vincent Price gives of her waking up and his being able to hear it. It really is one of the most horrifying things in a Vincent Price movie yet. He finally manages to admit that she’s still alive and he tells Mr. Suitor that she has gone mad. Does that stop Mr. Suitor? Oh no, he’s in love.

     So Madeline wanders off into the secret passages and Mr. Suitor follows her. While this is going on the house pretty much becomes bored with life or maybe all its policies were called in so it sets itself on fire. There’s a really great scene where Vincent can hear the screams of those Ushers that came before so he grabs a gun. I legitimately believe that Vincent Price could kill a ghost with a gun. The final climactic fight takes place in one of the upper rooms while the entire house burns and starts to fall down. I will freely admit that as the climax comes around, between the storm and the paintings and the Vincent Price, this right here is nightmare fuel. Oh lord, I remember this being less pantswettingly terrifying the first time I watched this. And thus Madeline and her brother Roderick die in the fire while she chokes him with the strength of ten men and Mr. Suitor gets out alive, barely. What a downer ending. THIS. WAS. AWESOME. Vincent Price is freaking amazing in this. You could call his performance a little over the top but he really does play it so straight that it comes full circle and actually is really terrifying. In terms of movies that we’ve seen thus far, the only one I might rate higher would be House of Wax because the ending to that one was pretty climactic too. I would say the same for House on Haunted Hill, but good God that soundtrack! Watch this movie like now.

 

The Fly~

   I’m gonna be straightforward with you guys. This week in the Vincent Pricathon was kind of a disappointment to me. It was a good movie. If you take away any one thing from this, I don’t want it to be that it was a bad movie. See, I’m a simple man. I like my coffee hot, my iced tea cold and my Vincent Price diabolical. In the movie I watched this week, “The Fly” Vincent Price is in maybe a third of the film. Since he’s not evil in this movie in any way, we’re going to have to read deep into his actions and hope that Vincent comes to his senses by the time I get to the sequel. Oh yeah, there are two sequels to this movie and with good reason. It’s kind of awesome. Vincent Price plays Francois Delambre, a factory owner and the brother of our main subject of discussion tonight, Andre. The movie starts off with the night watch touring the factory when he finds Andre’s wife, Patrica, standing next to this huge hydraulic press. She runs off and he finds out that she’s been using factory equipment to make preserves. Wait a minute, that’s not preserves! That’s people! And we get another windup from the night guard to give his horrible gruesome, “Oh my God!” face. Come on, guy, you work as a night watchman for a factory run by Vincent Price! Seeing a man sandwich using a steel vice the size of four door sedan isn’t horrifying, it’s Tuesday.

     The opening of this movie runs very slowly, which I’m starting to kind of like. Patrcia calls Francois and tells him she killed her husband. Francois pretty much says, “Whatever” and hangs up. Then the night watchman calls him and tells him the same thing, pretty much. Ok, now shit just got real. I’m kind of fascinated by the fact that women in these films are treated with universal condescension and yet in both films they are the only sane ones. Well. Vincent Price is sane…ish. Until he got set on fire in the last film. Francois gets ahold of the police and runs off to make sure his factory is in good condition. Naturally, we don’t see the huckleberry human spread this guy has become but Vincent Price is seeing his own dead brother’s body mashed up like crazy. Any shock? Like I said, people. It’s Tuesday. They inspect the factory before heading off to find Patricia who repeats that she killed her husband, refuses to say why and then offers them coffee. Because this was a simpler time, when even killers offered refreshments when you came to arrest them. I was very confused at this point. She seems to be very interested in flies, in specific a fly with a white head, so I figured maybe she was being blackmailed by Vincent Price, the lord of flies and owner of a small factory in Canada. Alas, the answer is not quite as interesting.

     In fact, more than half the movie takes place in a gigantic flashback, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At first, they don’t even really entirely believe her story that she killed her husband. In fact, I found it very hard to get through the opening of the film until Vincent Price lies to about having the fly in question to get the truth out of her. She tells them a story that takes up around the entire second to third act. This is like Arabian Nights meets the Crypt keeper, this lady just goes on and on. Hey! In the flashback we get to see Andre before he became manjam! The first thing to point out is that her husband Andre is a mad scientist. In fact, dare I say it, he is the maddest of the mad scientists I have ever seen. He’s come up with a new little invention, which he showcases to his wife, called the disintegrator-integrator. It’s a teleporter, essentially, that he uses to teleport a piece of China across the room. It’s like something out of Willy Wonka, if he were less obsessed with chocolate and more insane. You know how it is, you’ve built a device that can tear the fabric of reality and now you need to show it off.

     The writing on the bowl is backwards, however, which makes our noble hero Andre realize that more tests need to be done. His wife is skeptical to say the least, and I can hardly blame her. I can not be the only person who would refuse to get into a machine or eat anything out of a machine that has the word disintegrator in it somewhere. Sadly, for their evening plans, the writing on the bowl did come out backwards. Oh no! Get out of my lab, strange lady! You don’t exist until I fix my machine that must be run by five nuclear power plants because science! So once he gets the machine to work again, he tries it on a newspaper to make sure the text is right. Once that’s sorted out, he instantly tries it on the cat. I get it, you know? The guy wants to try out his new toy. I’m quite sure that I would feel the same, but you are not at the live animal testing stage yet. “You’re going to be the most famous cat in history.” Yeah, the cat that’s comprised of nothing more than a disembodied voice. He’ll be famous, alright. When Andre finds out the cat didn’t come back, he hears it meow.

     Oh, ha. That’s such a lark. Now let’s go out to the ballet, so I can soften the blow of telling you our cat is in a million tiny pieces floating through space. So if you hear purring in the middle of the night, do not be alarmed. Naturally, once they get back from the ballet he brings her down to his secret mad science lab and offers to disintegrate some champaggen. And then a hamster. Oh, why stop there? You got any small dogs or other pets? How about your son? Dear God, Andre! Even mad scientists would do more test runs after turning the household pet into the Cheshire cat! And naturally, with the successful guinea pig test run he immediately tests it on himself! Again, even mad scientists would find a homeless guy to test it on first. Granted, if he goes the way of snowball you could have a disembodied voice asking for change echoing around your house for all eternity, but that’s a better alternative to self testing! It does work this time, but the next test is…well, I’m just gonna say it. Remember how the lady was looking for a fly? It’s called the fly for a reason people.

     While he was doing the test, a fly got into the chamber and so now this guy has a fly head and arm. She kills him because he can’t live with it, being a half fly, half man. After that Vincent Price reveals that he never found the fly she was looking for and they haul her off to the loony bin. Well, not quite. They do eventually find the fly about to be eaten by a spider and the rescue it. Of course, they do so by crushing both the spider and the fly with a giant rock. Good work, everybody. Looks like our work here is done. So the moral of this story is that we could always use a few more tests before we just go nuts. I mean, look at Norman Osbourne. That whole human test worked out super for him too, right? Come to think of it, he ends up fighting a spider too. This was not a good week two for our Vincent Pricathon. I really wish I could say that next one will be better, but I can’t. As much as I love this movie, and I do, it’s not the evil Vincent Price we know and love. Next time, the Fly Returns or something like that. I wish I know how. The little one got crushed by a rock and the big one was turned into a sandwich. You don’t survive that! Ah, well. Here’s your Vincent Price of the week picture. Till next time.

 

House of Wax~

   We need ourselves another long term project to sate on. Well, even if you don’t want one, here it is anyways. I really do love me some horror, but mostly I love to de-fang horror because I am so very scared of everything. I had an evil cat, ok. In fact, my original plan was to do a series on the Friday the 13th films, but I think that will have to wait. This is due in no small part to the fact that my disc of Friday the 13th Part I has suffered irreparable damage. You’ll have to wait till later for me to complain about Mrs. Voorhees driving her jeep and Mach 5 around curves on a dirt road while creepily staring at her passenger. Instead, let’s talk about the filmography of Vincent Price. Most of you know who he is, since he did the voice of “The Thriller”. You know, that song he did about not being able to escape the evil of Vincent Price? Well, he did a series of horror films of varying amounts of goodness starting in 1953 with the film “House of Wax.” Everyone who just realized exactly where this film is going, put your hands down. But I did too.

     The film starts off with Vincent Price playing an artist named Henry Jarret who owns a museum of wax sculptures. His business partner, a very slimy fellow named Matthew, keeps trying to convince him to open a little chamber of horrors. His wax figures are amazing. They look just like living people. Now if you think there’s something weird about Vincent Price running an art museum with people so life-like they always seem about ready to bound off the podium, hold onto that feeling. His partner wants out of this deal and at first it seems like it might work out. A friend of “Professor Jarret’s” is coming to see him with a famous art critic. It almost does work out. The art critic is interested in buying him out but he’s leaving for Egypt, like you do, and so he’ll be back in three months to close the deal. That’s too long for Matthew who proposes to burn the whole place to the ground and collect the insurance money. Let’s all take a minute to think about how stupid that was, shall we? Firstly, you’re dealing with a slightly less evil Vincent Price who has referred to has wax sculptures as “his people”, “his children” and who actually converses with them like he can hear them. Is there any world that exists where Vincent Price would set that all on fire? Secondly, in order to make an insurance scam like that work you need to make sure you have the cooperation of everyone involved. Well, unless you double down and try and murder Vincent Price too. Ok, I guess that does solve that problem, if you’re totally psychotic.

     Truth be told, and I hate to use this phrase but, that really did escalate quickly. This all happens in the opening ten minutes or so of the film. The fight itself is well shot and the action, while not stellar, is more than I expected from a 1953 horror film starring Vincent Price. Matthew also starts the gas going full blast so once the fire gets going long enough the whole building explodes. It blows all the windows out. For some reason having a realistic explosion made it feel different. If this were Michael Bay, there would have been a mushroom cloud involved somehow. During the entire fight the camera keeps panning to the wax statues slowly melting. Smiles turn to grimaces, eyeballs fall out and heads drop off. Vincent Price shows us what a great actor he is in these scenes, constantly struggling with what exactly to try and save. His statue of Marie Antoinette garners some attention but the panic renders him almost immobile. It fits. Imagine if your house was burning done, with you inside it. Could you really focus long enough to figure out what you wanted to save? Well, that’s great Matthew. We’ve just gone from crazy but mostly stable Vincent Price to crazy and more crazy evil Vincent Price. Also known as the Thriller.

     We skip ahead some amount of time to Matthew and some strumpet piece of arm candy named Kathy discussing the fire. He talks about how he’s going to take her on a trip with the insurance money. She talks about how they can get married at Niagara Falls. People, take note. This guy and his reaction to her saying that is the reaction of every scumbag who has never wanted to settle down. Thankfully, due to the mercy of the Hayes code, we get to find out that evil is wrong and murdering people for insurance money is bad. You see, they never found his body after the fire. HMMM! I wonder if that is in any way important!? I never thought I would see the day when Vincent Price would be acting as the hammer of God’s justice, but this guy had it coming. The real question is how does this guy not see Vincent Price coming? This is the weakest part of the film, to be honest. Vincent, for the majority of the film from here on out, is dressed up in a heavy black coat and black hat. His face is horribly burned, so it kind of looks like the Phantom of the Opera stole the costume from Dark Man and decided to take up sculpting. When he catches up to his former partner, they’re in a lit room that’s around the size of a small office, or a large closet depending on how you want to see it. He kills Matthew and hangs him from the elevator.

     While he does this, there’s a maid cleaning downstairs. My favorite scene in the movie is how long it takes her to register that he’s dead and wind up for a big ol’ scream. It took her around ten seconds. “Is he dead?” Takes a few more steps. “I’m still not sure.” Takes a few more steps. “Not convinced yet.” Gets right up in his face. Oh wow. He is so dead. Better take an extra-long breath for this one. The next to die is the arm candy strumpet that Matthew had. You might think I’m being sexist by calling her that, but she is unapologetically a social climber. Kathy is the hooker with a heart of gold before hookers with hearts of gold existed. Only thanks to the Hayes code, she’s a flirt with a heart of gold. Her friend seems to be the more serious type, a lady named Sue Allen. We see them together before she dies talking about “Maddie” as Kathy called Matthew. “Weren’t you going to marry him?” “Yeah, but then he committed suicide. Maddie was such a card.” Yeah. That’s the reaction I was looking for. Is everyone is this movie the worst person I’ve never met? Well, she exits through stage morgue after Sue finds her in her room later with twice baked Vincent Price looking over her. I think it was supposed to be a surprise that Vincent Price is really the bad guy, but who are you really fooling movie? If I saw Vincent Price with a puppy I would assume he was looking for a bridge to throw it off of. We already know Vincent Price is evil, but he needs to say it himself or it’s not worth my time!

     The chase scene, wherein Vincent attempts to chase down Sue, is amazing. All the more so because it had me glued to my seat and the whole scene takes place on empty streets and involves two people. This is, I suppose, the effect of true dread and horror. There’s a scene where Sue is hiding behind a wall and she’s taking her shoes off while Vincent is just around the corner trying to figure out where she went. As much fun as I poke at this movie, there are some really genuinely unnerving scenes in it. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here to tell you that Vincent Price steals Kathy’s body, that floozy, from the morgue. So now you can feel relieved in the knowledge that Vincent Price really has a wax museum that’s kind of just wax poured over people. He gets back in touch with that other art critic and he opens up a place that will shock and horrify. Oh, if only those poor bastards knew. The best part is that Vincent Price, now in a wheelchair, gives the tours himself! Unfortunately for him, Sue recognizes her friend now dressed up as Joan of Arc. Unfortunately for Sue, Vincent thinks she looks like his lost Marie and he wants to use her as a replacement.

     Perhaps calling the rest of this movie a game of cat and mouse between the two would be a bit generous. It takes a bit for other people to figure out that Sue is right and that the statues are people, but the climax has two really thrilling fight scenes and some of the best horror movie stuff I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve joked about this movie in terms of it being made when the Hayes code was still in effect, but I seriously thought Vincent Price was going to win. If a movie can make me think that even though I know that a movie in that time period could never show a woman being covered boiling hot wax, they were doing something right. That and Vincent Price knocks out like ten policemen before he falls into his own vat of wax because evil is wrong. This was a good first film to open up on. The last scene where they have the all’s well that ends well talk feels like kind of a let-down after Vincent Price and best damned Wax museum you have ever seen. I would say give it a watch. You might think I spoiled a lot, but let’s be honest. Hearing about it is not seeing it, and if you didn’t know that Vincent Price was going to make wax statues out of people than this is also a public service announcement. And knowing is half the battle.