Vincent Price began his acting career on the stage in London in 1934. His screen debut was in Service Deluxe in 1938, but his career was really established on the film Laura in 1944. Though Price has a formidable and diverse career…he will always be remembered fondly for his forays into horror. His initiation into that genre was in 1939’s Tower of London with Boris Karloff.
But it was in the 1950s where he earned his reputation as horror’s premiere go to guy in the film House of Wax, the first 3-D movie to ever land in the top ten. I remember seeing House of Wax for the first time at Turner Middle School. It was a reward for all us kiddies who had behaved ourselves. We were corralled into the library where they had a reel to reel film projector that clacked and clicked the whole movie, but we sat on the floor mesmerized by the Halloween treat we were being given. Not only were we missing class…but we were watching a movie instead! I actually felt sorry for all the trouble makers who had to sit in class while we enjoyed this cultural respite. Mr. Price made an impression that day that has stuck with me.
Many remember him from his association with Roger Corman and a series of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe: House of Usher (1960…a big ole smash hit!), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1953), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1965).
I remember watching him play Baka every Easter on TV when my parents would let us stay up late to watch The Ten Commandments. It was always shown on consecutive nights. The problem was we could stay up late on the Saturday night first part, but the Sunday night second part we always had to go to bed before the Israelites were ever delivered. I was well into my teen years before I ever saw Charlton Heston smashing the ten commandments. Quite spectacularly, I might add.
He was in The Last Man on Earth which was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I am Legend which I love! He had a large catalogue of radio performances, but my all-time favorite character of his had to be the arch villain Egghead on the Batman TV series. He was all over the little screen too appearing in TV shows like F-Troop, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He was even on The Brady Bunch and The Muppet Show!
His distinct voice got him a lot of work as well. In the seventies I remember hearing Price’s voice on Alice Cooper’s album Welcome to my Nightmare. In the eighties Price added his sinister monologue to Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller”. In ’86 he lent his amazing voice to Disney to play Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective. He was Vincent van Ghoul in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo cartoons.
Even in the 90s he made one of his final, yet most poignant film appearances in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. That’s basically a 60 year career folks. Hat off to the man who has made us scream in fright as well as laughter. He was never above spoofing the horror genre that had buttered his bread, nor was he above spoofing himself, and that is a sign of a true artist. Thank you Mr. Price for all the wonderful film moments you have given us.