Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vincent Price Online

Halloween is approaching, and one of the things I like to do around Halloween is watch Vincent Price. As it happens, Hulu.com has some Vincent Price movies available online for free, and there are three you should see if you haven't.

(1) The Last Man on Earth. This movie stands up remarkably well, due in part to Price's excellent acting and to the understated and quiet way in which it goes about its business. It shows just how far you can get on a shoestring budget, since it manages to hold its own against the remakes -- The Omega Man (with Charlton Heston) and I Am Legend (with Will Smith). Price was an odd pick to cast as the hero of this story (Matheson, who wrote the novel on which all three movies were based, and also the screenplay for this one, thought Price a disappointing choice); but having him as a hero makes the story more human. It becomes less a horror story and more a sorrow story: the emotion is carried not by the monsters, nor by the action hero, but by inevitable defeat.

(2) House on Haunted Hill. Movies with Price are usually not horror movies of the scare-you-silly type (and never of the gross-you-out type), but rather of the fun-with-chills-and-thrills type, which is one reason why they are more enduring than most horror stories: our fears shift all the time, but our humor is relatively constant. One of the best lines in this movie (which has some great lines) is "Remember the fun we had when you poisoned me?" A skeleton plays an important role in the movie (and was a big part of the original theater promotions); so important that they give him is own character listing in the credits, and list him as played by "Himself". That gives you the idea of what's in store for this movie. And Price does one of the things he always does very well: he plays a slightly ghoulish, but very charming, villain. Without him the story would plod, but with him it's great fun.

(3) Tales of Terror. A sequence of three shorts based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe, this movie has not just Price but also Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone; all three give performances worth watching. The best of the three shorts, however, is the second one, "The Black Cat," which everyone should watch even if they don't see either of the others. It's a humorous melding of Poe's stories, "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado", in which a hilariously self-enamored Fortunato Luchresi, played by Price, is faced down by a bland, drunken Montresor Herringbone, played by Lorre. The other two are interesting enough, but that second short is a classic in its own right.

Hulu has other Price movies online; but these are always worth watching if around Halloween you find yourself with a bit of time on your hands.

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