Twenty three years ago today…October 25th 1993 in Los Angeles, California the greatest Master of Horror that ever lived passed away from complications due to lung cancer at the age of 82. I remember the news that day. Although it was no surprise his time had come it was and still is a sad day. Unlike some actors who would retire and disappear from the public eye especially fighting something like cancer, Vincent Price worked up until the end it seemed lending his voice to an animated production called “The Thief and the Cobbler” and prior to that appearing in the TV movie “Heart of Justice”.
But I am not writing this today to go over facts from his life like a wikipedia page. No Vincent Price’s legacy speaks for itself even today…23 years after his passing. Instead I want to talk about how what he meant to me personally. Sadly I never met him, nor have a tale on how he personally touched my life. I am just a fan like all of you. However Vincent Price and his work influenced me greatly in my participation in the realm of horror.
As far back as I can remember I was always a movie nut. Of course I liked the entertainment that movies provided, but as the years went by and I got older I became more and more fascinated with how things worked….mainly the special fx. I would watch anything from classics to modern stuff. Secretly studied how special fx and makeup progressed from the Jack Pierce days to the days of Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and more. I had my favorite movies and actors, but I quickly realized that one stood out the most to me and I kept seeing him in these awesome films. That was Vincent Price.
Now I admit it is difficult to pinpoint which Price movie I saw for the first time. I know it was one of the Corman classics…I believe it was Tales of Terror. I do know that whenever a Price horror film was on I would watch it. It wasn’t one thing that drew me to the man’s performances. It was definitely a combination of his presence, his voice, and how the characteristics of his character oozed from the screen. His evil characters like Prince Prospero and Joseph Curwen filled the room with dread while his characters like Verden Fell or Simon Cordier filled the room with despair. Vincent Price was a rare artist indeed who’s dedication to the craft and perfection in his character performances has made each and ever one of his performances golden…even in movies like “Last Man on Earth” and “Confessions of an Opium Eater” which are two movies that without Price in them they would be nothing more than B-Movie fodder.
When someone asks me what is my favorite Price film it really is difficult to say because there are so many that are just so wonderful. It does depend on my mood I guess if I were to sit down and pop one in the dvd player, but I do have two ultimate favorites. The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Comedy of Terrors are two films that I simply adore for various reasons. Let’s look at Phibes and it’s sequel first. Price is amazing in the film. He doesn’t say a word on camera using only creepy voice overs instead and even his facial expressions are very limited although he does crack a sinister half smile every now and then. So why does this performance stand out? Well the movie itself is amazing. The story of an expert classical musician who is injured in a car accident responding to the news of his beloved wife dying tugs at the heart strings. Adding into the mix that he survives, goes into hiding, and launches an elaborate and sinister plan to kill the nine people that were in the hospital room when his wife died…blaming all nine for their deaths. “Nine killed her…nine shall die!” Take this twisted story and film in in a borderline psychedelic way adding a hint of comedy to it makes this a recipe for a perfect film. Like I said despite limitations the character called for Price shines in the film. It was almost as if he was a silent movie actor and his performance is pure gold. So much it spawned a sequel which although to be honest it wasn’t as good as the first, but Price alone in the movie reprising his role as Phibes makes it a great film indeed.
I can honestly say wholeheartedly that without Vincent Price’s work in horror films I wouldn’t be here today. Without being able to learn from his works I would have never continued in the haunted attraction industry. Granted I would have still loved horror films and the special fx, but I wonder since it was his films that hooked me so much from the start would I have become such a fan of the genre? Now there are many that hold the tile of master of horror…Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and his son, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee all have made it to that level and rightfully so, but there was never one that completely defined every aspect like Vincent Price. Hist presence, his performances….even his voice is a perfect embodiment of terror! On October 25, 1993 we lost the true master of horror and a grand human being with his love and support of the arts. 23 years later his passing still strikes a chord of sadness within me and it will continue to with each passing year. However with over 200 credits to his name in movies, specials, television appearances…we have an amazing legacy to reflect back on.
Thank you Vincent Price for everything you have left us. May you always rest in peace knowing you will never be forgotten.