DVD Review: Vincent Price Collection- 5 Frightening Features
Distributor: Mill Creek Home Entertainment
Street Date: October 3rd 2017
Technical Specifications: 480P Video, B&W/Color, Dolby Digital Audio
Runtime: 6 Hours, 44 Minutes
Mill Creek Entertainment invites you to delve into the world of Vincent Price and experience films from the man that made Horror a work of art!
When you think of the Horror greats of the past century, who comes to mind? There have been so many iconic performances from truly talented and memorable ladies and gentleman of the genre over the years, and it’s likely a hard task for any devoted film fan to just pick one. From Lugosi to Chaney, and Karloff to Lee, there are those masters of the stage and screen who simply understood their audience well enough to unleash the thrills in a focused onslaught of perfection. But for my money, there never will be anyone quite like Mr. Vincent Price. He was such a commanding presence on screen, from his tall stature to his iconic mustache; a simple lift of an eyebrow or a tweak in his vocal inflection could bring a smile to his fans all over the world. He was a lover of art, a doting father, and a man that seemed content with his typecasting in the Horror genre, despite being a loveable, kind, and giving soul in real life (a far cry from some of the wicked men he portrayed on screen). He was also multi-talented, able to convey sinister dread in a non-speaking role like The Abominable Dr. Phibes, saying so much with just his eyes and expression. He could portray damaged and desperate, such as his turn as Robert Morgan in The Last Man on Earth. Even in his later years, a minor role in Edward Scissorhands (as the title character’s genius creator) would leave us smiling and heartbroken at an elderly man’s glee and pride in caring for his unique “child.”
Perusing Mill Creek Entertainment’s upcoming release for Vincent Price: 5 Frightening Features brought on two personal revelations: the first being that, without a shadow of a doubt, the distributor’s collection represents two of the very best Mr. Price’s brilliant catalog of macabre treats as well as a handful of other fun cinematic treats for the Halloween season. You can simply watch these films on any rainy day the entire way through, appreciating the man and his work on so many levels. The selections are diverse and thoroughly engaging, with The Last Man on Earth and House on Haunted Hill showcasing the artist at his very best. The second revelation would be that there has never been a Horror star quite like Mr. Price. The man knew how to lure the audience into his performance, buy into a film’s concept, and have a frightfully enjoyable time at the movies. He is a legend of the silver screen, and there simply isn’t a better way to enjoy his work than spinning this fine collection.
This DVD collection features 5 wonderful horror/thriller gems including: The Last Man on Earth, House on Haunted Hill, Shock, The Bat, & Jackals. Rather than bore you with a lengthy multiple page essay on each film, here are my quick thoughts on each of these titles after revisiting them on DVD.
- The Last Man on Earth (1964)- This is without a doubt the very best screen adaptation of Richard Matheson’s source material, I am Legend. It also might just be my personal favorite Vincent Price film. Mr. Price stars as Dr. Robert Morgan (Neville in the book), the seemingly lone human survivor of a deadly outbreak that decimated the world population; turning those who died from its symptoms into vampires of the night. Three years after the outbreak, Morgan spends his days stocking up on the necessities and hunting down the vampires of his city as they sleep, and in turn, spends his nights defending his boarded-up home from the sinister creatures. Through flashback narrative we’re able to see what Morgan’s life was like before and during the outbreak before he unexpectedly meets a fellow survivor on what appears to be another routine day for him. I won’t spoil too much more of this horror classic, but it’s simply one of the best there is! Price’s narration of his day-to-day routine reel me in every time, and his performance here as a broken man who desperately hangs onto hope is one of his best. To think that Matheson opined that Vincent was miscast in the role is mind-boggling. The black and white cinematography is the icing on the cake, as this is impeccably filmed and realized on screen (even with the occasional crew member appearing in the background). I simply love this movie!
- House on Haunted Hill (1959)- This William Castle classic has Vincent Price portraying Frederick Loren, a mysterious and sadistic millionaire who, along with his equally creepy wife Annabelle, has invited five strangers to their “haunted house party.” Once the clock strikes midnight, the doors will be locked and everyone will be forced to stay in the house until morning, no matter what paranormal happenings occur within. Frederick has provided each of the guests with a loaded gun (complete with a tiny gun coffin), to add a little more danger into the mix. When strange things begin to occur (including one of my all-time favorite jump scares with the old woman in the basement), trust dwindles among the group, and Annabelle tries to warn the guests that Frederick is psychotic, and that the night that lies before them may not be what it seems. I won’t reveal any spoiler plot details, but the twists and turns in this horror classic make for sheer Halloween viewing delight! This is one of Price’s best performances as well, nailing the passive aggressive and sadistic nature of his character. It’s also incredibly well framed and filmed in glorious black and white, making for a wonderful old school horror experience.
- Shock (1946)- The oldest and definitely least interesting title of the bunch, Shock stars Price as Dr. Richard Cross, a psychiatrist who aims to help a young woman, recently awoken from a coma, to discover the identity of the man behind the murder she witnessed. I won’t ruin the twist behind this one, but it all plays out fairly generically. I will say that it is fun to see Vincent try on the type of role that he would later become most known for!
- The Bat (1959)- Here Vincent plays Dr. Malcolm Wells, a research scientist who just so happens to live in a town terrorized by a menacing murderer known only as “The Bat.” Along with a mystery author (Agnes Moorhead), Wells is perplexed by the faceless killer who is said to stalk his female victims at night; usually resulting in throats ripped open by steel claws! This is a rather fun little mystery thriller, with enough twists and turns to keep viewers interested throughout! It’s rather tame compared to some other beloved thrillers of the same time period, but still worth the watch!
- The Jackals (1967)- This one is a bit random among the more Horror/Thriller themed titles! This Western, a remake of Yellow Sky, stars an incredibly hammy Vincent Price as a South African prospector named Oupa Decker, who along with his granddaughter, runs intro trouble with some bank robbers looking to steal his gold mining fortune. When the lead robber begins to fall in love with Oupa’s granddaughter, the tables are turned when he switches sides and helps them battle his old gang for love (and, well…gold). This is absolutely one of Vincent’s most over-the-top performances, but it’s a hoot to watch him ham it up in this strange little film! Believe it or not, this one was never even released theatrically in the United States!
Presented mostly in black and white prints, with the exception of The Jackals in color, these transfers all look fairly solid on the format. Though some titles in the set exhibit some minor print wear and scratches, its all part of the fun when it comes to classic Horror! Film grain is always present and authentically produced, and there is some surprising detail in the costume design and facial features across the board. As an admirer of black and white films, I was especially delighted to see the transfer on The Last Man on Earth handled so well. It’s my favorite film of the bunch, and the only one presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1. The rest of the films are presented in full frame 1.33:1. I have seen House on Haunted Hill presented in it’s native widescreen before (as was the case in Scream Factory’s Vincent Price sets), but I’m guessing that Mill Creek didn’t have access to that particular print. The only obvious issue here is the lower definition of the DVD format, as I know that a few of these titles would look great on the Blu-Ray format (hopefully Mill Creek releases a BD set down the line too)!
Every film in the set features standard mono Dolby Digital audio tracks, and though they’re not likely to challenge your system with power or dynamics, they feel accurately reproduced for the format and get the job done. Dialogue is always clear and discernable, music sounds balanced and undistorted, and background effects and thrilling high points are well maintained on the disc.
There aren’t any special features included with this DVD package, just the films! You do, however, receive a digital copy code that allows you streaming access to all five titles on Mill Creek’s Streaming website and/or the Mill Creek app on your Smart TV.
This DVD release from Mill Creek Home Entertainment features a colorful design with various images from House on Haunted Hill in the background and Mr. Price himself, looking quite debonair, in the foreground. The back of the case includes a brief plot synopsis for each film along with the original theatrical posters and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the DVD disc for the films along with the digital copy code insert.
There has never been, and likely will never be again, a Horror star quite like Mr. Vincent Price. For a fan of classic Horror and an admirer of the late, great, Vincent Price, sitting down to enjoy a marathon of his films on DVD from Mill Creek was a special treat! Though there aren’t any features for this specific edition, the video and audio quality on these films is solid all around. I do, however, hope that Mill Creek will eventually release some of these titles in High Definition Blu-Ray! But for DVD collectors this is a must-buy at a great price point and comes recommended for the Halloween season!