"I sometimes feel that I'm impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race [...and] I love it!"
Frustratingly overlooked in his early career largely owing to his stature (6'4'' was considered too tall for a Hollywood leading man), Vincent Price eventually found his true calling as the eccentric uncle of the horror genre. His grand, classical approach to acting, while considered unfashionable and unfit for the mainstream, proved perfectly compatible with the genre films that ultimately made his name.
Price's horror career was wonderfully diverse: ranging from vibrant, period Gothic tales (The Masque of the Red Death and The Haunted Palace) to modern day horror-comedies (the so-bad-they're-amazing Bloodbath at the House of Death and The Monster Club). Whether hero or villain, comedic or straight - Vincent Price was always compellingly watchable and contagiously enthusiastic.
As frustrating as the type-casting and pigeon-holing must have been for Price at times, he never allowed such frustrations to get in the way of his reliably passionate performances. There'll never be another like Vincent Price.
8. House On Haunted Hill (1959)
“There’ll be food and drink, and… ghosts. And perhaps even a few murders…”
It’s fair to say that House on Haunted Hill is most horror lovers’ go-to Vincent Price movie. It may not boast the style or atmosphere of his early 60s Roger Corman collaborations, nor does it have the black humour of some of the British projects he appeared in from the early 70s, but this is easily one of Price’s most re-watchable films. We can forgive the terrible special effects, nonsensical plot and appalling acting from leading lady, Carloyn Craig; the film is so beloved by horror fans because it is essentially the movie equivalent of a Halloween haunted house attraction. Right from the first few seconds we’re greeted with ghostly wails, blood-curdling screams, clanking chains and floating heads – our cue to switch off our brains for the next 75 minutes and embrace the camp.
Director William Castle was hardly a great filmmaker, or even a good one, in all honesty; but his cheesy gimmicks and theatrics are every bit as entertaining today as they were to 50s audiences. Anyone going into House on Haunted Hill having already experienced Price’s later horror films could be forgiven for expecting a much grander and more exaggerated performance, especially in a film from the king of cheese.
Surprisingly, with eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren, Price gives one of his least theatrical horror performances. He is far from dull, though, and his sinister charm is the saving grace that makes the film such an iconic Halloween staple. Without him, House on Haunted Hill would’ve been a forgettable mess along the lines of Castle’s following haunted house production, 13 Ghosts (you had best not waste your time with that one).