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Vincent Price Collection Volume III

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    Ian Jane
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  • Vincent Price Collection Volume III



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: February 16th, 2016.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Vincent Price
    Year: Various
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Shout! Factory goes back to the well that is the Vincent Price filmography for another collection of classic films starring the man himself, front and center.

    Master Of The World:

    Directed by William Whitney, a director best known for his work on various westerns, serials and TV shows over the years, is the man behind this film based off of a script by Richard Matheson (which in turn adapts Jules Verne's two novels - Clipper Of The Clouds and Master Of The World) made in 1961 for AIP.

    The story, set in the early nineteenth century, begins when an arms manufacturer named Mr. Prudent (Henry Hull), his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), her fiancé Phillip Evans (David Frankham) and a government agent named John Strock (Charles Bronson) are taken aboard a massive flying blimp-like structure dubbed The Albatross created almost entirely out of compressed paper by a mad genius named Captain Robur (Vincent Prince). He, along with his crew, spend their days flying around the planet hoping to force all of the world's super powers to put down their arms - in short, he's declared war on war. While Robur's idea is certainly a noble one, his methods are questionable at best - particularly when he starts dropping bombs from his flying machine in order to force his point. While Strock tries to figure out a way to stop him before he goes too far, feelings arise between him and Dorothy, much to the dismay of Phillip.

    Jules Verne adaptations were a hot cinematic commodity in the late fifties and early sixties so it makes sense that AIP would want to get in on that. Matheson's script is a solid one, mixing in some interesting political subtext (it's fairly common knowledge that Verne was not at all hawkish in his politics) while Whitney's direction shows some serious creativity in terms of how to bring Verne's rather epic vision to life with a limited budget. While the stock footage inserts and miniature effects work might be dated by modern standards, it's hard not to appreciate the design work that went into creating The Albatross. It's inside the ship that the vast majority of the film plays out and where the design work is the most effective as when we step outside the interior stock footage tends to reign supreme but there's still a lot to love about the look and fairly palpable cinematic texture of the movie. The film is also a very colorful one, using plenty of primary colors to give the film a candy coated and at times almost surreal vibe.

    As far as the performances go, Price is great as Captain Robur, and even if his character is essentially Captain Nemo in a blimp instead of a sub Price really makes the most of the part and delivers a few rather passionate tirades with utter conviction. It's his dedication to this performance that helps us almost look past his gigantic fake bushy eyebrows and glue on beard. His back and forth with Bronson's Strock is often times the best part of the movie, and the tension between the two men is pretty believable. Henry Hull is a bit goofy in his part, his voice sounding more like a cartoon character at this point in his life, while the lovely Ms. Webster isn't given a whole lot more to do than look pretty - but she does that well. Look for a young and frequently shirtless Richard Harrison as one of Robur's minions and for character actor Vito Scotti as a French chef, the movie's only real source of intentional comic relief. Les Baxter's score for the film is a great one, though some will note the absence of the theme song, missing from the end credits of this version of the movie (which runs 102 minutes and which does feature the prologue intact). A sequel was planned and though AIP started basic pre-production on it, the movie never materialized.

    Tower Of London:

    Directed by Roger Corman in 1962 and shot in glorious black and white, the story for our second feature begins with the death King Edward IV (Justice Watson). After his passing, the late king's brother, Richard of Gloucester (Vincent Price), decides he will do whatever he needs to do in order to take his older brother, Clarence (Charles Macaulay), out of the picture so that he himself be take the throne. There's also the matter of Richard's younger brother, Edward V (Eugene Mazzola), getting in the way but soon enough, he's murdered the poor guy, however, Edward V's ghost is understandably unhappy about all of this and his spirit haunts Richard.

    This doesn't stop Richard from murdering anyone else who he feels threatens his chances at becoming King, however, but his penchant for committing the ultimate sin does have its side effects. It isn't long before Richard is being plagued by sinister voices and as he tells anyone who will listen that the late King's other sons are not of true royal blood, it starts to seem like madness is setting in.

    Essentially a remake of the 1939 film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone (and once again a young Vincent Price cast in that film as The Duke Of Clarence), Corman's take on The Tower Of London is nothing if not atmospheric. Yes, the low budget with which the picture was mad is occasionally obvious but Corman and his team make the most of their shadowy sets and reasonably decent period costumes. Shooting in black and white gives the film a classic style and the cinematography and lighting are frequently impressive.

    As to the cast, Price is great in the lead as the devilish Richard. Once he starts to seem like he might be losing his mind Price takes things to heights that only he could and the movie is all the better for it. Macaulay and Mazzola are good in their respective supporting parts and the rest of the cast do fine work too. This one works - it's quick in its pace, it looks great and it features Price at the top of his game.

    Diary Of A Madman:

    Reginald Le Borg directed the third film in the set in 1963. Here Price plays a magistrate named Simon Cordier who visits a death row prisoner named Louis Girot (Harvey Stephens) shortly before he is to be put to death for a crime he claims he is innocent of. After all, Girot claims, if he was possessed by a spirit that made him do what he did, he shouldn't be held responsible. Not surprisingly, Cordier doesn't believe Girot's story and soon enough Girot winds up dead.

    In the days that follow, Cordier contemplates the interview and wonders if maybe there was something more to the story than he first thought. Girot's behavior was unusual and, adding to that, strange things are happening in Cordier's on home, particularly late at night. At first Cordier wonders if he isn't sleepwalking but eventually he starts to think that he may, in fact, be losing his mind. To distract him from his troubles he goes back to working as a sculpture artist but all of this soon proves to be for naught when he's driven to murder a woman named Odette (Nancy Kovack) who poses for him. Has the spirit that drove Girot to kill now possessed Cordier?

    Another strong Price vehicle from the sixties, this one over explains things a little bit too much for its own good (using Cordier's diary as a framing device is a good idea in theory but it does take some of the mystery out of the story) but otherwise gets pretty much everything else right. It's interesting to see how Price takes his character, at first a very pious man, and goes about turning him into a bit of a deviant. This, of course, furthers the possession angle and the most obvious break that signals this is when he eschews his previous moralizing and makes an attempt to get intimate with Odette, who he knows is married. From here things pick up and get more obvious but little details such as the way Price approaches her and talks to her make all the difference in the world here.

    Again, the movie is nicely paced and it looks quite good. There's strong use of color throughout and putting Nancy Kovack into any movie at this point in her career would be considered by many to be a very good thing indeed (she looks fantastic in this film) even if her performance won't blow you away. Overall though, this one holds up well - it's entertaining, at times quite spooky and it gives Price material that consistently plays to his strengths as an actor.

    An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe:

    Made for television in 1970, An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe is essentially Price's hour long 'one man show' style tribute to one of the most influential writers in history. Here Price delivers dramatic renditions of four Poe stories: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum. He does them in costume and acts them out with his trademark sense of dramatic style as he reads them to the camera.

    It might sound like little more than an actor reading a book in front of a camera but Price's commitment to the project is clear in each of the four stories. This might not have the replay value that some of his feature films do but for what it is, the piece is well directed. The emphasis here is on Price and his abilities to deliver so don't expect much flash at all - visually it's pretty basic - but as a showcase for the man himself and as a testament to his abilities as an actor, it's very good indeed (especially if you're a fan of the source material).

    Note that this feature shares a disc with Diary Of A Madman.

    Cry Of The Banshee:

    Last but not least, Gordon Hessler's 1970 film Cry Of The Banshee is set in Elizabethan times where Lord Edward Whitman (Price) holds court as a magistrate. He, and some of his family members, are bound and determined to rid the country of witchcraft in all of its forms but really, it'll shock no one to learn that Whitman is really a bastard when it counts. We see this manifest when, after a young woman refuses his unwanted sexual advances, he uses his position of power to have she and her protective older brother killed.

    Whitman's wife, Lady Patricia (Essy Persson), thinks very poorly of him but she is kept in line not just by her husband but by their adapted son, Sean (Stephen Chase), as well. Whitman's son by blood, Harry (Carl Rigg), isn't much better. More important than his domestic matters, however, are his professional ones and when he uncovers a coven of witches led by Oona (Elizabeth Bergner) he interrupts their ritual and has many of them slaughtered. Oona and a few others vow revenge and they do this by having a young man named Roderick (Patrick Mower), who is romantically involved with Whitman's daughter Maureen (Hilary Dwyer), make his way into their home. Roderick is not what he seems… will he exact Oona's revenge before he's found out?

    It's hard not to compare this one to Witchfinder General, a much better and far more effective film that deals with similar subject matter and puts Price in a similar lead role. Again we see him playing a man who uses his position of authority for his own sadistic reasoning, content to execute as many innocents as he likes to not only placate his own impure lusts but also to keep the populace impressed by his work. We have no sympathy for Whitman or his sons, we side firmly with Oona and her witches even as they get bloody revenge - Patricia is the only sympathetic member of the Whitman family and it's interesting how the story looks at her relationship with Roderick, indicating that his abilities to calm the mother of the girl he's involved with may be supernatural in origin.

    The character development could have been strong but Hessler's direction is decent. Presented in its uncut form as it is here (with the violence and stronger material wholly intact, as it was on the previous Midnite Movies DVD from MGM) the film works quite well. Price is solid in the lead and while this one will no doubt always live in Witchfinder General's shadow, it gives the actor some good material to work with and features pretty solid location photography. A few of the effects show the film's modest budget but overall the film is quite well done.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Master Of The World: AVC encoded 1080p 1.85.1 widescreen, color.
    Tower Of London: AVC encoded 1080p 1.66.1 widescreen, black and white.
    Diary Of A Madman: AVC encoded 1080p 1.66.1 widescreen, color.
    An Evening Of Edgar Alan Poe: Standard definition, 1.33.1 fullscreen, color.
    Cry Of The Banshee: AVC encoded 1080p 1.85.1 widescreen, color.

    The four color pictures in the set typically look very good in high definition though as noted, Evening is presented in standard definition, which is how it was shot. For the theatrical features, colors look excellent across the board, particularly in the Cry Of The Banshee, while skin tones look nice and natural in each movie. There isn't any obvious edge enhancement to note and there weren't any obvious compression artifacts even on the double feature discs. These don't looks as good as a series of more modern bigger budgeted movies might, and some of the opening credits sequences look a little rough (the first film being the main offender here) but given their roots and age, they typically look great on Blu-ray. As to the black and white Tower Of London, it also looks really good and like the color transfers it shows considerably more depth and stronger detail than its DVD counterpart.

    The audio for each one of the films is presented in English language DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is fine for the most part. There are some scenes throughout each film that may sound a bit flat by modern standards but all in all, clarity is good and levels are properly balanced. There wasn't any obvious hiss or distortion anywhere and dialogue remained clean and clear throughout. The films' respective scores demonstrated some decent depth and sound effects had good presence. Master Of The World also gets an optional English language stereo track in DTS-HD 2.0.

    Extras are spread across the set as follows:

    Master Of The World:

    The extras on the first disc start out with a commentary track from actor David Frankham moderated by Jonathan David Dixon that proves to be quite interesting. Frankham gives us some insight into how he was brought on board to act in the film after everyone else had been cast and shares stories about acting alongside both Price and Bronson. He also gives some insight into what he tried to bring to his character and his thoughts on the rest of the cast he worked alongside and the film's director. The commentary is nicely paced and quite interesting.

    Also included is Richard Matheson: Storyteller, a seventy-two minute featurettes that covers the life and times of the film's screenwriter. This is a pretty great and very thorough selection of interviews conducted in the early 2000s where he talks not only about his thoughts on this film and how it turned out but also some of the other scripts that he worked on at this point in his career, including some of the Price/Corman/Poe films. Some of his work for television is also covered and throughout all of this, Matheson is quick to give his opinions on all of this, be those opinions positive or negative.

    We also get a theatrical trailer for the film, a still gallery of promotional materials, a second still gallery of photos from Frankham's personal archive, menus and chapter selection.

    Tower Of London:

    There's no commentary this time but Corman himself starts the extras off on this disc by way of a newly shot interview exclusive to this release that runs just over seven minutes. Here he talks about working for United Artists on a Price film rather than AIP as would have been the norm, noting that his experiences were more or less the same regardless of who was bankrolling the film. He also shares his thoughts on the finished product and on Price in the movie.

    Producing Tower Of London is an interview with the film's producer (and the director's brother), Gene Corman. This fourteen minute piece was originally included on the first DVD release and it allows Gene to talk about producing for his director brother, the choice to shoot the movie in black and white and quite a bit more.

    Also on hand are two episodes of Science Fiction Theater: One Thousand Eyes and Operation Flypaper, both from 1956 and starring Vincent Price. These are amusing minor entries in the actor's filmography but it's nice to see them included here to round out the supplemental package.

    A trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection round out the extras for Tower Of London.

    Diary Of A Madman:

    The third film in the set gets a new commentary track courtesy of film historian and author Steve Haberman. It's clear from the start that Haberman has done his research as he not only does a fine job of putting this film in perspective compared to some of Price's other films but he goes into loads of detail about the supporting cast, the locations, the costumes, the music, the director and more. Quick in its pace and packed with information this very thorough track really leaves no stone unturned.

    Additionally we get a theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe:

    A new commentary track from Haberman graces this feature as well. Again, this is a very well prepared piece that does a great job of not only explaining what Price was going up against trying to get this project made but also exploring the origins of the four different stories he acts out here and detailing who did what behind the camera to get this finished. Interesting stuff.

    Additionally, a brand new interview with the feature's director, Kenneth Johnson, is also found here. This runs twenty-one minutes and here Johnson talks about getting his start in the television industry, his work on the Mike Douglas Show where he first met Price, how this project came about, working with Vincent on the show and more. Between this piece and the commentary this set manages to do a pretty good job of exploring the history and importance of this often overlooked work in Price's oeuvre.

    A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection are also included.

    Cry Of The Banshee:

    As mentioned earlier, the final film in the collection includes both the eighty-seven minute long AIP theatrical cut and the ninety-one minute director's cut versions of the movie in high definition. The shorter version replaces the original music with a Les Baxter score, removes the opening sequence, makes hefty trims to the nudity and violence and features different opening titles and some odd reframing in certain scenes (to get rid of that pesky nudity). Needless to say, the director's cut is the full strength version and it not only offers up more in the exploitation department but it flows better and is just a more interesting movie. It's great to see both cuts preserved in HD in this set, however.

    Additionally we get another interesting commentary track from Haberman and like his first two tracks in this set, it's a winner. He goes into detail about the script, the social relevance of the movie, Price's work in his role, the supporting players, Hessler's directing style, the costumes and music and locations and quite a bit more. He also talks about the alternate versions of the movie, the film's cinematography and some of the stronger content in the picture.

    A Devilish Tale Of Poe gets director Gordon Hessler in front of the camera for an interview that originally appeared on MGM's DVD release years back. It's a good talk in which he shares his side of the story, how he enjoyed working on this and a few other AIP productions, his early days in television and more.

    Closing out the last disc in the set is a theatrical trailer, a radio spot, a still gallery of behind the scenes and promotional materials, menus and chapter stops.

    The four discs in the set fit nicely inside a 'flipper' style Blu-ray case that in turn fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover. Inside that slipcover along with the case is a full color insert booklet containing archival images and credits for each film in the set as well as credits for the Blu-ray release.

    The Final Word:

    The Vincent Price Collection Volume III is another excellent collection of films for fans of Vincent Price and classic horror in general. Great presentaions and loads of extras are the icing on the cake. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




























































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