Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy 100th birthday, Vincent Price


NOTE: This post was supposed to go up this morning, but a lightning storm near Ch√Ęteau Otto last night knocked out our internet service and sent us back to the digital dark ages. Somehow, I think that would make Vincent Price smile. (Or let out an evil cackle.)

Here in the year 2011, I'm guessing there aren't many girls who receive a copy of the current issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland for their 11th birthday. But as soon as I saw the above magazine at a local comic-book store earlier this year, I knew my daughter Sarah would love it.

She's a huge Vincent Price fan.

And today's a day to celebrate Price, who was born on May 27, 1911, and would have turned 100 years old today.1 (He died in October 1993, two days after Joe Carter's World Series-winning home run.)

How did Sarah become such a fan of a decidedly 20th century horror icon?

That would be my fault.

When she was 9 years old, we watched "The Last Man on Earth,"2 the 1964 horror film that was based on Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend" and served as a primary inspiration for the grand-daddy of all zombie films, George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."3

Ignoring the question of whether a 9-year-old should be watching horror movies4, Sarah and I went on to watch another Vincent Price classic, "House on Haunted Hill," which features skeletons, an acid pit, hangings and the strangely floating head of Elisha Cook Jr. She loved that, too.

The capper in Sarah's "Trifecta of Vincent Price" was Michael Jackson's "Thriller," which features Price's famous soliloquy and maniacal laugh at the end.5

And so Vincent Price is one of Sarah's favorite actors. She did some research on him (Sarah loves doing research online) and we learned that he was born in St. Louis, had a love of fine art and antiques6 and probably died earlier than he should have because he was a lifelong smoker.

As Sarah gets older, I'm looking forward to watching some of Price's other films -- especially his collaborations with Roger Corman on Edgar Allan Poe adaptations -- with her.

Finally, I'm thrilled that I can connect today's tribute to Vincent Price to my favorite author, Ruth Manning-Sanders. Price, with his wonderful voice, did dramatic readings of horror stories, ghosts stories and more for numerous record albums.7

Here, in two parts from YouTube, is Price reading the Manning-Sanders tale "The Goblins at the Bath House" from 1969's "A Book of Ghosts and Goblins." Enjoy!





Footnotes
1. Coincidentally, May 27 is also the birthday of another horror icon, Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee. He's still very much with us at age 89. Vincent Price and Christopher Lee shared the silver screen in a few movies, including "The Oblong Box," "Scream and Scream Again," and 1983's "House of the Long Shadows," which also starred Peter Cushing and John Carradine!
2. Or, "L'ultimo uomo della Terra" in Italian. (It was filmed in Rome.)
3. Although "I Am Legend"/"The Last Man on Earth" inspired "Night of the Living Dead," the book and movie feature vampires, not zombies. But they're vampires that exhibit some traits that are decidedly similar to those of modern-day Romero zombies. I could write an entire thesis paper on this. But I'm sure I've already lost you.
4. Meh. When I was 8 or 9, I was watching "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things," "Gargoyles," "The House of Seven Corpses," and "Salem's Lot." And I didn't turn out warped. Much.
5. "Thriller" was actually Sarah's favorite song for quite a while. She would listen to it on her iPod for seemingly hours on end.
6. His autobiography, "I Like What I Know," focuses a great deal on his love of art.
7. Here is a terrific rundown of all his voice recordings from VincentPrice.org.

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