Film Review: The Bat (1959)

Release Date: August 9th, 1959
Directed by: Crane Wilbur
Written by: Crane Wilbur
Based on: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Avery Hopwood
Music by: Louis Forbes
Cast: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Darla Hood

Liberty Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“This is the Oaks, a house in the country which I’ve rented for the summer. As an author I write tales of mystery and murder, but the things that have happened in this house are far more fantastic than any book I’ve ever had published.” – Cornelia van Gorder

In a way, this movie almost plays like a proto-slasher film, even though it predates the genre’s peak by over twenty years. But it does feature a killer in the house, trying to get to two women holed up in the master bedroom.

Now there’s more to the story than just that but I kind of like how this hits those beats and does them fairly well, even though it’s hard to imagine that a person that wants to do these ladies harm would have much trouble getting to them, even with a bedroom door in the way. Also, the mysterious stranger has many opportunities that aren’t exploited.

The murderer in this film is actually really cool. It’s said to be a faceless man that murders women at night by using his steel claws to rip out their throats. The concept is gruesome for 1959 and it really sets a brooding tone. The visual look of the killer lives up to expectations, as he is shrouded completely in black, except for his claws.

Of course, the film wants you to suspect that the doctor character, played by horror icon Vincent Price, is The Bat. It’s a red herring, though, as the killer is revealed to be someone else.

I think that the best thing about this film is the acting. Agnes Moorehead proves she’s still got the chops and Price is as superb as always. Darla Hood is decent but she’s overshadowed by the mere presence of Moorehead. This would be Hood’s last movie and she was most known for playing Darla in the classic Our Gang short films.

All in all, this isn’t a great horror film but it boasted solid performances, a cool killer and it’s certainly entertaining.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vincent Price horror films of the late ’50s.

Film Review: Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Also known as: The Corpse-Makers (working title)
Release Date: October 30th, 1963
Directed by: Sidney Salkow
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Based on: the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Music by: Richard LaSalle
Cast: Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning, Joyce Taylor

Robert E. Kent Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Your daughter is a fine specimen, too, isn’t she father? A specimen of the most deadly thing that was ever given life.” – Beatrice Rappaccini

While I’m not the biggest fan of anthology movies, this one is pretty good and it was better than I remembered.

I think that the last time I saw this was when it first came out on DVD, which had to have been more than fifteen years ago now.

I did remember the first two stories in this pretty fondly but I couldn’t recall the third and final act of the film. Seeing this now, I can see why, as it is definitely the weakest of the three.

However, the first two stories are both so good, that I can’t let the third one ruin the movie. Although, it probably should’ve gone first, as it sort of kills the movie’s momentum and pacing.

I’ve never actually read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, even though I own a pretty ancient copy of it. So I’m not sure if the order of the stories are the same in this film as they are in the novel. If so, I get why the film put them in that order.

Between the first two stories, it’s hard to pick a favorite, though, as both are wonderful.

love Vincent Price in this but then again, when don’t I love the man? The first story might take a bit of an edge, however, as I really enjoyed his chemistry with Sebastian Cabot.

All in all, this was neat to revisit and it fits well with the tone of Price’s Edgar Allan Poe movies and another anthology with him in it from the same era, Tales of Terror.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’60s and ’70s horror anthology films, specifically Tales of Terror, which also stars Vincent Price.

Film Review: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Also known as: I Am Legend, The Naked Terror (working titles), The Damned Walk at Midnight (alternative title)
Release Date: May 6th, 1964
Directed by: Sidney Salkow, Ubaldo B. Ragona
Written by: Logan Swanson, William F. Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, Ubaldo B. Ragona
Based on: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Music by: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart

Associated Producers (API), Produzioni La Regina, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Another day to live through. Better get started.” – Robert Morgan

When I was a kid, this was a movie that bored me to tears. I didn’t revisit it again for decades because I thought it was so drab and slow. However, I wanted to give it a fair shot and this time around, I liked it a lot. 

I guess my memories of it weren’t all that accurate either, as I just remembered the scenes of Vincent Price driving around with bodies everywhere and then spending all his time reinforcing his house and lying around on the couch as zombie vampires called his name from outside. All these things do happen, however there is much more to the picture.

We do get flashbacks to the time before the virus completely wrecked the planet. We see Price as a scientist who has a hard time believing what’s happening because it’s… well, so unbelievable. After spending so much time with Price alone, these flashback scenes are a welcome sight, as we get to see him interact with human beings again. All the slow, monotonous stuff served a real purpose with the narrative and tone of the film. Like Price, you yearn for more humans and when you get them, you feel that emotional effect.

Apparently, this film was supposed to be produced and shot by Hammer Films. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen and production moved to an Italian company. They were able to lock down Vincent Price and frankly, despite my poor taste as a kid, the end result is something incredibly worthwhile.

This film also features one of Price’s best performances, which is very reserved and somber. Price acts very much in contrast to what most people remember him for, which was his flamboyant and energetic characters. Seeing Price play his role this way, also adds to the emotional effect of the picture. I’ve seen enough of Price to understand his range and this wasn’t the first or last time he played a softer, more subdued character, but this story might make it his best version of that.

The Last Man On Earth is a film that most horror historians look at really fondly. I had a bad take on it for years and I’m glad that I decided to give it a chance. After seeing it now, I feel like maybe I never finished it, as a kid, as all I remembered from it was the stuff that happened in the first act.

I certainly didn’t remember the ending, which is quite impactful.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: early zombie films, as well as other films based off of this story like The Omega Man and I Am Legend.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Also known as: The Brain of Frankenstein (working title)
Release Date: June 15th, 1948
Directed by: Charles Barton
Written by: John Grant, Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo
Based on: characters by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Curt Siodmak, H.G. Wells
Music by: Frank Skinner
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, Charles Bradstreet, Vincent Price (voice, uncredited cameo)

Universal International Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Young people making the most of life – while it lasts.” – Dr. Lejos/Dracula

I’m actually surprised that I hadn’t yet reviewed any of the Universal Monsters pictures with Abbot and Costello in them. I have an immense love of both things and having them come together, which they did a handful of times, was really cool.

Overall, this one was always my favorite but I like all of them.

In this one, we don’t just get Frankenstein’s Monster, we also get Dracula, the Wolf Man and a little cameo by the Invisible Man. With that, we also got Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and a voice cameo by the legendary Vincent Price.

Unfortunately, Boris Karloff didn’t come back to play Frankenstein’s Monster but we did get Glenn Strange, who had already played the monster twice before this and who is really underappreciated in that role.

The only problem with this is one that doesn’t actually effect the film itself but instead, effects the ones that followed. You see, they blew their nut really early by cramming a ton of monsters into this one, so the following movies felt a bit underwhelming after the precedent this one set. But honestly, it’s why this particular one is the best of the lot.

Abbot and Costello are both hilarious per usual and their camaraderie was so solid by this point that they could’ve entertained in their sleep.

All in all, this was a really good horror comedy that took the best parts of two very different things and merged them together very well, not diminishing the performances of the two comedic legends or the coolness of the classic monsters and the legends who played them.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: House of Wax (1953)

Also known as: The Wax Works (working title)
Release Date: April 9th, 1953 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Andre DeToth
Written by: Crane Wilbur
Based on: The Wax Works by Charles S. Belden
Music by: David Buttolph
Cast: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Charles Bronson (as Charles Buchinsky)

Bryan Foy Productions, Warner Bros., 88 Minutes

Review:

“I’m afraid that the visit of a such distinguished critic may cause my children to become conceited. To you they are wax, but to me, their creator, they live and breathe.” – Prof. Henry Jarrod

House of Wax is hand down, one of my favorite Vincent Price films ever made. In fact, as much as I love the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations he’s in, this was the movie that really sold me on the guy and opened up the Pandora’s box that sent me down the rabbit hole of classic horror.

While I had already loved the Universal Monsters films and older black and white stuff, House of Wax really introduced me to the generation of films that followed, many of which starred Vincent Price, Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee… and sometimes a combination of two of them or on rare occasions, all three.

At a very young age, this also introduced me to the original version of the 3D gimmick. While I didn’t see this in 3D, it gave me an understanding of it and how these films were shot. Plus, it’s cool seeing it on a normal screen, as in 1953, movies weren’t made to be digested at home on a television set.

This was directed by Andre DeToth, who had previously made some memorable classic film-noir pictures. He had an eye for cinematic composition and he would utilize that to great effect, here, while also applying it to the 3D effects shots.

What sets this apart from DeToth’s beautiful noir movies is the use of color, which is vibrant and vivid, even more so than the colorized pictures of the day. Even when the film takes place in darkness, the world is still alive with dynamic hues.

Additionally, DeToth’s mastery of a high chiaroscuro style comes into play in the great sequence that sees the film’s female lead running through the urban streets and alleyways with the grotesque killer in hot pursuit. While this wasn’t done in black and white, it used dark hues and a lot of contrast with bits of color accenting the composition, helping to boost texture.

Vincent Price is dynamite in this and it is one of his best roles. He was on his A-game and his performance in this film is what led to him having a career as America’s top horror star for decades.

I also loved seeing a young Charles Bronson in this, who would work with DeToth again in a noir movie titled Crime Wave.

As an Addams Family fan, I also like that Carolyn Jones is in this, a decade before her most famous role as Morticia Addams.

One thing that really stood out to me when seeing this, as a kid, was how messed up and dark the story was. It’s about a wax artist who lost everything and was only able to reestablish himself by killing people and using them as the base for his wax figure creations. In fact, the plot of this film inspired two different horror short stories I wrote around middle school age. I’d assume that it also inspired Roger Corman’s classic beatnik horror comedy Bucket of Blood.

Overall, this is not just one of my favorite Vincent Price films, it is one of my favorite films of all-time. It led me down a path that I have enjoyed immensely for thirtyish years and I still tend to feel the need to watch this every October.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vincent Price films from the ’50s through the ’70s.

Film Review: Theatre of Blood (1973)

Also known as: Much Ado About Murder (working title)
Release Date: March 16th, 1973 (Toronto premiere)
Directed by: Douglas Hickox
Written by: Anthony Greville-Bell, Stanley Mann, John Kohn
Music by: Michael J. Lewis
Cast: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Robert Morley, Madeline Smith

Harbour Productions Limited, Cineman Productions, United Artists, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Where could my doggies have got to?” – Meredith Merridew, “Why, there they are both, baked in that pie. Whereof their mother daintily hath fed, eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.” – Edward Lionheart

This is one of my favorite Vincent Price films and I guess it’s odd that I haven’t reviewed it yet, which means I haven’t watched it in nearly half of a decade or possibly longer.

Every time I watch this, however, I’m reminded as to just how good it is and how great he was in it. This is a movie that really showcases Price’s range, as he plays an actor in the film and thus, takes on several different personas, as he’s a serial killer that commits murders based off of different plays he was featured in.

The story has a very similar structure and style to the Dr. Phibes movies while also being kind of like Madhouse, another film where he plays an actor. It’s almost like a weird merger of the two but still pretty original and neat to watch play out onscreen.

Price’s Lionheart was a once great actor that has been besmirched by his critics and has had his life ruined because of it. He’s thought to be dead but the truth is, he’s just gone mad and has a legion of homeless derelicts willing to help him carry out his revenge plot. He also has an unusual assistant that has an interesting twist once the film reaches its climax.

The movie is really creative in how each murder plays out. Like Dr. Phibes, each of his victims is faced with some sort of elaborate, gimmicky fate. It’s very much the same but the general theme of the revenge kills is different.

Price really gave this film his all and ups the ante quite a lot. Most importantly, it appears as if he was really enjoying making this movie because he hams it up with gusto but then delivers his more serious lines with a cold boldness.

I also really enjoy Diana Rigg in this and she really helps to carry the film even though Price doesn’t need any help. It’s just kind of cool seeing these two immensely talented people putting in such very strong but very different performances.

Theatre of Blood is just a really good movie, especially for those who adore Vincent Price. But I also think it’s one of the films that can serve as a gateway to the guy’s work for those young pups who might not be as familiar with him.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other horror films starring Vincent Price, especially Madhouse and the two Dr. Phibes movies.

Film Review: Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Release Date: July, 1972
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: Robert Blees, Robert Fuest
Music by: John Gale
Cast: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Jeffrey, Valli Kemp, Fiona Lewis, Hugh Griffith, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro

American International Pictures, MGM-EMI, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Phibes! I beg of you, let me come with you! Phibes, for once have mercy!” – Biederbeck

As great as The Abominable Dr. Phibes was, replicating its awesomeness would be a hard feat to achieve. Still, the sequel is a pretty fun followup that might not live up to its predecessor but it still builds off of it and justifies its existence in how it sees Phibes rise from the dead to complete his most important objective.

What’s great about this is that Phibes does indeed complete his objective and all along the way, he outwits those trying to stop him.

He goes on another clever murder spree but his plot isn’t as cool or as well thought out as the previous film. Still, it’s neat seeing him do what he does best and while this may come across as more of the same, it doesn’t try to completely replicate the original and the overall story moves in a new direction.

Additionally, the film stays true to the art deco aesthetic and style of the previous movie and it also taps into a vivid giallo-esque color palate, once again. I really love the kaleidoscope-styled mirror hall that they used to introduce Phibes’ assistant in this. It was just a great one-point perspective shot that really stood out.

More than anything, I loved the final act of this picture and how it ended. Unfortunately, though, it brings the larger tale to a close and there isn’t much else for Phibes to do other than float to victory, achieving his goal.

Another sequel or two may have been equally as fun but they probably ended this series at the right moment.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Vincent Price movies.

Film Review: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Also known as: Dr. Phibes (promotional title), The Curse of Dr. Phibes (Yugoslavia)
Release Date: May 18th, 1971
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: William Goldstein, James Whiton, Robert Fuest
Music by: Basil Kirchin
Cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North, Hugh Griffith, Caroline Munro

American International Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.” – Waverley

Being that I haven’t seen either Dr. Phibes movie in at least a dozen years, I forgot how funny this film is. It’s not overly comedic, “ha ha” funny, it’s just very cheeky and dry in a uniquely British way.

The film stars the legendary Vincent Price but instead of having him star alongside another horror legend or B-movie leading man, he actually stars alongside the great Joseph Cotton, who is a legend in his own way, especially due to his stupendous work with one of the greatest cinematic visionaries that ever lived, Orson Welles.

The film is also filled with some recognizable British character actors of the time but it is also worth mentioning that the mesmerizing and perfect Caroline Munro is in this. However, she plays Phibes’ deceased wife and is only really seen in photographs and as a corpse.

Phibes also has a female assistant, played by Virginia North, and she is pretty damn good in this up to her terrible, painful end.

The plot is about a madman who has been disfigured by acid. Beyond that, he wants revenge against the nine men he deems responsible for his wife’s death on the operating table. In order to exact revenge, Phibes murders the men in very elaborate ways that are inspired by The Ten Plagues of Egypt. Watching each of these play out is really cool.

The film itself is also visually stunning, as it employs an art deco style with vibrant colors that almost resemble an Italian giallo film. It’s an opulent and vivid looking picture and mixing that with the elaborate murders makes these come across as more high brow and artistic that Price’s typical movies made by American International.

On top of that, Price is superb in this film and it is one of his best and most iconic performances.

Ultimately, this is a damn fine horror picture for its day. It’s creative, alluring and strangely enchanting in spite of its dark subject matter.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Vincent Price movies.

Film Review: Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

Release Date: July 29th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Castellano & Pipolo (Italian version), Louis M. Heyward & Robert Kaufman (US version)
Music by: Les Baxter (US version), Lallo Gori (Italian version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Laura Antonelli, Mario Bava (cameo – uncredited)

Italian International Film, American International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“That’s not Rosanna. That’s a jigsaw puzzle.” – Bill Dexter

I haven’t seen this film in a long time and the two Dr. Goldfoot movies blended together in my memory. I was a bit intrigued to check this one out, though, as I noticed that it was directed by giallo and horror maestro, Mario Bava. He’s a director that has a fantastic style.

Sadly, this was a bit of a let down. That’s not to say that the first movie was great by any stretch of the imagination but it was entertaining and full of charming whimsy. This picture is a big step down.

I think that this may just be a problem with the American version of the film, however, as the jokes and gags don’t seem to land. This could be due to this being an Italian production, unlike its predecessor, and some of the humor got lost in poor translation.

The film does seem more concerned with showcasing gags than any sort of interesting, coherent story though.

I still enjoyed Vincent Price in this but his performance is weaker, overall, because he didn’t have his assistant from the first movie, who was a good goof for Price to play off of. They had good banter and decent chemistry but in this film, the new henchman barely speaks and just sort of follows orders.

The film’s humor is also goofier, as it relies pretty heavily on slapstick and people falling all over the place like a Benny Hill sketch.

Still, this isn’t a complete waste of time if you like ’60s era spy parodies and Vincent Price. He’s surrounded by a weaker cast but at least he’s still fun to watch when he gets to ham it up.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Dean Martin starring Matt Helms films.

Film Review: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Release Date: November 6th, 1965
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Written by: Elwood Ullman, Robert Kaufman, James Hartford
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart, Jack Mullaney

American International Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Igor, you idiot, why must you listen to me when I’m wrong?” – Dr. Goldfoot

Can you have a beach movie without the beach? Well, this certainly feels like it, as it features a ton of scantily clad beauties, as they try and steal the fortunes of rich tycoons. They’re also robots created by a mad scientist and a criminal mastermind in an effort to fund their evil doings.

In a lot of ways, this feels very similar to the Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin, which also featured scantily clad beauties, diabolical mad men and spy shenanigans.

Coming out at the height of the spy and beach movie genres, this utilizes both and also adds in horror legend Vincent Price and beach movie icon Frankie Avalon.

The movie is over the top to the point of being outright parody but it is a strange, amusing picture that may not have been a massive hit but has since developed a good cult following for those who like the varying genres this attempts to mash up. It also got a sequel, which I will review in the near future.

For the most part, this is good, mindless fun. Turn off your brain, kick back and enjoy the awesome batshittery. Plus, for ’60s cinephiles, it’s just really neat seeing Price and Avalon in the same flick.

For some, this will seem like an outdated relic without much in it worth giving a shit about. But those people can have their Academy Award nominated bores. Cool people would rather watch this and leave Ordinary People to the pretentious intellectuals.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other Vincent Price pictures that he did for American International.