Film Review: While the City Sleeps (1956)

Also known as: New Is Made at Night (working title)
Release Date: April 19th, 1956 (London premiere)
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Written by: Casey Robinson
Based on: The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein
Music by: Herschel Burke Gilbert
Cast: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Sally Forrest, John Drew Barrymore, Ida Lupino, James Craig, Robert Warwick, Mae Marsh, Leonard Carey

Bert E. Friedlob Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“What a beautiful nightgown; and it’s a shortie!” – Ed Mobely

I love Fritz Lang’s work, especially in regards to the noir narrative and visual style. And while noir films were waning in popularity by 1956, Lang still managed to make a pretty good one with this picture.

The film is about a serial killer that is terrorizing the city. All the while, a media tycoon dies and leaves the business to a son he despises. The son, played by Vincent Price, doesn’t know much about running a news company, so he creates a new “second-in-command” position. He holds a contest between the company’s best investigative journalists to catch the killer. The one who does will be given the new position and some lucrative perks.

The movie has a weird but interesting premise and all the core actors in this do a good job with the material.

One thing Lang does exceptionally well in his films is how he builds up tension and suspense. He does a fantastic job in this one, as well.

I think the serial killer stuff is also a bit darker and more gruesome feeling than other serial killer movies before this. But going all the way back to 1931’s M, Fritz Lang showed that he didn’t shy away from the darkness and was able to really push the envelope in spite of the limitations of what was deemed acceptable at the time.

This movie is full of characters that are entertaining and fun to watch. However, there is still this haunting presence looming over everything.

Ultimately, this isn’t Fritz Lang’s best noir picture but it also solidifies the fact that the guy never made a bad or even mediocre one.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

Release Date: February 29th, 1940 (Chicago premiere)
Directed by: Joe May
Written by: Lester Cole
Based on: The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Music by: Frank Skinner
Cast: George Sanders, Vincent Price, Margaret Lindsay, Dick Foran, Nan Grey, Cecil Kellaway, Alan Napier

Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

I’ve always wanted to see this movie but it’s just evaded me over the years. It was streaming on something I have, though, so I figured it was as good of a time as any to finally check it out.

Man, Vincent Price is super young in this. The only other film that I have seen where he’s actually younger is The Invisible Man Returns, which is from January of the same year. He’s also invisible throughout that picture.

This story isn’t a horror film despite Price’s penchant for those roles. Although, some in this wealthy family believe that there is a family curse and thus, make some pretty heinous and drastic decisions based off of that fear.

The family, falling on some fairly hard times, is contemplating selling their mansion. This pits the two brothers against each other. The villainous one of the two, believes that there is a fortune hidden in the house and that with it, he can survive, living life at the pampered level he’s accustomed to. With that, he frames his nice brother, played by Vincent Price, for the murder of their father. In prison, years later, Price’s Clifford meets Matthew, who is part of the family that “cursed” Clifford’s. The two actually become friends and devise a plan to clear Clifford’s name and to expose what his dastardly brother did to him and the family, since his imprisonment.

Surprisingly, a lot happens in this movie that it is just shy of 90 minutes. It’s well paced, doesn’t waste a moment and you really like the virtuous, honest characters in this. You want to see the villain get what’s coming. Plus, the performances are solid and even for still being in his twenties, Price showed great promise, here.

I ended up liking this more than I thought I would. I didn’t expect it to be bad but it was a short, dramatic film with a young Price lacking the mileage he had by the time he became a horror icon with 1953’s House of Wax.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Release Date: December 6th, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Oliveri, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aaron, Dick Anthony Williams, O-Lan Jones, Nick Carter (uncredited)

Twentieth Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Hold me.” – Kim, “I can’t.” – Edward

This movie came out around my 12th birthday. But I didn’t get to see it in the theater because I was a kid that didn’t control his own life and it was also the holidays and back then, that meant lots of travel to see cheek-pinchers and older rotund family members that wanted to force feed me into a sugar coma. That’s not a snarky complaint, I actually miss those simpler times and those people, who have mostly passed on.

Anyway, I really wanted to see Edward Scissorhands but I didn’t get to check it out until it was available to rent at the video store. Once I did see it, I was blown away by it and even as a pre-teen, I remember thinking that Tim Burton had truly created something special and evolved really quickly as a filmmaker with this being just his fourth feature film after the previous year’s Batman, as well as Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

As much as I had loved Burton’s previous work, especially Batman, it was this movie that really cemented him as my favorite director of this era behind Steven Spielberg.

This also cemented Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder as two of my favorite actors of the era, as both of them really transcend the screen and put in such beautiful and believable performances that it’s impossible to watch this film and not be emotionally effected.

Furthermore, this also features my favorite performance by Dianne Wiest, an actress I have loved for as long as I can remember. But in this, she really turns up the matriarch persona she is so well at playing. She’s so lovely, kind, has a tremendous heart and you find your own heart breaking, as she comes to realize that as much love as Edward deserves, maybe she made a grave mistake in trying to bring him into her world so quickly. And this realization is where the movie takes a turn and gets much deeper, much darker and much more meaningful.

At its core, this is a Grimms’-style fairytale set in the modern world. However, the modern world is presented in a way that’s sort of timeless. While it features things that were modern for 1990, the look of suburbia is done in a colorful 1950s style. This is one of the things I love most about the movie, as it takes the things that influenced Burton’s development and sort of blends them together. It gives the film a dreamlike, fantastical quality that couldn’t have been achieved had Burton just set this in a place that was blatantly contemporary for the year it was filmed in.

The film is also populated with so much talent and great performances from everyone involved like Alan Arkin, Robert Oliveri, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Conchata Ferrell, etc.

For me, though, seeing Vincent Price in this was truly special. He was a huge inspiration to Burton and myself, as well. This picture provided him with the perfect role to go out with honor and grace. And while he did a television movie after this, Edward Scissorhands was the legend’s true exit from film and his few moments in this were just beautiful and brilliant.

Edward Scissorhands is a close to perfect film. Sure, as I’m now older and hadn’t seen this in a long time, I do see some minor flaws, here and there. However, they’re not worth nitpicking over, as the film has held up tremendously well and the things it does perfectly far exceed the small things that might have been lacking.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: The Tingler (1959)

Release Date: July 29th, 1959
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Music by: Von Dexter
Cast: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Philip Coolidge, William Castle

William Castle Productions, Columbia Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But scream! Scream for your lives!” – Dr. Warren Chapin

The Tingler was another William Castle picture that relied on the viewer watching it in a gimmicked movie theater with chairs that shock you and things that fly towards you from the screen. As with all gimmicky Castle pictures, the original theatre experience must have been really fun.

However, watching this sixty-two years later on a television doesn’t quite do the film justice or come close to what Castle crafted. But he probably didn’t envision streaming services in 1959 or VHS, DVD and Blu-ray for that matter.

Still, this is a fun, kind of bonkers movie. Being that it stars horror icon Vincent Price, makes it worth watching, even if the film’s full effect can’t be experienced.

The story is about this creature that lives along your spine in your lower back. The actual creature is way to big to be on your spine undetected, though. So one has to severely suspend disbelief there. However, this creature is strong as shit and can actually break your limbs or crush your throat if it feels like it. The only defense to this seemingly invincible parasite is to scream.

So the film really leans into the screaming gimmick. If you’re in the theatre and your seat gives you a little shock, you’re supposed to scream as loud as possible. Granted, I’m not doing that in my condo with my asshole neighbors next door and above, as old Floridians like to tattle tale about every minor thing they perceive as disrupting their vegetative state of living. Actually, they could probably benefit from a William Castle production but now I’m on a tangent.

Anyway, the movie may be a gimmick that I can’t fully experience but it’s still an amusing relic that’s an entertaining watch for those who like stuff like this.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Witchfinder General (1968)

Also known as: The Conqueror Worm (theatrical title), Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (UK complete title), Matthew Hopkins: Conqueror Worm (US complete title), Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm (US promotional title)
Release Date: May 15th, 1968 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Michael Reeves
Written by: Tom Baker, Michael Reeves, Louis M. Heyward
Based on: Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett
Music by: Paul Ferris
Cast: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Wilfrid Brambell, Patrick Wymark, Robert Russell, Nicky Henson, Hilary Dwyer

Tigon British Film Productions, American International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Men sometimes have strange motives for the things they do.” – Matthew Hopkins

I always get Witchfinder General a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm and Cry of the Banshee mixed up in my head. They both star Vincent Price in a very similar role, deal with the same subject matter and came out around the same time.

This is the superior of the two films and it boasts one of Price’s greatest performances. It’s also more grounded than 1970’s Cry of the Banshee, which honestly feels like it was made just to piggyback off of this film’s momentum.

The story, here, follows Matthew Hopkins, a famous (or infamous) witch-hunter. It shows his corruption, how he uses his power to rule over those who fear him and what lengths he’s willing to go to essentially prove that he is the ruler of his own domain.

For those who don’t know, Hopkins was a real historical figure and with that, this film had a bit more chutzpah to it than Cry of the Banshee. There was something really sinister about the fact that this was a real guy. Sure, this was glamorized and took some liberties, as it’s a film that had to up the ante and lean into the horror bits, but from what I’ve read about the guy, none of this really seems out of character and in fact, Price’s portrayal of the character may have been tame by comparison. I mean, in just the three years that Hopkins claimed to be the “Witchfinder General”, he killed more suspected witches than his contemporaries did in the previous 100 years.

This is a fairly compelling film, even if it is a bit slow. But even with its apparent faults, Price’s performance is damn convincing and truly elevates what would’ve been a mundane picture, otherwise.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Return of the Fly (1959)

Release Date: July, 1959
Directed by: Edward Bernds
Written by: Edward Bernds
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, David Frankham, Danielle De Metz, John Sutton

Associated Producers Inc., 20th Century Fox, 80 Minutes

Review:

“[voice over] Here passes from this earth Helene Delambre, widow of my brother, Andre, whom I loved deeply, hopelessly. She was destroyed in the end by dreadful memories, a recollection of horrors that did not dim as the years went on, but instead grew monstrously, and left her mind shocked and unsteady, so that death, when it came, was a blessed release.” – Francois Delambre

Return of the Fly was rushed into production pretty quickly after the immense success of its predecessor.

That being said, it’s not as good as the first film and it also lacks color but I thought that the story justified its existence and it added something fresh to what would become a franchise starting with this movie.

The story follows the young son of the Fly from the first movie. Except now, he’s a full grown adult that has studied science and wants to follow in his father’s footsteps in an effort to honor him and prove that he was a genius that just took one terrible misstep.

It’s kind of odd that the kid is now a grown man and Vincent Price looks like he hasn’t aged a day but this is a 1950s atomic age horror flick, so suspending disbelief isn’t too difficult.

The son gets into bed with a business partner that has criminal aspirations and with that, comes a grave double cross that sees the son become a human fly like his father.

The finale of this picture isn’t as tragic, however.

While this does follow some of the same beats of the first movie, once the man becomes a fly, the people working to solve the problem have more success, here.

All in all, I enjoy this chapter in the series. It found a decent way to milk the original film and to keep this concept going. Still, it’s not as good of a movie and the scientist’s fate as a fly never feels as permanent in this one.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as its sequel Curse of the Fly and the ’80s remakes.

Film Review: The Fly (1958)

Release Date: July 16th, 1958
Directed by: Kurt Neumann
Written by: James Clavell
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman

Regal Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 94 Minutes

Review:

“I shall never forget that scream as long as I live…” – Inspector Charas

People love the hell out of the 1986 remake of The Fly but with that, they really sleep on this one. Plus, this also features Vincent Price, so that alone makes it worth a watch.

Anyway, this is pretty damn good for its time. Price isn’t the main character and his role is sort of a bookend to the larger story, as he appears early in the film to inspire the wife of The Fly to tell her story and then is there at the end, just in time for the big climax.

The story follows a scientist, who is working on teleportation technology in the basement of his large house. As the film rolls on, he gets more and more reckless with his experiments and takes risks he shouldn’t. Eventually, he ends up experimenting on himself but accidentally lets a fly into the machine and turns himself into a half man/half fly monster. Also, there is a fly with a white head flying around. Once we see that fly up close, we discover that the scientist’s human head is attached to it.

The main character is really the wife, played by Patricia Owens, who had to really carry the picture, as the scientist becomes The Fly and thus, has his face obscured, as he hides in the basement. It’s the wife that you really connect to, as she tries to be supportive and help her husband but ultimately, has to deal with heartbreak and desperation as things continue to spiral out of control. All the while, she’s trying to be protective of her young son.

Owens did a solid job in this and she really turned the drama up, which worked like glue, holding the picture together but also making the film feel more legitimate than just a simple 1950s creature feature.

The ending is really f’d up and kind of terrifying in how it was shot and presented on the screen. The sound of the little fly screaming is pretty effective and still disturbing. Sure, the effects look hokey now but it’s all just kind of surreal and gruesome.

The Fly is one of my favorite movies with Vincent Price in it before he started hooking up with Roger Corman on their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its sequels and ’80s remakes, as well as other ’50s creature features.

Film Review: From A Whisper To A Scream (1987)

Also known as: The Offspring (original title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr, Mike Malone
Music by: Jim Manzie
Cast: Vincent Price, Susan Tyrrell, Clu Gulager, Terry Kiser, Harry Caesar, Rosalind Cash, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Beswick, Lawrence Tierney

Conquest Productions, Manson International, Whisper Scream Limited Partnership, 99 Minutes, 92 Minutes (VHS cut)

Review:

“One thing I’ve learned, my dear, is that one is never too old for nightmares.” – Julian White

I’ve stated in the past that I’m not a big fan of anthology horror movies. However, as I’ve reviewed more and more over the almost five years that this website has existed, they’ve kind of won me over.

Sure, many are bad and most are inconsistent from segment-to-segment. However, even if something doesn’t hit the right way, it’s over pretty quickly and the viewer gets to move on to the next chapter.

With From A Whisper To A Scream, we get an anthology picture where every chapter was pretty decent. Plus, the story that connects everything together stars horror legend Vincent Price in his last true horror role.

I don’t know if Price would’ve been a fan of the level of gore in this movie but it’s pretty standard for an ’80s horror flick that’s going for the jugular. I don’t think it’s overly gratuitous and it’s fine for the style but it’s definitely edgier and bloodier than the film’s one would typically associate Price with.

Each story was interesting and pretty creative. Unlike Creepshow, the Twilight Zone movie, Tales From the Darkside and the Tales From the Crypt TV show, this didn’t have source material to pull from and adapt. Still, the situations were cool and unique and frankly, pretty f’n bonkers.

From A Whisper To A Scream was enjoyable from top-to-bottom. For me, that’s rare in an anthology horror picture.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Tower of London (1962)

Release Date: October 24th, 1962
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Leo Gordon, F. Amos Powell, Robert E. Kent
Music by: Michael Anderson
Cast: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Robert Brown, Charles Macaulay, Joan Freeman, Morris Ankrum

Edward Small Productions, United Artists, 79 Minutes

Review:

“[as a ghost, showing the whip lashes on her bare back to Richard of Gloucester] Wouldn’t you rather look at my back? Is it not attractive as a woman’s back should be?” – Mistress Shore

Growing up a big fan of Vincent Price, Tower of London wasn’t really a favorite film of mine. Although, I have to say that I kind of enjoy it now.

Sure, it wasn’t as colorful and energetic as his other pictures with director, Roger Corman. However, it is well acted and showcases Vincent Price as a real bastard with a certain charisma. He takes this completely evil character and gives him life in a way that is unique, entertaining and chilling.

No, you never like Price’s Richard III but that doesn’t matter, as you’re not supposed to. He’s just a hell of a villain played by a hell of an actor and once he gets his just desserts, it’s damn satisfying.

Like all Corman pictures, this was made quickly and on the cheap. But also like many Corman pictures, the end results are much better than one should expect and that’s just a testament to the man’s skill and his brand of cinematic magic.

This is an often times unnerving story but it features ghosts, magic, murder, torture and a legitimate power hungry madman. What’s not to like?

I’m glad that I watched this for the first time in about twenty years, as my opinion on it has changed somewhat. 

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vincent Price films of the ’50s and ’60s, especially those with director Roger Corman.

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.