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Vincent Price

Vincent Price

Self-proclaimed connoisseurs of the celluloid sometimes cite Vincent as an example of a "good bad" actor. That is, a thespian of mediocre quality, but who could usually fill a role competently. Also the younger crowd knows him primarily from his later films like Edward Scissorhands which is not a typical Vincent Price role.

The truth is Vincent was an excellent and versatile actor who could could play in a film noir drama as well as a slapstick farce. Like most actors of his generation (or any generation, for that matter), Vincent started off on the stage. Although he was an American, his first professional debut was in London where he had gotten a master's degree in art history. Soon his roles were garnering positive reviews from some critics who listened to his fine delivery and thought he was European.

Still Vincent will be mostly remembered for the horror movies which were the precursors for today's megabillion scary movie industry. Films like The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Pit and the Pendulum hold up surprisingly well, particularly considering that the entire movie would be shot in two weeks, and they were only allowed one day (that's one day) of rehearsals.

Probably the oddest aspect of these movies is that they were particularly popular with the kiddies even though the scariness (not to mention critical and financial success) was more from mood and dialog rather than explicit horror. The cinematography was also top notch, vastly superior to many of the films shot today where the producers put most of the effort into worrying how the movie will look when transferred to DVD, and so you end up with two and half hours of alternating closeups, splashy computer generated special effects, and no plot.

Vincent's true forte, oddly enough, may have been comedy. The Raven is a fun movie, although perhaps it comes off a bit too campy. But Vincent's role as Fortunato Luchresi in the "Black Cat" segment of Tales of Terror, particularly the wine-tasting competition with Peter Lorre, is a gem, and his portrayal of Waldo Trumbull, the murdering, conniving undertaker, in The Comedy of Terrors has to be one of the best (although least known) humorous roles in cinema.

To modern audiences the lack of high tech special effects sometimes gives the old horror movies an unintentional humorous twist. After all, would the skeleton that Vincent manipulates in House on Haunted Hill really have fooled anyone? But lack of fancy effects had one benefit that is increasingly lost today. To attract an audience there had to be a good story - and the actors had to act.

Charcoal on toned paper with white pastel highlights