Vincent Price a ham?

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Lord Summerisle's picture
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Further to the recent post about Price's best and worst roles, I'd just like to throw in my two cents' worth.

Feel free to disagree, folks (and I'm sure a lot of you will), but IMHO Price was not a great actor, certainly not up there with messrs. Cushing and Lee. He did do some fine work - Witchfinder General, for example, some of the early Corman films, Edward Scissorhands etc. - but even in many of his so-called classic roles (House of Wax, Dr. Phibes) he simply hammed it up way too much. (While I'm on the subject, has anybody actually sat through Phibes recently? It's terrible, really boring, although the sequel is a bit better; funnier at least.)

The great thing about Peter Cushing and the incomparable Mr Lee is that they always treated each role with respect, even if the film itself were awful. Price, understandably perhaps, chose to ham it up in crummy productions, take the mickey out of the film, far too often. Then, when he got into a good film, he couldn't escape from his ham persona.

Best role? - Theatre of Blood. A fantastic film, similar in many ways to Phibes (wronged man carries out elaborate, "themed" revenge on his tormentors), only far better written, directed and acted all round.

Worst role? - Awful TV thing he did in the late 70's, with his wife I believe, called Time Express. Utterly egregious.

Like I say, I'm sure a lot of you Price fans will shoot me down in flames, and it is not my intention to offend anybody, but does anybody honestly think he was really a great actor? Smile

Lord Summerisle



Don Boycik's picture
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i have no idea who i would think would be the greatest actor.price i think it depended on the role he got. ever see the las vegas story or His kind of woman? those weren't horror granted that but his performance in them were good. true some of his films he did a terrible acting job in them.
but in some of them i think he did a wonderfull job.



Frederick Bergstrom's picture
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im not the biggest Vincent Price fan ... Most characters were pretty much played the same way ..BUT..He is a great actor and kinda suprised with the thread..Im not putting him in the league of Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing but maybe ya didnt like a few of the roles he was in but the man certainly deserves his due as a great actor. I will say when i was younger i didnt like Price movies as much as i do now maybe for the hammy way of acting as you say which i do see your point but as im older now I do seem to enjoy his films and do respect his work..again pretty suprised i mean Bela Lugosi yeah i could take that and to an extreme Lon Chaney jnr ,but Vincent Price ...I gotta disagree. Haunted Palace one of my favorites, he does some Great acting, ....not to mention his many non horror genre films



Don Boycik's picture
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i have to say i was surprised too on this thread.
i think he was a great actor but he never got a chance to prove it and he loved The whales of August because he wanted to do a drama movie again rather than horror. but i didn't see it but i hear that it was a terrific performance.



Lord Summerisle's picture
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Like I said in my initial post, I know there'll be a load of Price fans out there who disagree with me on this one, and I had - have - absolutely no intention of upsetting them. We all have our own personal favourite actors, films etc (although hopefully all of us here include Mr. Lee among them Smile )

The question is whether you consider Price to be a "great" actor, and that of course is a pretty subjective judgement. After all, who's to say what "great" is?

I think there are certain actors who everybody would acknowledge as being unequivocally "great". These are guys with an enormous range, who can play Shakespeare or a drunk or a gangster with equal aplomb; real craftsmen (and women, although there don't seem to be so many) who truly inhabit the characters they play, bring them to life in a full and rounded way. We're talking Laurence Olivier, Spencer Tracy, Charles Laughton; or if you want moderns, Robert De Niro for example.

Then there are a whole bunch of actors who are fantastic, truly "great" to their fans, and to fans of their films, and whom some objective critics might also call great. I would include in this category actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden, Robert Ryan, Bette Davis, Boris Karloff, Richard Burton, Meryl Streep, loads of others, and - if I'm honest - Peter Cushing. Peter Cushing is one of my very favourite actors of all time, an absolute hero of mine, but if you polled fifty critics I bet not one would put him in their all-time top ten, the reason being that his fame rests primarily on his performances in horror films, and horror films have never achieved the recognition of so-called "serious" drama. (It's the same with comedy. Comic actors never get the acclaim accorded to serious actors. I love Laurel and Hardy, love them, but nobody ever talks about them as being all-time great actors.)

Then you've got a third category, actors who are good - sometimes very good - and have fanatical followings, but probably wouldn't be classed as "great" by the majority of critics (although what do the critics know?!Smile ) I myself would put Vincent Price into this category. Also my own favourite movie "star", Steve McQueen. McQueen was a much better actor than people give him credit for, but he wasn't great; his range was too limited. But he was certainly the king of cool.

Lastly you've got the "stars", men and women whose acting ability is questionable at best, but who have that indefinable appeal known as "charisma" or "star quality", and/or good looks/beauty. (Great actors have this too, but they can also act properly!") In this group you've got your Bruce Willises, JIm Carreys, Marilyn Monroes and James Deans.

All of this, of course, is just one person's opinion, and it is one of the great things about forums such as this that we can all have our own opinions and argue the toss about them.

But I do stand by my original assertion that Vincent Price, for all his "great" individual performances in certain films, was not in the pantheon of the truly great. Very few are. Mr Lee, of course, is, and that's why we all love him and revere him so.

Cheers

Lord Summerisle



Elizabeth's picture
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Every individual has their own tastes and although I can understand that some may feel that Vincent Price was just a ham, I cannot share that opinion.
I have been a "fan" of Mr Price since my very young years and never missed him when he was on TV (even if meant sneaking out of bed at some unearthly time). I always felt that Vincent had that certain gentleman like flair which demanded attention yet he always made it difficult for the viewer to decide whether he was being serious or laughing at those around him. It was this ambiguity in his appearances that drew me to him and I very much enjoyed films like Ligeia and the Doctor Phibes escapades.
It cannot be denied that there are certain actors who set themselves apart from the rest and either you like them or you loathe them.
Vincent Price and Christopher Lee are two actors who accompanied and inspired me throughout my childhood and whose work has never lost that very special magic.



Greg Harris's picture
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I think Mr.Price is fantastic.

His voice is very original, and like Mr.Lee makes a film good just because he is in it.

(You know what I mean)



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i think vincent was a great and fine actor, given some good roles in drama or terror pictures i think he was a great actor.



Paul Greenwood's picture
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Mr. Price may have been the best...or worst actor ever...who is to say...all I know is that he left me with many fine memories....and that is all that counts for me. In my book that makes him a grand success.



Don Boycik's picture
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well i have to agree on that vincent price has weather it's a good movie or bad that he's been in
it's brought me good memories of him as an actor.
i was a fan of him before christopher lee.



Rocky2001's picture
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There is no doubt that if Vincent Price had not made such an impact in "House of Wax" in 1953, his film career might have dried up even earlier.

He was a very good actor, in horror films (e.g. Witchfinder General), and an excellent one if the script was tongue-in-cheek (e.g. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes RvlThe n



Gwindor's picture
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Vincent Price, like Mr. Lee, was a professional, who needed to work and pay for his childrens' education.

The job of an actor is to perform the role assigned to him. In some cases, actors are lucky enough to pick their own parts. Vincent Price had most of his parts picked for him, and this increased as time went by. He is an actor who continued working throughout his career, which is very rare. We look at the big stars with life long careers, like Paul Newman or Walter Matthau, and we assume that's normal. It's not. For every Newman or Matthau there are literally thousands of other wonderful actors who don't work very regularly.

Both Christopher Lee, CBE!, and Vincent Price are good examples of steadily working professionals. They were cast partly by their reputation for certain roles (vampires, villains, etc). But probably more significant was their track record as professionals: showing up, doing their job and doing it well. The quality of some of the films may be held against them, as though they should have turned down roles and not worked, but I think that is taking the importance of steady employment for granted.

And, as this site shows, actors should to be respected for their professionalism, even when their films are not major releases, or heavily marketed for wide distribution.

Gwindor



Rocky2001's picture
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(Sorry about my previously reply - it got sent prematurely!)...

There is no doubt that if Vincent Price had not made such an impact in "House of Wax" in 1953, his film career might have dried up even earlier.

He was a very good actor, in horror films (e.g. Witchfinder General), and an excellent one if the script was tongue-in-cheek (e.g. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again or Theatre of Blood).

The Roger Corman films of the 1960's gave Vincent Price plenty of opportunities to show off his prowess in the field, but his typecasting as a villain from largely minor roles in his early film career, would ultimately, work against him, when he took up horror films, basically from 1953 up to 1974.

When horror films became unpopular in the mid-70's Vincent Price didn't make a film in 5 years!! This must show how his villanous roles in horror films made him an unlikely candidate for more substantial and acclaimed roles in big budget 'normal' pictures of the late 1970's and 1980's. It is a good thing that he was able to consolidate on his love for art and cookery during his 'stale' period!!

I think Vincent Price was one of the best actors ever to appear in horror films, but his versatility was rather restricted. His best films are horror films and ones that are tailor-made to his talents for over-acting!



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Having seen Vincent Price on the stage--I have to argue that he was--in general, as well trained an actor and as good as Mr. Lee and Mr. Cushing.

However--having said that--I think Mr. Price can be rightly criticized for his roles in the Roger Corman films. It is quite evident that--in stark contrast to the Hammer Acting Company--Price was never encouraged by Corman to play his material straight. With the exception of the outstanding Masque of the Red Death, Price, invariably hammed up his horror film performances--and this is unfortunate for it completely undercuts the worthiness of those films.

The reason even the lesser Hammer films are still enjoyable is because the actors always took their roles and stories seriously. Over the years this has given the films an elegance and style that will (IMHO) last.

Best,

John F

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I think one of the major problems with any discussion like this is the term 'ham' or 'hammy'. It seems to me that the very qualities that some would attribute to a 'ham' are the exact thing that often appears to me to be 'great' acting. It's this over-the-top, bravura style of acting that truly impresses me when I see it on the stage and screen. In fact, it is a kind of theatrical, broad acting that often comes from a background in the theatre. Some of the very greatest actors were of this ilk and I suppose the best example would be Olivier. Nobody was more flamboyantly over-the-top and yet he was totally captivating and always believable. Vincent Price had this same kind of quality. Admittedly he did sometimes have a tendency to play with his tongue firmly in cheek but even so there were many, many performances when he was controlled and commanding (HOUSE OF USHER, WITCHFINDER GENERAL for starters). But just as impressive for me at least, were his brilliantly judged black comedy horrors, THEATRE OF BLOOD and the two PHIBES films. Here Price demonstrates the rare ability to walk the fine line between dramatic and comedic acting. Even in the most bizarre and ridiculous situations he manages to convey a great deal of pathos which gives the films much of their enormous quality and charm. I think it's fair to say that Christopher Lee is a different kind of actor to Mr. Price and his performances are usually a little more understated and subtle, but as is the case with Olivier, I am always entertained by a Vincent Price appearance, even when he turns up in productions well beneath his talent. I certainly rank him among my very favourite actors, right up there will other would-be hams like Orson Welles, Patrick McGoohan and Jack Nicholson. All of these are actors that loom bigger than life.



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No, I wouldn't say that he was a "great" actor, in the sense that maybe Vanessa Redgrave or Alec Guinness are (or were) great. But an actor of terrific charm is something I will say for him.

And remember, although there were several over-the-top performances in "serious" horror films, several of Price's pictures were comedies, for Pete's sake. Like "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", or "Trilogy of Terror" (where he doubles up with Peter Lorre in a rather satirical "Black Cat").

I agree that both the Phibes films are marvelous. But no, they are not "great cinema", nor is Price necessarily a "great" actor. Perfect for the part, though.

I agree that Lee and Cushing accepted the seriousness of their parts. But I find many of their vampire movies rather unpleasant. And especially Mr. Lee was given few opportunities to shine. In many of the cases, it is Lee's talent and skill which carried the movie, and not much else.

I would repeat that even when Price was being hammy, he was doing his job.Smile No one was forcing producers to hire him.

Gwindor



JeffS's picture
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Ham? Yum, who doesnt like ham? Wink Define ham. Alot of VP's later roles were based on the VP persona and in some films were deliberately hammed up to lampoon said persona.

Someone mentioned VP should be criticized for his Poe films, I've always considered his Roderick Usher to be the best (along with Prospero in Masque). He also did magnificent work in the rarely seen Evening of Edgar Allan Poe TV special. Solid performances abound in Eve of St. Mark (unfortunately also unavailable), Song of Bernadette, and Laura. Unfortunately perhaps his greatest performance can never be seen and can only be read about in reviews, that would be Oscar Wilde in Diversions and Delights. I'm also in that boat since I cannot claim to have seen VP as Wilde, only read the reviews. Que sera sera. I'm sure if we wanted to nit pick we could find a performance considered hammy by any actor, perhaps even (gasp!) our beloved Mr. Lee Wink.



Don Boycik's picture
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i can give u one movie that the great c.lee did that was well terrible. try Massarati and the brain (1982) i think i spelled that right. it's a well a gasp a spelling movie. they had it on A&E about a year or so ago. if u don't believe me rent it first if u can find it or wait till it's on tv
again.



IRENE's picture
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hi everybody! i love VP and his movies. No, he wasn't the greatest actor but he was perfect for his roles. The best part about him was that he didn't take himself sooo seriously and was aware of his limitations. he himself admitted that leading men roles were not his forte but that being a villain was something he enjoyed and was pretty good at. I also like the look on his face while he's on camera. He seems to really like what he's doing and his expressions let us know. A hint of terror and a hint of humor. What a neat combination!
Lee and Cushing were good together but kind of typecast in the dracula films. Although they are good, i believe they are best suited for the horror roles. Lee can be funny, though SNLive, etc. and i think all three of them worked great together, each in their own style. irene

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Lord Summerisle's picture
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Just to follow up on your post, Irene, I disagree that Christopher Lee is typecast as Dracula. Maybe he was at one point in his career - thirty odd years ago, perhaps! But he hasn't played Dracula on-screen for 25 years or so, and indeed has made hardly any horror films at all in that time.

Peter Cushing, wonderful actor that he was, found it harder to escape from his horror "persona", although ironically he often played the "good guy" in such films. Like Vincent Price, he definitely became pigeonholed as being a horror actor, although his range was much wider than that. Smile

Lord Summerisle



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In reponse to your answer about Christopher Lee's typecasting as Dracula, Lord Summerisle:-

I agree with you that Christopher Lee is not typecast as Dracula, otherwise he would not have had such a prolific career. However, even though Christopher Lee last played Dracula in 1972 (nearly 30 years ago) he is still synonymous with that character. Therefore, he hasn't really shrugged off that asociation even though he has made many horror films in the last 30 years.....

Peter Cushing could have diversified if his health had permitted....he was a better "all-round" actor than Vincent Price, who found roles difficult to come by when horror films became less popular in the mid-70's

Regards

Rocky2001



Lord Summerisle's picture
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You're absolutely right, Rocky2001; Christopher Lee is without a shadow of a doubt (and whether the great man likes it or not ...) synonymous with the character of Dracula. His is far and away the best, and most enduring, screen incarnation of the Dracula persona. Ask 100 people of any age which actor they most associate with Dracula, 80 of them at least - maybe more - will shoot back Christopher Lee (a few older film buffs might nominate Bela Lugosi, a few younger Gary Oldman, maybe).

Conversely, ask the same 100 people to name one of Lee's acting roles and most will probably respond Dracula.

But "typecast" as Dracula? No, definitely not.

I wonder what Mr. Lee's feeling about the Dracula part is today? Boris Karloff, another wonderful actor who got his big break playing the Frankenstein monster (just like Lee) and was subsequently forever typecast in horror roles, had this to say about his most famous role: "My dear old monster; I owe everything to him. He's my best friend."

I wonder, does Mr. Lee feel that way about Stoker's bloodsucking count today?

Regards

Lord Summerisle



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Lord Summerisle,

Yes...there's a big difference between being typecast and being associated with the character.

Boris Karloff is the Frankenstein creature - it typecast him in horror roles for the rest of his life, but he made a good living out of it and he was able to get away from being cast as the monster after "Son of Frankenstein" in 1939.

As you said he was very grateful to the "monster" - he was probably the most prolific horror actor of all time in terms of horror film appearances. He was starring in horror films of increasingly dubious quality right up until he was 81!

Ironically, Vincent Price suffered from typecasting, but is not really synonymous with one role. However, Basil Rathbone got badly typecast as Sherlock Holmes and his later film appearances were of patchy quality and irregular frequency!

I suppose circumstances have a lot to do with it!



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I enjoyed reading everybody's comments on this thread. I think we have the same opinion on Mr. Lee as Dracula as the 1930s and '40s audiences had of Bela Lugosi, and that 1970s crowds have of Frank Langella, William Marshall. . . .we adapt what we see at the time. Sometimes, though, we like what interpretation we first see; I happened to see "Horror of Dracula" first, so Lugosi's acting didn't work for me when I finally saw the "original" version years later.

Never tuned in to a movie because Vincent Price was in it, but when I did see him in a movie I liked how deliciously nasty his characters were, so I guess he did what worked for him and we admire him for it because we liked what he did.



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i dont think Mr. Lee was typecast as dracula at all....anytime you play a character that many times of course you will be associated with it ....I and many people love him in the role and for that reaason he kept doing it..hey if people buy it and go to see the film and it makes a profit that is what actors and studios do...however in the 60s yeah Mr.Lee worked a lot in the horror genre and made some good and not so good films(although i have never seen him give a bad performance period..bad films yes not bad performances) when your hot in the horror genre and people will pay to see you of course your gonna be offered a lot of work and when your a actor you act....however Mr. Lee had some difficulty shaking the horror image but that is only in views of people who dont know the other characters he has done....its lousy that you play the mummy,dracula and Frankenstien in the span of 3 years.. each a different character showing how great a actor of superior range he is and people feel he is typecasat..hey give him a role he can do it period..case in point do you see him as a gay hells angel biker ? No, niether do I but he did it and damn good..do you see him as a cowboy? no niether do I ..did he do it and do it damn good, hell yeah its called acting and I can understand why he doesnt want to talk about the past because he has been working non stop and instead of tallking about his great performances in his more recent roles people want to talk about work he did 30-40 years ago..what about the stuff he just did??..Boris yeah he was typecast as a villain because of the roles he played but i gotta believe he could have played anything if given the chance..a gay biker well I guess i would have to see it....but that why its called acting



Matthew's picture
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In Lord Summersile's (please forgive my poor spelling) second post, located about midway down the first page of the thread, he makes a very interesting statement: though Peter Cushing was a remarkable actor, yet he is not very highly regarded by critics. As I said in a previous post, I feel that the reason for this was not just the genre of film he was in, as Lord Summersile stated, but the fact that half the movies were in were less-than-B-movies in which people only see because he is in it (which is far from a bad thing, he can make any movie at least better if not good). However, despite the poor film plot and/or poor supporting cast and/or bad directing, etc., Mr. Cushing always gave everything he had to every role and he did it beautifully. From what I hear, Mr. Price was also in a few badly made movies, but when he acted in one, he purposely acted badly. I have always held a relatively high opinion of Mr. Price, I think he was a superb actor, but purposely acting badly just because you do not like a movie is just degrading to your character and reputation as an actor.



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I take a "friendly" exception to Mathew's comment that Vincent Price ever purposely acted badly because he was in a bad film. VP had his own style, that often leaned towards parody, but he was a consumate professional - just like our Mr. Lee. Tongue deeply in cheek - yes. Bad on purpose - I tend to doubt it.
As for Peter Cushing, to the best of my knowledge, he never considered type casting a problem. He once said that he was grateful for all of his horror roles. "Why," he said "sock a gift horse in the face." And as for his franchise character of Dr. Frankenstein, he said, "Give up playing Dr. Frankenstein; over my dead body."



Don Boycik's picture
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on vincent price. i think that sometimes if the movie was bad enough an he needed work he wouldn't
give it his full potential example anyone ever see
the sequal to Dr.Goldfoot? his acting in that is terrible. the first one i love i know a lot of people don't like them. but it's hard to believe that Mario bava i believe directed it. in some movies yes he didn't care about how he acted but some of his movies he's been in that are bad he's done a pretty good performance. he might have had trouble getting right how he wanted to act the right way. actors do look back on their films an say gee i wish i could have done it a different way. wether it's a good movie or a bad one they do.not all actors do this as with C.Lee who rarely if ever sees his own films for fear of paying attention to himself rather than the story.anyone disagree or agree with this?



lordsummerisle8's picture
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Let me start by saying that Christopher Lee is and always will be my favourite actor, ever since i was a out of nappies I would be in awe watching him as Dracula on telly late at night.
This ultimately led me into the films of Cushing, Karloff, Lugosi and then Vincent Price.
No other horror star will ever be as well rounded and well known as Vincent price. Please remember Price was already an established actor in Hollywood working for the likes of Otto Preminger and Cecil B DeMille before he took the horror plunge with "House Of wax" whereas Cushing and lee made their names with horror in 1957 with "The Curse Of Frankenstein" Price was already a star. "Witchfinder General" knocks the spots off any Hammer film of the time mainly due to Price's harrowing portrayal of Matthew Hopkins and still stands up today where most hammer films fall down. Price, lee and Cushing were all greater than the films they were in but when together on screen it was always Price who dominated the film. And no matter what film he always was given top billing whereas Cushing and Lee were often second of third billed in there best horror films, Price was always the star. He will always remain the biggest star in horror since Karloff.



DAISY's picture
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Hi, JeffS

I had no intention of commenting on any of the letters in this section, that is until I read yours.

Yes!! Somebody else who has seen "AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE!!" I thought I was the only one who had! Then again with all of the fans VP has, I wasn't surprised.

I totally agree with you! This was his best performance. Do you recall any of the stories he acted out? Didn't he do four of them? The only one I remember is "The Tell-Tale Heart."

My other favorite movie of his, {even though the first one wouldn 't be classified as a movie, but a special;} is "THE COMEDY OF TERRORS!" [I cannot wait for it to come out on DVD!!]

He was also good in the Poe series {and like others of you have said, his best were as Prospero and Roderick Usher.}

Other favorites of mine are Dr. Phibes, the character he played in "THEATRE OF BLOOD," another one I like is the miser {miner} owner in "THE JACKALS," "WITCHFINDER GENERAL" [I'm sure I'll come up with other favorites, once I've posted this!]

One more favorite role I want to comment on, that I feel EGGXACTLY ties in with the title of this topic:
Is his "hammy" portrayal on Batman, as Egghead! You can tell how EGGSTATIC he was, and how much fun he had, doing that role. If the first EGGSPERIENCE hadn't been so enjoyable, he wouldn't have made a second one on the show, as that EGGSEPTIONAL villain!!
I will now EGGXIT manner of speaking, as I think I have EGGXHAUSTED my supply of words. {I can't think of anymore.}
Kindly EGGSCUSE any spelling errors that I may have caused in my usage of EGGSPEAK. Vincent Price I am not, nor can I deliver the words like he did!
:spin2: :spiny: :rotate: :rotflmao: :circle: :smile3::cheeburga :gif-smile:smile2: :s9: :



Alfonso Casal's picture
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Quote:
Please remember Price was already an established actor in Hollywood working for the likes of Otto Preminger and Cecil B DeMille before he took the horror plunge with "House Of wax" whereas Cushing and lee made their names with horror in 1957 with "The Curse Of Frankenstein" Price was already a star.

Although your point about VP is well taken, remember that Peter Cushing was a much sought-after stage actor and a major television performer before COF in 1957. Esp. consider his role as "Winston Smith" in the BBC production of 1984.

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