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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
The Vincent Price
Collection II
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
    House on Haunted Hill (1959)
    3 Stars
    The Last Man on Earth (1964)
    3 Stars
    The Tomb of Ligeia (1965)
    2.5 Stars
(Release Date: October 21, 2014) – Vincent Price's film career spanned over fifty years and many genres, from drama (1940's "The House of the Seven Gables" and 1956's "The Ten Commandments) to film noir (1944's "Laura") to thriller (1945's "Leave Her to Heaven"). However, he is best known and remembered for the wide range of horror movies he made, many (but certainly not all) of them with Roger Corman and American International Pictures. Price could play the conniving villain as convincingly as he could the virtuous, sympathetic hero. He never downplayed his spooky B-movie endeavors, either, but embraced them. Simply put, his range as a performer of comedic and emotional depth knew no bounds, and his legacy will continue to endure thanks in part to the high-definition Blu-ray releases of 2013's six-picture "The Vincent Price Collection" and 2014's highly anticipated seven-film "The Vincent Price Collection II."

William Castle directed and Robb White wrote one of Price's most famous movies, the stylishly macabre 1959 classic "House on Haunted Hill." Though remade in 1999, the original is still definitely a step or three above. The story finds an enigmatic millionaire (Vincent Price) and his volatile wife (Carol Ohmart) renting out a purportedly haunted mansion where several deaths have previously taken place and inviting five troubled strangers over for a party. Once there, a wager is made: if they remain in the house until daybreak, they will leave with ten thousand dollars each. Surviving the night, it turns out, will be the stiffer challenge. "House on Haunted Hill" is exceptionally photographed in mood-drenched black-and-white and, while relatively quaint by today's standards, still cooks up a number of successful scares. Is the house truly teeming with ghosts, or is something else going on behind the curtain? The twisty plot keeps the viewer guessing and enthralled for the whole of its fleet 75-minute running time.

In 1964, Price gave a performance of understated nuance in "The Last Man on Earth," director Sidney Salkow's effectively grim adaptation of Richard Matheson's apocalyptic horror story "I Am Legend." When an airborne virus wipes out most of the population and turns the remaining people into staggering nighttime zombies, presumed sole survivor Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) spends his days prowling around the city and staking the infected citizens. Having lost his beloved wife and daughter to the plague, he sees little hope for the future until he runs into another survivor, Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia). The Italy-lensed "The Last Man on Earth" predates "Night of the Living Dead" by four years, yet its stark black-and-white imagery of staggering zombies must have been a major inspiration for George A. Romero's unforgettable 1968 chiller. Deliberately paced but dramatically absorbing, the film weaves a lonesome, unique, "Twilight Zone"-style spell.

A year after "The Last Man on Earth," Price starred in director Roger Corman's last foray into Edgar Allan Poe territory, "The Tomb of Ligeia." When Verden Fell's (Vincent Price) wife, Legeia (Elizabeth Shepherd), dies, he is convinced that her will to live was so strong that it is only a matter of time before she returns from the dead. Verden attempts to move on and subsequently marries Lady Rowena (Shepherd in a dual role), but it quickly becomes clear after she moves into the cavernous home Verden shares with Ligeia's black cat that someone or something does not want them to be together. Shot mostly among the real ancient ruins and stunning crumbling architecture of England's countryside, "The Tomb of Ligeia" is a handsome, if languid, picture with a stuffy undercurrent. There also is a lot to admire, from the majestic production design to a third act that flirts with an aura of dread and semi-surreal dream logic.

The four-disc Blu-ray release of "The Vincent Price Collection II" also includes "The Return of the Fly" (1959), "The Comedy of Terrors" (1963), "The Raven" (1963) and "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" (1972).

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

When it comes to the 1080p transfers of the seven films included in "The Vincent Price Collection II," there is precious little about which to complain. Yes, there are age-related dirt, specks, scratches and hairs here and there, but every one of them is richly detailed and boasts a revelatory added level of clarity. I can say with confidence that none of these pictures has ever looked better. All seven features are provided 2.0 DTS-HD Master Stereo audio tracks, and each one satisfies completely considering the age and low budgets of the films in question. There is a slight hiss and crackle during the early scenes of "The Tomb of Ligeia," but it clears up quickly. Music and dialogue always come in confidently and clearly.

Blu-ray Features

House on Haunted Hill
  • Audio Commentary with author/historian Steve Haberman
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:40, HD)
  • "Vincent Price: Renaissance Man" Featurette (27:20, HD)
  • "The Art of Fear" Featurette (12:13, HD)
  • "Working with Vincent Price" Featurette (15:26, HD)
  • Introductory Price (13:16, HD)
  • Still Gallery (1:58, HD)
The Return of the Fly
  • Audio Commentary with actor Brett Halsey and film historian David Del Valle
  • Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (2:39, HD)
  • Still Gallery (1:38, HD)
The Comedy of Terrors
  • Vintage Introduction with Vincent Price (3:40, HD)
  • "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors" Featurette (9:35, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:32, HD)
  • Still Gallery (3:18, HD)
The Raven
  • Audio Commentary with film historian Steve Haberman
  • Vintage Introduction with Vincent Price (3:45, HD)
  • "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven" Featurette (6:37, HD)
  • "Corman's Comedy of Poe" Featurette (8:13, HD)
  • Promotional Record (5:41, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
  • Still Gallery (5:43, HD)
The Last Man on Earth
  • Audio Commentary with film historian David Del Valle and author Derek Botelho
  • "Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth" (6:28, HD)
  • Still Gallery (5:38, HD)
The Tomb of Ligeia
  • Audio Commentary with producer/director Roger Corman
  • Audio Commentary with actor Elizabeth Shepherd
  • Audio Commentary with film historian Constantine Nasr
  • Vintage Introduction with Vincent Price (3:04, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:28, HD)
  • Still Gallery (2:28, HD)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:08, HD)
  • Still Gallery (6:23, HD)
A lovingly illustrated and formatted 32-page booklet is also included in this top-tier package.

Bottom Line
In 2013, Scream Factory released "The Vincent Price Collection" to Blu-ray to much deserving acclaim. Now, in 2014, "The Vincent Price Collection II" has arrived with the same stratospheric level of quality and care. Helping to celebrate the fine work of a late artist whose films within the horror genre were varied, diverse and impactful, this features-packed, beautifully-packaged four-disc collection is one of 2014's very best Blu-ray releases. A must-buy gem.

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman