Sunday, May 30, 2010

Movie house of memory:Vincent Price in "Last Man on Earth".

Vincent Price had a three stage career spanning over 180 films, plus television appearances. The first, 'almost leading man' stage, from 1938 through the mid-fifties, was mainstream, with notable exceptions like 'The Invisible Man Returns". The second stage , running from roughly 1958 to 1965 was his 'horror' phase; the third, 'rebirth' or camp' stage, lasted from the two horrible sounding 'Dr. Goldfoot' films to his two tons of fun 'Dr. Phibes' films. The capstone of this stage was his appearance in "Edward Scissorhands",three years before his death in 1993.

I discovered Price in his second phase,lucky kid, with the delicious Roger Corman Poe adaptations and the eeriest version of Richard Matheson's novel, I am Legend.This version is The Last Man on Earth ,from 1964. A plague kills nearly everyone, except Price's character, and as we discover ,others. Everyone else is turned into vampiric creatures, shunning light, garlic, and mirrors. Price spends his nights inside, making stakes for these creatures; during the day he impales as many as possible. Dull days for him, a great show for the kids in the audience. It was filmed in black and white,a favorite film stock which lent credence to the eeriness of the film (no, RR, movie), and the 'last person on earth' conceit was fascinating to me. Shrinks would probably have a field day with that.

I do not remember any great production values to Last Man on Earth, just the pathos Price brought to the role. Price did psychologically tortured individuals very well, along with oily or urbane characters.He will appear again in the movie house of memory. I have not seen this title since 1964;I have seen one of the two remakes, Omega Man(1971), starring Charlton Heston. It is in Technicolor, and Heston brings a different energy to the role.I have not seen the 2007 I am Legend.

Next up: Buster Keaton's 1926 The General.


Barrett Bonden said...

My favourite was The Witchfinder General which, despite its unremitting cruelty and sadism. offered a wild sort of plausibility. Interviewed on TV Price tended to pooh-pooh all his roles, defending himself with the excuse that films allowed him the money to indulge his real love - paintings. I believe he did a column on painting in the New York Times.

The Crow said...

I came to love Price in his horror period, through the Poe-based movies.

But his role I imitate to this day is the bug-light commercial. I practiced his ghoulish "Heh-henh" until I had it near perfect. Just those two sounds he made sent chills down my spine and raised goose-bumps like nothing else he did.

Thanks for the memory, RR.

Relucent Reader said...

Thank you for the comments.
BB: I saw Witchfinder General(on the small screen) and do remember the cruelty. Price was also a gourmet cook: I remember bumping into his cookbook when I was 'shelf reading' at my former employer up North.That one I actually took off the shelf and flipped through....
Crow: hahhaha good one, did not remember the commercial, but sure as heck remember that laugh... the late M Jackson used Price to good effect in his video..