There was a time – and bear with me now – when horror movies weren't so unpleasant. The horror genre used to take audiences by the hand, luring them into a world of morbid fascination and moral corruption. The supernatural was undeniably appealing, for all its monstrousness, and it spoke with a sharp crackling voice emerging from a mouth framed by an oh-so-devilish goatee. That voice came from one Vincent Leonard Price, Jr., a prolific character actor who rose to cultural dominance in the 1960s after finally submitting his career to one classy, blockbuster frightfest after another. Vincent Price's spooky legacy is now thoroughly cemented. I suspect young, burgeoning fans of the macabre are intimately familiar with his bemused theatrical persona whether they've seen a single one of his features or not, thanks to his delicious imitability and caricatures in one cartoon after another.
Now, six of Vincent Price's most notable – although not necessarily best – horror films are in a single, beautifully remastered Blu-ray set. The Vincent Price Collection comes courtesy of Scream Factory, who are currently doing wonderful work restoring and giving the five-star special feature treatment to one cult and/or genre classic after another. Although hardly comprehensive – you won't find The Tingler or Theater of Blood here, unfortunately – The Vincent Price Collection provides a broad overview of Price's many gothic horror films under Roger Corman, a prolific but usually slipshod director who did much of his best work with the actor. Their first Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, The Fall of the House of Usher, was a big success that spurned many joint efforts adapting the work of the first "master of horror," and on one occasion his successor H.P. Lovecraft, although his contributions were minimalized in favor of the more marketable name of Poe.
The films included in The Vincent Price Collection are as follows: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Haunted Palace, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Witchfinder General. The first four features come two-to-a-disc (The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death, and The Fall of the House of Usher and The Haunted Palace). Neither The Abominable Dr. Phibes nor Witchfinder General were directed by Corman, and each of them represent a later, more violent evolution of the horror genre. They each get their own discs, but every film comes with a broad and comprehensive complement of special features, all highly recommended.
But the best part of this set – besides the films, which look incredible in high-definition – is that, with the exception of Dr. Phibes, each film comes with an introduction as well as final thoughts from Vincent Price himself, recorded for Iowa public television in 1982. Although clearly recorded on video, and hardly restored for this set, Price seems ecstatic to share his films with viewers, offering readings of Poe, behind the scenes memories and a curious little smirk as he teases the nightmares you're about to watch as he rests comfortably in front of a fireplace. If the films in The Vincent Price Collection weren't going to make you fall in love with the persona of Vincent Price, then Price seems almost guaranteed to do so himself.
As for the films themselves, they're mostly exceptional, or at least spooky, with the one disappointing entry being – perhaps – the most historically significant. So its inclusion can hardly be said to bring the whole set down. A brief look at the terrors that await you:
For horror fans of all ages, The Vincent Price Collection offers a loving salute to one of the most memorable characters from the genre, as well as all the characters that character played.