Born on this day in 1911, Vincent Price would grow up to be one of the most memorable actors in horror. Price was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, my hometown. I grew up with my father sharing Vincent Price films with me. Saint Louis has their own Walk of Fame honoring the great actor. And the local boutique hotel, the Moonrise Hotel, even has one of their Celebrity Suites dedicated to the horror master. Growing up here, Vincent Price was such an influence on my love of horror. In honor of Vincent Price’s birthday let’s take a look back at his top 10 film performances.
The 10 Most Iconic Roles of Vincent Price
10. The Inventor – Edward Scissorhands (1990)
While not as much horror as the other films on this list, Price’s depiction of The Inventor is one of his most touching. As Price’s last film performance, it is hard for me to watch him without tearing up. After so many years of depicting deranged villains, the role of The Inventor is such a beautiful contrast. The Inventor is so genuinely kind and when he suddenly dies, we feel the pain as much as Edward.
9. François Delambre – The Fly (1958)
In this classic horror flick Price plays François Delambre, who’s sister in law explains to him the circumstances of his brother’s death. Turns out he, of course, was a scientist doing some interesting experiments and just happens to swap heads and one of his arms with a fly. Price gives the audience a great performance as the shocked brother and even returns in the sequel, Return of the Fly. While the film isn’t as gruesome as its 1986 remake, the ending scene of the half human fly screaming “Help me! Help me!” with that high pitched voice will definitely stay with you.
8. Dr. Robert Morgan – The Last Man on Earth (1964)
The first of many films on this list where Price portrayed a doctor, The Last Man of Earth is based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan. A survivor of a recent plague which killed his wife and daughter, as well as everyone else it seems. However those who died from the disease are now returning from the dead as vampires. Every night Morgan goes out hunting vampires. He protects his home with garlic, mirrors, and wooden stakes. While the film is a bit slow, the film is entirely carried by Price’s performance, as most of the film is Price alone. It’s a great example of how good he really was.
7. Roderick Usher – House of Usher (1960)
House of Usher kicks off the great era of collaborations between Vincent Price and Roger Corman. These collaborations were primarily based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, this one included. Also for this film we get a bleach blonde Vincent Price, which definitely adds to the severity of Roderick Usher’s appearance and character. Price brings a regal quality to the role of Roderick who is more concerned with keeping the Usher bloodline intact than making sure his sister is happy. Roderick is evil and selfish and Price’s performance is a perfect representation of Poe’s character.
6. Dr. Warren Chapin – The Tingler (1959)
The film that introduced the world to William Castle’s “Percepto!” gimmick. “Percepto!” involved electric buzzers being attached to the bottoms of some theater seats during screenings. While the gimmick is cheesy it is Vincent Price’s performance that made it believable to audiences. Price’s Dr. William Chapin is a pathologist studying the tingler, a creature that feeds on terror, which you can only defeat by screaming. Dr. Chapin is in a movie theater, looking for the tingle after it escapes his lab. He sees the tingler moving across the screen. As the screen suddenly fades to black, Chapin gives the following announcement:
Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But SCREAM! Scream for your lives! The tingler is loose in this theater and if you don’t scream it may kill you!
We hear women screaming over the announcement and it seems like complete pandemonium. That’s when the little buzzers would go off. It’s a great Price performance and it made William Castle’s production even better.
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5. Prince Prospero – The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
I have to say this may be my favorite performance of Price’s in a Edgar Allan Poe adaptation. Price plays the evil Prince Prospero. Prospero throws an elaborate party for the nobility of the area, locking off his castle from the plague stricken town he has ordered to be burned. Prospero is a satanist who has kidnapped the lovely Francesca (Jane Asher) from the town and subjects her to his cruelty and complete disregard for the people he has condemned. Arguably one of the most evil characters Price ever played, Prince Prospero is not one to forget. And the film itself is a visually beautiful representation of color in 1960s film. Each room of the castle is a different color, just as it is in the Poe story. And the opulence of the sets and costumes is beautiful. Definitely a film to check out if you’ve never seen it.
4. Dr. Erasmus Craven – The Raven (1963)
The cast alone, makes this film really fun. You’ve got Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and a super young Jack Nicholson. Price plays Dr. Erasmus Craven, a wizard who has been mourning the death of his wife. One evening he is greeted by a raven gently rapping at his chamber door. Turns out the raven is a wizard as well, Dr. Adolphus Bedlo, played by Peter Lorre, who was transformed by magic. After Craven helps transform him back, they set off along with Craven’s daughter and Bedlo’s son to the castle of the man who transformed Bedlo. Enter Boris Karloff. The highlight of this film is the final magic duel between Price and Karloff. The 1960s special effects are fantastically cheesy but amazing.The back and forth dialogue between Lorre, Price, and Karloff is great and the performances of all three make this an amazingly fun film.
3. Dr. Anton Phibes – The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
I’m going to say that the character of Dr. Anton Phibes is probably the strangest Price ever played. Phibes, who was thought to be dead, returns to London to exact revenge on the doctors he believes are responsible for his wife’s death. Each murder is based on one of the ten plagues of Egypt. So the deaths are unique to say the least. What is great about this Price performance is we never really see him talking. It’s all voice over by Price. When Phibes is speaking his lips don’t move and his mouth stays closed. He plugs a little microphone into his neck and that’s, supposedly how we hear him. It makes for a creepy performance, and a great classic.
2. Professor Henry Jarrod – House of Wax (1953)
Price’s performance in House of Wax is amazing because we see three sides to the character of Professor Henry Jarrod throughout the film. When the film opens Jarrod is this optimistic artist, capable of making beautiful creations out of wax. We even sympathize with him as each of his figures is set on fire. Then we see Jarrod as this crippled survivor of the fire. Hardened after the traumatic experience, but still able to see the beauty in things.Then we see Jarrod murderer and body snatcher. It’s quite a range of performance, and it makes for a classic Vincent Price film.
1. Frederick Loren – House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Quite possibly the most quintessential Price performance ever captured on screen. Frederick Loren invites a bunch of strangers to haunted house. Anyone who survives the night will get $10,000. Loren is suave, charismatic, and wealthy. But there is something devious about his little party and something a little suspicious about him. The witty banter between him and his philandering wife is entertaining as he tries to convince her to join the party. By far my favorite Vincent Price film and my favorite performance. It’s a must see for any horror fan!
Well there you have it! 10 amazing Vincent Price performances over the years. Let’s be honest, he was a great actor and every performance was a good one. Which of Price’s roles is your favorite? Watching any in particular for his birthday? Let us know over in our Facebook Group, and stay creepy fiends.