Scream Factory is a home video imprint that is built on its love for vintage horror and that love really shines through in the work they’ve done with the Vincent Price films in MGM’s catalog. They’ve done a few different boxes devoted to these movies, giving them nice transfers and liberally lacing the discs with plentiful extras aimed at old-school horror fans. The Vincent Price Collection III is the most recent entry in this series and it upholds the quality of the company’s previous Price releases.
This set covers four films, one presented in two different versions, and a t.v. special. Everything included has gotten a new master of some sort: Master Of The World, Diary Of A Madman and the director’s cut of Cry Of The Banshee have gotten new transfers from their respective interpositive elements while Tower Of London has a new master taken from a fine grain film print, the A.I.P. cut of Cry Of The Banshee has a new master taken from a color reversal intermediate (the only existing element left for this version) and t.v. special An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe has been taken from the best video reels in the MGM library.
All the films that come from the interpositives look pretty impressive: the technicolor hues of Madman look particularly vibrant and Banshee is full of gorgeous, lush textures. Master Of The World has some minor age-related nicks early on but those clear up for a lovely, richly colored image. The theatrical cut of Banshee is only slightly less impressive than the director’s cut and the SD presentation of the shot-on-video Evening looks as crisp as a vintage video production allows.
As for sound, most of the titles are presented with lossless versions of their original mono mixes and all of them sound robust for their age. The one exception is Master, which features a new 2.0 stereo mix taken from the original 4-track stereo reels. Though some might not be happy at the omission of the four-track mix, the new mix does a decent job with vintage audio and brings out the musical score nicely.
When it comes to extras, The Vincent Price Collection III delivers plenty of bonus material for horror buffs to sift through. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect…
Commentary: this pairs actor David Frankham with friend/actor Jonathan David Dixon. It’s a lively and nostalgic track, with the very enthusiastic Frankham revealing fun memories of the cast and crew, the physical challenges of the shoot and additional details on his acting career. Dixon adds interesting factoids about additional scenes in the film’s comic book adaptation and co-star Mary Webster pops up for a brief cameo. A fun listen for fans of vintage fare.
Richard Matheson Storyteller: this is an extended, 72 minute cut of a 2001 interview with Matheson previously excerpted in a shorter featurette. It’s a treat for the author’s fans: he covers Master Of The World, including a fun story about Charles Bronson, but also talks extensively about his Poe adaptations, Vincent Price, Duel and his tart assessment of the various I Am Legend adaptations. He also goes deep on his late-career obsession with metaphysics near the end of the interview. Fascinating stuff.
Additional Extras: there is a trailer that pitches the film like an epic Hollywood adventure and two image galleries, one of which includes several personal pictures from Frankham’s collection.
Roger Corman interview (7 min.): The director admits he modeled this film on the style of his Poe adaptations, reveals that Price contributed ideas to the script, discusses how the film came to be and shares some memories of other cast members. A concise and informative chat in the usual Corman style.
Gene Corman interview (14 min.): Roger’s brother and producer on this film goes deeper into the story of how the production came together and how tampering from a senior producer on the project led to its B&W photography and the creative staging for the film’s climactic battle scene.
Science Fiction Theater: two episodes of this vintage anthology series are included – “One Thousand Eyes” and “Operation Flypaper” – both running about 26 minutes and both featuring Price in a lead role. The series goes for a very dry, “hard science” treatment of its chosen genre but it is interesting to see Price playing mainstream-style lead roles before he became typecast as a horror star.
Commentary: the first of three well-researched and tightly scripted tracks by historian and critic Steve Haberman that appear on this set. He packs a lot of info into the short space, including the various inspirations for the Poe stories used in this piece as well as biographical information on composer Les Baxter and costume designer Mary Grant (who also was Price’s wife). He also offers some aesthetic observations and some interesting quotes from Kenneth Johnson.
Kenneth Johnson interview (21:26 min.): the veteran t.v. producer and writer reveals how he met Price while producing The Mike Douglas Show, leading to a moment where Price read Poe for the audience and thus inspired the concept for An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe. He gives a story-by-story account of the show’s production, revealing that first-person stories were chosen so they could be one-man performances, discusses the rationale behind his visual choices and why he chose to shoot the performances in unbroken takes. He also pays tribute to Price’s kindness to him as a young director. It’s an engaging and lively chat that will deepen your appreciation for Evening.
Photo Gallery: this 1 1/2 minute animated gallery consists of production photos from Johnson’s personal collection.
Commentary: the key extra for this film is the second of Haberman’s commentaries. It’s a typically info-rich piece of work for Haberman as he offers background info on Admiral Pictures, bios of director Reginald LeBorg and art director Daniel Haller and, most interestingly, a detailed portrait of Guy De Maupassant’s life. He also offers a critical appreciation for the film itself.
Additional Extras: a two-minute animated gallery with plenty of promotional art and photos for the film plus a trailer that features Price himself pitching the film on-camera.
CRY OF THE BANSHEE:
Theatrical Version: the A.I.P. cut of this film is presented in full on this disc. It’s substantially different from the director’s cut, with the sexual content toned down (sometimes optically), certain plot points restructured, new sound effects and a totally different musical score by Les Baxter.
Commentary: Haberman’s final commentary for the set goes into great detail about the changes that Christopher Wicking made to the original Tim Kelly script, the differences between the theatrical and director’s cuts and plentiful biographical material on director Gordon Hessler, including some interesting info about his version of Murders In The Rue Morgue. You also get an interesting biographical sketch of Terry Gilliam. All in all, a fine capper to Haberman’s work on this set.
Gordon Hessler Interview (18 min.): this early 2000’s chat is a good-natured but frank affair in which he talks about how he got into the film business, including a gig with Alfred Hitchcock, and talks about Banshee. He offers a lot of tips about directing, both from visual and acting standpoints, and isn’t scared to admit which of his own films he doesn’t like.
Additional Extras: there is a theatrical trailer that leans heavily on the Poe association and the presence of Price, a t.v. spot that condenses the aforementioned trailer, an appropriately macabre radio spot and a four-minute animated image gallery with tons of promo pictures, including some racy nude shots.
In short, this is a great value for Vincent Price fans and anyone else into classic horror and fantasy films. The great actor gets to show his abilities across an interesting range of material, the transfers are strong and the extras really put it over the top.
To read Schlockmania film review of Master Of The World, click here.
To read Schlockmania film review of Tower Of London, click here.
To read Schlockmania film review of An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe, click here.
To read Schlockmania film review of Diary Of A Madman, click here.
To read Schlockmania film review of Cry Of The Banshee, click here.