Published Mar 11, 2016It isn't surprising that an actor like Vincent Price, who starred in dozens of movies, has managed to reach his third Shout! Factory anthology in as many years.
Collection III brings together the last notable films from the United Artists and American International Pictures archives, making this the most meagre set to date, with just four full-length movies. It does, however, come with the best selection of extras yet, which helps to compensate for the lack of films.
The best of the quartet is Cry Of The Banshee, a wonderfully pulpy horror film reminiscent of the best to come out of England's Hammer Studio. Price plays a magistrate hell-bent on destroying a witches coven by hunting down all of its members. The witches fight back by summoning a demon, which is when things really get crazy. Best of all, the Blu-ray features the original UK version of the movie, complete with an animated opening sequence by Terry Gilliam and no censored scenes, which makes for much better viewing than the lesser U.S. theatrical cut, which is included as an extra. It's reminiscent of the great Witchfinder General, even if it doesn't quite reach those heady heights.
Master Of The World is an adventure film, not a horror flick, making it a bit of an oddity amidst Price's filmography, but he rises to the challenge. Based on two Jules Verne novels, it finds him playing a mysterious character known a Robur who flies around in a very steam-punk airship trying to rid the world of war by any means necessary, including attacking the warring factions. When he shoots down a hot air balloon and captures the crew, there is a real clash of philosophies that only escalates as time goes on. The entire film comes across as big budget epic of sorts, and while it's a little disconcerting to see so many fistfights in a Vincent Price movie (involving a young Charles Bronson, no less), as a curiosity, it's well worth seeing.
Diary Of A Madman is another solid if unspectacular movie, with Price playing Simon Cormier, a magistrate who comes across a malevolent entity when he meets a murderer who claims it made him commit the crime. The spirit is known as a horla, and it slowly drives Cormier mad while it attempts to control him. There's nothing particularly unique about the story and it isn't hard to see where it's going, but there's certainly nothing wrong with it either, thanks to the latitude given to Price to just do his thing.
The biggest disappointment here is 1962's Tower Of London, in which Price is inserted into a historical drama that pulls heavily from Shakespeare but retains some gothic influences. It tells the tale of Richard III's rise to power and how he tries to deal with his mad, tortured soul, but it's played too straight, and despite giving Price ample time to soliloquize, his charisma isn't enough to push through the mundaneness of it all. The only reason to watch this is to see Price chewing the scenery, and there's plenty of that elsewhere.
Despite getting front cover billing on the collection, An Evening With Edgar Allen Poe is actually a TV Special from 1970, rather than a feature-length movie. It features Price reciting four of Poe's short stories: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask Of Amontillado and The Pit And The Pendulum. It's difficult to think of anyone better suited to tell these stories than Price, and he relishes every single moment, even if it's more of a nice extra than the reason to pick up the set.
The other extras included with this third collection are particularly impressive. There are the typical commentary tracks by assorted actors, producers and film historians and photo galleries and movie trailers, but the brand new interviews with the likes of Roger Corman and Kenneth Johnson, specifically for this collection, are the most rewarding.
The highlight of the bonus material, though, is an extended version of Richard Matheson: Storyteller, a wonderful documentary about the screenwriter who provided Price with so many scripts for so many years. In addition, there are a couple of episodes from the influential 1950s anthology series Science Fiction Theatre that feature Price in the leading role, and those are rarely seen gems. (Shout! Factory)