Master of the World (1961) - In 1848, a fanatical inventor seeks to fly around the world and stop war from his flying airship (the "Albatross")...a cross between a zeppelin and a helicopter. Adapted from two Jules Verne novel -- Master of the World and The Conqueror. Starring Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, and Vito Scotti.
Tower of London (1962) - Blind ambition meets bloody terror in famed director Roger Corman's "sophisticated and well made" (Video Hound's Golden Movie Retreiver) tale of royally bad behavior based on Shakespeare's Richard III! Starring the king of creepiness, Vincent Price, as a demented despot who's killing his way to England's throne - only to be haunted by the spirits of his victims - Tower of London is a "quivering good time" (Los Angeles Times)! Also starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Barbara O'Neil, and Ian Hunter.
Diary of a Madman (1963) - Vincent Price turns in a classic performance as a sculptor, possessed by an evil spirit, who hires a model (Nancy Kovack) to pose for him - then learns thereafter that she has been brutally murdered. Starring Vincent Price, Nancy Kovack, Chris Warfield, Ian Wolfe, and Elain Devry.
Cry of the Banshee (1970) - Vincent Price is diabolical, commanding and "as brutally horrific as ever" (Motion Picture Exhibitor) as a corrupt English magistrate who leads a crusade to rid the countryside of witches...but doesn't mind accosting a few innocent wenches on his way! Murder, torture and titillation are just a few methods of interrogation in this lurid "witchcraft shocker" (Motion Picture Exhibitor) that pits evil against more evil in a duel to the death! Also starring Essy Persson, Hilary Heath, Carl Rigg, and Stephan Chase.
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) - Brace yourself for a fearsome fright fest... times four! Maestro of Mayhem Vincent Price narrates this quivering quartet of Edgar Allan Poe's most spine-tingling classics, including: "The Tell Tale Heart," "The Sphinx," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Pit and the Pendulum." Dripping with gruesome torture, live burials, monsters, madness and murder most foul, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe will chill you to your very marrow! Starring Vincent Price and Elizabeth Shepherd.
Master of the World
Loosely based on a pair of Jules Verne novels featuring a megalomaniac with strangely admirable idealistic aspirations for the world, 'Master of the World' is a curious sci-fi drama from director William Witney, a talented filmmaker seldom known or talked about amongst contemporary moviegoers. Part of its curiosity stems from this self-important character, Captain Robur, a genius inventor of a massive flying machine with war-time capabilities. Played with darkly ambitious intrigue by the always delightful Vincent Price, the captain posits an interesting moral dilemma for creating world peace, that the only way to finally bring nations together and an end to war is to disarm them all. Unfortunately, since there isn't a county on Earth that would willingly surrender their military armament, Robur uses his "heavier than air" contraption to coerce world leaders into submission. Essentially, the character, along with Witney's film, exposes the irony of the path towards peace coming from war and the uneasy reality of needing a despotic leader for maintaining that peace.
Granted, the film doesn't really delve too deep into the subject matter or explore it with more substantial weight, but the script by legendary genre author Richard Matheson, at least, touches on the matter as the plot's significant focal point. A very young Charles Bronson also stars as government agent John Strock, one of four people kidnapped by Robur as witnesses to his questionable tactics for peace. The other three include prominent social figures Philip Evans (David Frankham), armaments manufacture Prudent (Henry Hull) and his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), who is also Philip's fiancée. While the latter is given a disapproving and condemning voice of Robur's ultimately villainous scheme, and deservingly so, it is Bronson's Strock that is of more interest because he's conflicted over Robur's hopeful idealism accomplished at a grave cost. It's only after some time with the Captain and witnessing the tyrannical flames behind his eyes, Matheson's version of Verne's novels unveils technology with both the potential for progress and destruction. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Tower of London
Very loosely inspired by certain historical events, 'Tower of London' fictionalizes the sudden rise and even quicker descent of King Richard III of England, throwing a supernatural mix into the story through the lens of political intrigue. And to really make things juicy, legendary filmmaker of several B-movie cult classics Roger Corman intermingles the story with Shakespearean elements, most notably Richard III, which is to be expected considering the subject matter, and Macbeth, which is a bit more surprising but also put to excellent use. It's the sort of movie that strives from more than its parts with the lofty goal of being both a creepy chiller and a period-piece drama, which sadly it doesn't do very well, but it's those individual parts that ultimately make this little thriller a good deal of fun. The production is another prime example of Corman's notoriously economical approach to filmmaking, but he knows how to stretch that budget to limits which deliver results, such as the elaborate set pieces, the amazingly detailed baroque costumes and the amusing special effects.
The incomparable Vincent Price stars as the hunchbacked Richard, the duke of Gloucester, who is appalled and offended when his dying brother King Edward IV assigns their younger brother to a position he personally desired. His anger boils with an envious rage that drives him to murder those standing in his way for achieving what he covets most, including designing intricate conspiracies against his own family. Like the aforementioned plays, Richard's evil deeds slowly lead him into fits of madness as the ghosts of his victims begin to haunt his every waking moment, and Mr. Price does marvelously in his portrayal of a man's measured descent into lunacy caused by greed. Joan Camden also stars as Richard's equally eager wife, a Lady Macbeth type who spurs and endorses his decisions. It's not difficult to predict where and how it will all end, but the performances and Corman's interestingly methodical pace maintain a layer of fascination. The film is a highlight in both the careers of Price and Corman rarely talked about outside of the Poe features. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
Diary of a Madman
Based on the Guy de Maupassant's 1887 short story "Le Horla," 'Diary of a Madman' is pretty much as one would guess from the tittle — something having to do with a madman and his diary. Funny enough, that's precisely how producer Robert Kent opens his script — a roundtable reading of a dead man's diary. After a funeral for the local magistrate, a man who according to other characters either was hated or reasonably well-respected, those same voices of dissent gather at the man's house to read from his private journal, an apparent last-wishes request. At first, the thought that the magistrate is about to spill the beans on everyone's dirty secrets and reveal the culprit behind his mysterious death comes to mind, but such is not the case is this amusing sci-fi mystery chiller from director Reginald Le Borg, the Austrian-born filmmaker who made a name for himself churning out low-budget horror flicks for Universal Studios throughout the 1940s. The diary actually flashbacks to explain the magistrate's descent into madness and the dead bodies surrounding him when alive.
When it comes to telling the tale of a civilized gentlemen and public figure such as the reputable Simon Cordier slowly spiraling downward to the pits of insanity, who better to portray that decline than the inimitable Vincent Price. In another terrifically memorable performance, Price makes Cordier a likeable enough personality, a kindly and obliging court judge and amateur sculptor who reveals small hints of a darker side writhing beneath his seemingly good-natured temperament when he visits a criminal he recently sentenced to death. Interestingly, the story treats madness as a kind of infection or foreign entity that invades Cordier's otherwise healthy disposition, which also coincidentally happens when he meets artist's model Odette Mallotte (the stunningly beautifully Nancy Kovack). That's not to suggest the filmmakers meant anything intentional by this. It's just a fun coincidence that adds another layer to this delightfully amusing 1963 film where the mysterious entity known as "The Horla" represents a man of high-social status battling his dark inner demons. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
Not so much a movie in the traditional sense, but the teleplay 'An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe,' which originally aired in 1970 on ABC, is nonetheless quintessential Vincent Price — a must-have for any devoted fan and collector for The Merchant of Menace. And who wouldn't want a 52-minute film where the legendary actor and genre icon recites four stories by the Master of Horror, three of which are amongst his most famous works while the fourth is not exactly one of his better known. But rather than simply being some sort of 'Masterpiece' theater show, which coincidentally didn't air on television till the following year, or feature the dearly beloved actor on an antique chair reading from some dusty, leather-bound book, The King of the Grand Guignol stars as the untrustworthy narrator of each story. As though on a stage play, a one-man show, if you will, he performs as if a man battling his internal demons and clashing with his own insanity. In a way, we're watching as though he were an inmate confessing his sins and making a maddening attempt to purge himself of guilt.
Ultimately, this is what makes the hour-long show such a fascinating watch, from Price reading each story with feverish passion and incredible poignancy to the awesomely spooky atmosphere in the stage design and the enthusiastically creative directing style of Kenneth Johnson ('The Six Million Dollar Man,' 'The Bionic Woman,' 'The Incredible Hulk' and 'Alien Nation'). In fact, Johnson's direction is quite impressive for a television program, using interesting crane-shot movements and often dollying from one side of the room to the next, such as in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado." Several moments during "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Sphinx," it's easy to see that Johnson gives Price plenty of room to move about and utilize the entire stage, using more wide shots with a couple choice close-ups that effectively add drama to Price's electric performance. As is usual in his acting, the cherished actor of many B-movie favorites hams up in a couple areas, but in the way only he can, chewing up the scenery with a kind of urgent intensity and gravitas. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
Cry of the Banshee
Gotta a love movie like 'Cry of the Banshee' where blatantly anachronistic mistakes somehow add to the production's unintentional humor and enjoyment. In this case, we follow the sadistic and fiendish pursuits of a magistrate, as played by the always enigmatic Price, with a disturbingly bloodthirsty obsession for hunting witches. Set in an undisclosed small town of Elizabethan England, a brother and sister accused of witchcraft are bullied and harassed for sport during a large dinner party. Things soon escalate from bad to worse, as would be expected, and someone suddenly pulls out a gun, instantly shooting one of the siblings as if he were a gunslinger in the Old West. And before brushing the incident as an isolated mistake, other characters also use antique-looking handguns throughout the movie, which is as much a head-scratcher as it a hilarious goof. At most, if the story's setting is accurate, characters would be firing a matchlock pistol, which were still a bit large and clunky for a hand-held firearm. In spite of this glaringly oversight, the movie remains wildly amusing.
Much of this amusement also comes from the villainous caricatures of the Early Modern upper class, the animated dialogue and the near-lampoon action sequences feigning diabolic rituals of the occult. Price borders on the cartoonish in some spots in his portrayal of a sinisterly conniving justice of the peace who not only stops at nothing to maintain his fearful power over townspeople but genuinely and passionately despises witches to the point of knowingly killing innocents. There's really not much else to the plot, except an actual coven lead by Oona (Elizabeth Bergner) is discovered and they summon a demon to avenge the crimes committed against them. Although the story functions in similar vein to a mystery thriller, slowly building towards a showdown and a frankly silly twist, the story, honestly, would be improved if the magistrate's obsession unfounded, leaving the man's sanity to be questioned. Nevertheless, the movie remains an amusing watch, and for punk rock fans, it is all the more memorable as the inspiration behind the name 'Siouxsie and the Banshees.' (Movie Rating: 3/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'The Vincent Price Collection III' to Blu-ray under the distributor's Scream Factory line as a four-disc box set with an attractive slipcover and cover art that reveals a cool effect. The first two films are given their own Region A locked, BD50 discs while the third Region A locked, BD50 disc contains the next two movies, and viewers are given a choice of which movie to watch at startup before switching to the standard static menu with music. The last Region A locked, BD50 disc comes with two versions of 'Cry of the Banshee.' All four discs come inside a blue case that is slightly thicker than normal, and the package includes a 12-page booklet with several color photos and reprints of art posters.
Master of the World
The sci-fi drama masters the Blu skies with a strong and fairly pleasing 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, but it also comes with several noteworthy drawbacks. According to distributor information, the transfer comes from new remaster of an interpositive print, and while the elements have aged very well, the film would, of course, benefit greatly from a complete restoration. As is, the video is sadly plagued with a good amount of dirt, white specks and a variety scratches, and cigarette burns in the top right corner make an appearance a couple times. Composite shots and special effect sequences are the most problematic and unattractive, which is a forgivable result of production limitations. On a positive note, the presentation comes with well-balanced contrast and brightness levels, displaying crisp, clean whites and strong, dynamic blacks. Being a very colorful film, primaries are rich and vibrant while secondary hues glow with energy. With a very fine layer of grain from beginning to end, the 1.85:1 image is highly detailed with clean, sharp lines throughout. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Tower of London
The back of the package points out that this AVC-encode transfer was made from a fine-grain film print, and from the looks of it, the elements appear in excellent condition, showing terrific clarity and resolution throughout. A very thin grain structure washes over the 1.66:1 image, affording it an attractive cinematic appeal, while only small hints of white specks and negligible scratches can be spotted here and there. Close-ups are amazing revealing, exposing every pore and wrinkle in the faces of actors, and fine lines in the ornately baroque costumes and in the elaborate production design are sharply defined. A couple moments, particularly the composite shots, are a tad softer and blurrier than others, but for the most part, the presentation is highly detailed. Contrast and brightness levels in the black-and-white photography are splendidly well-balanced, displaying crisp, brilliant whites and excellently varied blacks with strong shadow details. (Video Rating: 4/5)
Diary of a Madman
Made from the original interpositive, the diary exposes everyone's dirty little secrets with a splendid, highly-detailed AVC MPEG-4 encode, showing lots of distinct clarity in nearly every scene except for a few composite shots. The source used has aged remarkably well although dirt and very minor white speck sporadically make an appearance. Still, the 1.66:1 image looks marvelous with sharply defined lines in the baroque furniture and the ornate, elaborately designed costumes. Facial complexions appear natural and revealing with lifelike textures, laying bare every wrinkle, pore and negligible blemish in the faces of actors. Contrast and brightness levels are spot-on with pitch-perfect whites and full-bodied blacks, exhibiting excellent gradational details and differentiation between various shades, even within the blackest of black. Primaries are sumptuous and oozing with energy, especially the reds in clothing, while secondary hues animate the screen with energy and life, making this a wonderful high-def video of a Vincent Price favorite. (Video Rating: 4.5/5)
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
Considering its origins and history, the standard definition transfer of this unique televised performance is pretty darn good, and the elements have aged extraordinarily well. However, the strong MPEG-2 encode still looks every bit like a piece of vintage television, which is both a good and bad thing depending on the viewer's appreciation for watching through nostalgia goggles. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, contrast is noticeably flat and falls on the lower end of the grayscale, which sadly restrains the colors from appearing brighter. Much of the presentation lacks pop and energy due to somewhat weak primaries that in turn make flesh tones appear flushed, but the rest of the palette, which favors a brownish earth tone, is cleanly rendered while whites are crisp and decently bright. Blacks are thankfully full-bodied and accurate, providing a bit depth to certain scenes, though shadow delineation falls on the average side. Definition and resolution is quite strong and revealing in several areas, but on the whole, details are unexceptional, pretty much as expected and don't compare to the other movies from the same box set. (Video Rating: 2.5/5)
Cry of the Banshee
The Gordon Hessler thriller bewitches Blu-ray with a great-looking AVC MPEG-4 encode that was made from a remaster of the original interpositive film elements of the Director's Cut. The AIP theatrical version, on the other hand, was taken from a color reversal intermediate. In either case, the source appears to have aged very well, showing a great deal of sharp details in the elaborate clothing and the baroque wooden furniture. The intricate design and stitching of the formal wear is distinct, and the lines, grain and negligible imperfections in the wood in plainly visible. Facial complexions are highly revealing with excellent lifelike textures during close-ups. Although the photography is somewhat restrained, contrast and brightness are nonetheless well-balanced and pitch-perfect, displaying brilliant, crisp white and deeply rich, penetrating blacks throughout. Colors noticeably benefit the most with primaries looking particularly vibrant and opulent while secondary earth tones provide some warmth and realism to the 1.85:1 image. There are a couple instances where the presentation shows its aged, such as specks of black dirt and less than satisfying resolution levels, but on the whole, the transfer is in excellent shape. (Video Rating: 4/5)
Master of the World
The flying war machine soars with a generally pleasing pair DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks that bring Captain Robur's dreams for peace to life. If the elements used for the video also contained the original recording — it was filmed in 4-Track stereo — then this lossless stereo track delivers. Although a mono version is offered as a second option, the former is really the way to go, generating a wide, spacious soundstage with several amusing moments of off-screen action and lots of engaging background activity. Vocals are clear and precise in the center, and low bass comes with a weight and depth that's appropriate to the film's age. Only issue of concern is, like the video, the noticeable fact that the source was not given the full-restoration treatment. Background hissing is evident and sometimes distractingly loud while at other times, like a low hum. There are also many instances of noise and very mild pops, but most egregious are the several occurrences of distortion during action sequences. The mid-range feels pretty limited as well, which would explain the distortion, sounding very narrow and uniform but fairly bright in moments of explosion. Still, the high-rez track is pleasing enough and tolerable. (Audio Rating: 2.5/5)
Tower of London
The fictionalized supernatural historical drama haunts the Blu-ray halls with a very pleasing DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. Although mostly limited to the center of the screen, imaging feels spacious with a wonderful sense of presence and lots of plainly audible background activity. On several occasions, listeners can hear the footsteps of actors on carpets, the ruffling of the layered clothing and the subtle clanging of jewelry worn by some of the characters. Bass is appropriately hearty and weighty, providing the score with some appreciable weight, while the mid-range exhibits distinct clarity and differentiation between the various noises and in the orchestration. A couple moments do reveal a tad of distortion and hissing in the upper frequencies, but fortunately, it's not too distracting or unsavory to ruin the movie's overall enjoyment. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
Diary of a Madman
The outstanding video is accompanied by an equally excellent DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack that brings the 1963 supernatural film to life. Likely made from the same interpositive mentioned above, imaging generates a wide, full-bodied sense of presence with extraordinary activity in the background that's continuously audible. Birds chirp in the distance, individual footsteps are plainly heard, the echo of voices ring loudly in rooms when characters raise their voices, and objects move with distinct clarity. The score shows a tiny hint of distortion during the loudest moments, but overall, notes between the many instruments are discrete and very well-defined, thanks to a detailed, room-penetrating mid-range. Vocals are precise and intelligible, and most impressive is a deep, response low-end that provides the film with some palpable, appreciable weight. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
Similar to the video, the DTS-HD mono soundtrack is the result of a source with certain limitations and a few obvious drawbacks. As would be expected, the audio is restricted to the center, often feeling like a straight line going down the middle of the image. The soundstage feels tightly uniform and noticeably limited with some audible hissing in the background in some spots and prominent bouts of distortion during some of the more exciting moments, mostly coming from the musical score. Of course, these few downsides are not likely enough to dissuade fans or those looking for a nostalgia trip. What's important for viewers is the pleasure of listening to the incomparable Vincent Price recite classic Edgar Allan Poe tales as if it were a live stage performance, and in that regard, the lossless mix delivers clean, precise vocals, allowing fans to appreciate Price's tonal pitch and inflection as he provides emotional depth to the archetypal stories of horror. (Audio Rating: 2.5/5)
Cry of the Banshee
Unlike the video, the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack leaves a bit to be desired, but it nonetheless offers a strong and overall acceptable presentation for the movie. The biggest and most noteworthy offence is the dialogue reproduction, which honestly is the result of poor ADR work, thus related to the elements, not necessarily a mark against the codec. Nevertheless, voices seem flat and distant, often not even matching the actors' lip movements. The rest of the lossless mix feels narrow and restrained to the center, displaying very little life and presence, except perhaps when during the few bits of action and when the score comes into play. In fact, the music is the only aspect of the track that displays some pleasing extension in the midrange. However, there there are some small instances of distortion and annoying crackling in the loudest segments and a fair amount hissing can be heard in the background. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Even if one has never watched any of his films, the face and voice of Vincent Price has become a familiar cultural icon of horror cinema, earning the affectionate title as the "Master of Menace." The beloved legendary actor is arguably best known for his work with Roger Corman and the director's adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's horror tales. Shout! Factory gathers five of Price's arguably lesser known films but which nonetheless have grown into treasured cult classics for an amazing box collection that fans will love.
Four of the five movies arrive with strong, often great audio and video presentations that best previous home video editions, but sadly, 'An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe' comes in only standard definition. Along with porting over bonus material from other DVDs, Shout! includes a nice collection of exclusives, making this box set an awesome addition to anyone's horror library.