Today, for Vincent Price’s birthday (May 27th), I would like to honor him by gushing about why I have a MONSTER SIZE man-crush on this wonderful man and incomparable horror fixture! How out of hand is my crush? Well you might ask my youngest son, Vincent. And while not nearly as impressive a creation as my beautiful child, I’ve also drawn Price before in one of my favorite rolls of his, The Abominable Dr. Phibes:
Crushing on Vincent Price: The Actor
So, we’ve established I adore Vincent Price. But why…?
I think one of the things that is so special about Mr. Price was his ability to portray characters that were creepy and chilling, while also being just as good at tongue-in-cheek roles. Sometimes, his characters would be both!
There’s horror and cruelty galore in revenge films like Dr. Phibes Rises Again and Theatre of Blood, but somehow Price manages to inject light-heartedness into his portrayals of the brilliant and inventive madmen who are the anti-heroes of these films.
Theatre of Blood tackles Price’s often tongue-in-cheek horror performances head-on: it is actually part of the movie’s plot that the critics disapprove of his over-the-top Shakespearean acting approach to all of his roles!
Interestingly, the bombastic Vincent Price still comes off as decidedly nobler (with a downright kingly mien in some scenes) compared to the thoroughly base, soul-less, and money-grubbing movie critics he metes out revenge upon.
There are also movies where Price simultaneously plays a sympathetic character and an evil madman. These portrayals are especially chilling because it breaks our heart to see such a sweet, gentle character become so cruel and repulsive. The Pit and the Pendulum is fantastic in this regard. I remember how the “pit” (of my stomach) sank as Price’s eyes went blank and he became…well you’ll just have to watch it to see, now won’t you?
Another thing I have marveled at is Price’s ability to play what you would assume was a thoroughly unsympathetic character…and then, somehow, make you feel at least a tiny bit of empathy for him in spite of all logic and reason. Don’t ask me why, but I found myself not hating him nearly as much as I should have as Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death.
Vincent Price plays him as an over-the-top killer of peasants, libertine, and dabbler in the dark arts. Yet, you can’t hate him! Or at least, I couldn’t.
I felt the same way about him in The Tomb of Ligeia. Some sadistic writer decided to make Price wear a thoroughly ridiculous pair of sunglasses and attempt to conduct a love scene while talking about the distressing sight of a cabbage he had spilled on the floor and shattered.
A shattered cabbage.
Nothing gets my engine going like thoroughly absurd sunglasses and a shattered cabbage! Can I get an Amen?!
But I digress.
The truth is, I could go on and on about his memorable roles and the way he handled them. The suspicious husband who isn’t what he seems in House on Haunted Hill. The flamboyant old man in House of Long Shadows. The mysterious gentleman in House of Wax. (He sure had a lot of houses!)
Check out the poster for that last one, by the way! Can you say “another one of Heather’s Childhood Nightmares?”
I think the only time I personally have seen him manage to be thoroughly unsympathetic in a role was his portrayal of John Carnby in Night Gallery‘s take on the short story The Return of the Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith. It was a job well done too — you are not supposed to like Carnby. At all.
(Clark Ashton Smith, however…that boy could write. Literary man crush time??)
Totally Falling for Vincent Price: The Man
Anyway, I would be remiss if I did not gush about one final thing concerning Vincent Price. As an artist, it is especially magical to me that he loved art!
Vincent Price got a degree in art history, as a matter of fact. He and his wife even started an art museum, and he personally curated an art collection for Sears-Roebuck.
There are all kinds of other fascinating things about Price as a human being…him being a gourmet cook, him holding some questionable beliefs before WWII, the way he grew out of it and denounced racial and religious prejudice in 1950, the way he supported his daughter when she “came out,” him being one of the first celebrities to warn our country publicly about AIDS.
Mr. Vincent Price, all in all, was a real-life flawed human being who kept growing throughout his life, becoming a better version of himself and leaving a trail of awesome memorable horror performances in his wake. He will always hold a special place in my heart…a MONSTER-SIZED place, as one of my dearest horror man crushes!
Do You Share the Love?
So what are YOUR thoughts on Vincent Price? Do you have a performance by him you just adore (or hate)? Do you love his over the top approach and humor, or do you find it appalling? Do you find his personal life inspiring or disappointing…or do you prefer to completely separate the actor from the man and just consider him based upon his work?
Feel free to tell me…and I’ll see you later with my next MONSTER MAN CRUSH.
Maybe, next time, I’ll tell you why my little son Vincent’s middle name is Christopher. 😉
Editor’s Note: If you have your OWN Monster Man (or Woman!) Crush and you feel compelled to tastefully honor their horror hotness, we’re always looking for article submissions from guest writers!