DirectorWilliam Witney/Roger Corman/Kenneth Johnson/Reginald Le Borg/Gordon Hessler
Release Date(s)1961-1970 (February 16, 2016)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: A-
- Overall Grade: A-
Although it seemed unlikely due to a lack of available titles, the folks at Shout! Factory have managed to come through and produce a Vincent Price Collection III boxed set. All of these sets are critical to own if you’re as big a fan of Vincent Price as I am. He’s my favorite actor and the more of his work in print and on Blu-ray the better. Although this release features some of the lesser titles in his filmography, it also has the widest array of material. From science fiction to adventure to horror to period, it gives you a greater range instead of only Poe adaptations and gothic horror movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but if you’re even remotely interested in Price’s career, you quickly realize that he did more than just scare.
The first film in this set, Master of the World, is an adaptation of the Jules Verne original about a crazed man who pilots a flying airship, kidnapping or killing those who would seek to inform the rest of the world about him and his revolutionary ship. It’s actually the only movie in this set that isn’t horror related as it’s more of a fantastic adventure movie (with Charles Bronson as one of the main leads). It’s also old fashioned moviemaking at its finest with colorful sets & lighting, models, rear-screen projection, matte paintings, and opticals aplenty. It feels much longer than it actually is with great gaps of nothing happening, and while it has some interesting visuals and ideas, it doesn’t hold up particularly well. Still, one can’t help but appreciate the work that went into making it.
Tower of London, the second film in this set, has the appearance of a Corman/Price/Poe project, but is actually an amalgam of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and “Macbeth” with gothic horror grafted onto it. Oddly enough, it was photographed in black and white (it’s major flaw) to save the studio money, according to Corman. As a consequence, It’s one of Corman’s and Price’s collaborations that’s the least interesting to look at and would have benefited from a richer tapestry of color. It was also shot quickly – in just fifteen days. It wound up being a less than mediocre movie with some good performances but with a very lax pace and uninteresting visuals.
The third film, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, is a four act one-man show in which Vincent Price recites and acts out The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum. It was a one-hour TV special that aired on PBS in 1970, and thankfully, was archived. It’s one of the real gems in this set as you get to see Price stretching his acting abilities, basically reacting to nothing and no one but his own words. On the same disc is the fourth film, Diary of a Madman, a movie more in line with what Price was known for during this era of his career. It tells the tale of a man who is possessed by the “Horla”, which causes him to commit murder against his will. It’s a little on the plodding side, but is interesting and gives Price something slightly different to work with for a change.
The final film in the set, Cry of the Banshee, comes in two versions: the original British director’s cut and the American-released A.I.P. cut. Both versions tell the same story of a magistrate during the late 1500’s who, under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I, attempts to root out a coven of witches in a small village. While the British version features a much edgier story with nudity and gore, as well as a more pronounced dramatic arc, the American version excises nearly all of it for something more streamlined and drive-in audience friendly. Also excised was the original opening credits sequence, which featured animation from Terry Gilliam. It’s a very strong film in either version and is often compared to The Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm due to the subject matter, but Banshee, by comparison, seems to have more complicated characters and situations, not to mention that it was the more successful of the two.
Beginning with Master of the World, the transfer is a good one and is taken from the original interpositive. It features an extremely organic presentation, littered with leftover film artifacts such as scratching, frame instability, dirt, changeover cues, and occasional tears. There are also grain variations due to the vast amount of optical effects and overlays, as well as the use of stock footage. Still, colors are quite strong while not being entirely consistent, particularly skin tones. Black levels are quite strong while contrast levels are quite consistent. There’s also no evidence of digital augmentation either. There are two soundtrack options, both 1.0 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks in English. Both tracks are pretty flat in terms of dynamics and the mixes show their age, but dialogue, music, and sound effects all come through clearly.
Tower of London’s transfer comes from a very clean, fine grain film print, with excellent results. There’s a very light grain overlay with some nice depth and sharp images, as well as fine detail on display. Blacks are fairly deep with excellent contrast levels, and there are no signs of digital enhancement, but there are some minor leftover film artifacts such as changeover cues and thin scratches and specks. The soundtrack is a single English 1.0 DTS-HD track. It has plenty of life to it, but obviously, not much in the way of dynamics. Everything is mixed accordingly with strong, clear dialogue and a heavy brass-filled score. There was a single but brief dropout at the 00:30:22 mark – the only hiccup in an otherwise strong mono soundtrack.
According to the text right before its presentation, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe has been transferred from four separate 2” tape reels in standard definition. It’s a strong tape-sourced presentation of this vintage with good colors and pretty deep black levels, as well as good contrast. There are some inherent flaws such as some light color bleeding from the various set-based light sources that cannot (and shouldn’t) be corrected, but there’s also a moment during the fourth act when three translucent bands run through the screen for a few seconds. It’s barely worth complaint, and one shouldn’t complain anyways given the source. The sound, which is a single English 1.0 DTS-HD track, is quite flat, as to be expected. However, dialogue, score, and sound effects are never hindered and come through well enough.
Diary of a Madman is sourced from the interpositive print, and carries a strong, organic-looking grain field with excellent detail. Color reproduction is good but skin tones are often orange-looking. Blacks are deep with a bit of crush to them, while contrast levels are satisfactory. There are also no signs of digital augmentation, but there are some film artifacts left behind including some light stability issues from time to time, as well as light flecks, both white and black. It’s also worth noting that the poor opticals implemented in the film are now more apparent than ever. However, they don’t detract from my final score. The soundtrack, which is another English 1.0 DTS-HD track, is flat, but dialogue comes through quite well. The score and the sound effects are more pronounced, however, and there’s also a bit more apparent hiss. Overall, it’s the best looking and sounding film in the set, in my opinion.
The director’s cut of Cry of the Banshee is sourced from the interpositive, but not with as satisfactory results as you might think. It’s an often smooth-looking transfer with very light grain. Detail doesn’t suffer much, however, especially in close-ups. Colors are fairly strong with decent skin tones and varying black levels, mostly crushed. Contrast levels seem to be just a bit too high, as well. No strong signs of DNR, but film artifacts remain: minor burn marks (only occasionally), as well as light black and white flecks. As this carries another English 1.0 DTS-HD track, it’s a flat but effective soundtrack with clear dialogue and strong score and sound effects.
The A.I.P. version of Cry of the Banshee is sourced from the only surviving film element: a color reversal intermediate. The transfer carries a light grain field with excellent detail. Colors are also good with more natural skin tones. Black levels vary, but are mostly crushed with satisfactory contrast levels. Again, no signs of augmentation, but artifacts such as flecking, remain. The soundtrack, which is also an English 1.0 DTS-HD track, is, as expected, flat. However, dialogue, score, and sound effects come through well.
All of these films come with subtitles in English for those who might need them.
Master of the World (Film/Video/Audio): B/A-/B
Tower of London (Film/Video/Audio): C-/A-/B+
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (Film/Video/Audio): B+/B+/B
Diary of a Madman (Film/Video/Audio): B/A-/A-
Cry of the Banshee: Director’s Cut (Film/Video/Audio): B+/A-/B+
Cry of the Banshee: A.I.P. Version (Film/Video/Audio): B/B+/B+
As for supplemental material, this set has the previous sets almost beat. For Master of the World, you get an audio commentary with actor David Frankham; an extended version of the documentary Richard Matheson: Storyteller, featuring never-before-seen footage; the original theatrical trailer; and two photo galleries. For Tower of London, there’s a new interview with Roger Corman about the film; the Producing Tower of London interview with both Roger and producer Gene Corman; a photo gallery; and two episodes of the TV show Science Fiction Theater starring Vincent Price (One Thousand Eyes and Operation Flypaper). For An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, you get an audio commentary with film historian and author Steve Haberman; a new interview segment entitled Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson, who was the writer, producer, and director of the show; and a photo gallery. For Diary of a Madman, you get another audio commentary with Steve Haberman; a photo gallery; and the original theatrical trailer. For Cry of the Banshee, you get yet another audio commentary with Steve Haberman (optional on the director’s cut only); A Devilish Tale of Poe, which is an interview with director Gordon Hessler; the original theatrical trailer; a TV spot; a radio spot; and a photo gallery. Also included is a 12-page insert booklet with rare photos from each film. Sadly, there are no PBS intros or outros that were present on previous collections. Granted, not all of the movies in this set were ever presented that way, but a couple of them probably were. Still, it’s a wonderful set of extras.
All told, the Vincent Price Collection III is another great title that the folks at Scream Factory seemed to have really given the attention it needed, probably more so than their previous Vincent Price sets. Unless something happens wherein Shout! Factory can open up licensing deals with Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, this is likely to be the final volume in this series. I sincerely hope it isn’t as titles like The Tingler are still absent, but for now, savor this set and the previous ones. It should go without saying, but if you’re a horror fan or a Vincent Price fan, you must pick this up. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons