Vincent Price was without doubt one of the worlds most gloriously over the top and charismatic actors. To me he was always the true master of horror. Peter Cushing is probably my favorite actor of all time, but Price I think is the true master of horror as the characters he played were always the most insane and would always kill their victims in the most horrifying ways imaginable. Price strapped people to pendulums, drained their blood into bottles, dragged them through the streets, poured acid on them and what’s even more incredible is that he always did it with such an artistic flair that we couldn’t help but cheer him on. Below are my top performances from Price the ultimate torturer!
10/ Sir Geoffrey Radcliff/ The Invisible Man Returns
Vincent Price’s first ever horror role. Though it would not be until “House of Wax” before he became typecast as a horror actor. His role in this movie as the title character unlike his later horror roles was a sympathetic one. Price only actually appears for one minute at the end, but fortunately his distinctive voice is enough to carry the film. That’s the trick to finding someone who is right for the Invisible Man is to get someone with a great voice like either Vincent Price or Claude Rains.
9/ Fortunato Luchrise/ Tales of Terror, The Black Cat
This overlooked anthology film saw Price play 3 different characters across 3 different stories. By far my favorite is the second story “The Black Cat” which is an adaptation of the Poe short story of the same name. In this story Price acts opposite his long time collaborator and friend Peter Lorre. Price’s character is an eccentric, foppish wine taster who ends up in bed with Lorre’s Wife, only for Lorre to then kill her and wall Price up alive. I think this is one of Price’s best comedic performances. There are so many funny moments with his character even when he is being walled up alive, but the most hilarious moment is the wine tasting moment. I think this could very well be my favorite Price and Lorre collaboration. Its not my favorite movie they’re in together, but in terms of how they play off of each other it could very well be my favorite.
8/ Professor Henry Jarod/ House of Wax
This was not Vincent Price’s first ever horror role, but it was the one that not only typecast him as a horror actor forever more, but also for playing deranged, hammy OTT villains. Professor Jarod is the blueprint for so many of his later characters from Edward Lionheart to Dr Phibes. All of their defining characteristics are here, the horrible disfigurement, the strange sidekicks (one of whom is played by Charles Bronson). Whilst “House of Wax” is still a classic film and holds up brilliantly its just not quite as wild as some of his later movies hence why I would only rank it at number 8.
7/Matthew Hopkins / The Witchfinder General
This is by far and away Vincent Price’s most terrifying performance. Its true that normally Price’s villains tended to be somewhat camp and even likable like Lionheart, but Hopkins is as dark and menacing a villain as you could ever possibly hope to see. The Witchfinder General is overall a very brutal film and Price plays Hopkins with absolute deliciously evil relish. Hopkins is such a vile character that at the end of the movie when is shot right in the middle of being struck with an axe by Marshall we can’t help but agree with him that Hopkins fate was too good for him “You took him from me, YOU TOOK HIM FROM ME!!!”
6/ Dr Erasmus Craven/ The Raven
One of Price’s few heroic characters, Erasmus is a genuinely sweet and lovable character, but still nevertheless much like Price’s villains he is at the same a wonderfully camp and even somewhat comedic character at the same time. Definitely the highlight of this performance is Price’s duel with the villainous Dr Scarabous played by Boris Karloff. Watching two horror icons battle one another in the craziest way possible, what’s not to love.
5/ Nicholas Medina/ The Pit and the Pendulum
Probably one of Price’s darker roles along with Matthew Hopkins, Nicholas actually begins as a sympathetic character before being driven completely and utterly insane his wife. The final scene where he completely loses it and promises to make his wife “die in agony” is truly one of Price’s most powerful performances.
4/ Doctor Phibes/ Dr Phibes Series
One of Price’s most memorable creations Dr Phibes wants revenge on all of those whom he blamed for the death of his wife, the surgeons who failed to save her life after a car crash. He goes around killing them all in some of the most grotesque, yet very inventive ways possible. He also covers his hideously deformed face with a mask that’s a mock up of his original face. Phibes is obviously not as serious a character as Hopkins, but is nevertheless so much fun that you can’t help but root for him.
3/ Roderick Usher/ The Fall of the House of Usher
Now this was Price’s first performance in a film based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Today I’d say that Price is as associated with Poe as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are with Dracula and Van Helsing. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is actually probably my favorite of the Roger Coreman Poe movies, however there is one Price/Poe performance I like better than this. Usher is probably the creepiest of all of Price’s characters. From the very start there is something unsettling about him, however he doesn’t give off the impression that he is evil, but rather conflicted and tormented instead. Indeed even when his true sinister motives are revealed the character is still not depicted as being evil even though he does bury his own sister alive he only does so in order to prevent the Usher family the most depraved and evil family of all time from continuing. The scene where Price describes the previous members of the Usher family and all of the evils they have committed never fails to send shivers up my spine. This performance also contains one of Price’s most memorable lines that Stephen Fry himself would later repeat on QI. “Every sound is exquisite agony to my ears”.
2/ Prince Prospero/ The Masque Of The Red Death
A truly iconic performance from Price as the twisted satan worshipping Prince. Prospero has some of Price’s nastiest moments on screen and like Hopkins is a lot more serious and darker character. By far and away my favorite moment however is his death scene where he pursued by death itself and has to flee through hordes of people who have been infected by the plague. Its Price’s best death scene even more than being walled up alive by Peter Lorre.
1/ Edward Lionheart/ Theatre of Blood
Price’s best performance in his best film. Edward Lionheart is Price’s gloriously hammy, ridiculous, vengeful, pantomime yet intensely likable villain taken to its greatest extreme. Lionheart is an awful Shakespearian actor who seeks vengeance on the critics who ruined his career. One by one he inflicts horrific deaths inspired by the works of Shakespeare on each of the critics with the aid of his cross dressing daughter played by Diana Rigg. By far and away the most hilarious moment is when Lionheart pretends to be a gay, black hairdresser named Butch before electrocuting one of his victims. The only problem with Lionhearts character is that even though he is the villain he is perhaps a bit too likable. Still regardless this will always be my favorite Vincent Price performance and one of my all time favorite horror movies. Every time Price is on the screen you just can’t take your eyes off of him, whether he is tricking one critic into murdering his wife, chopping another’s head off in his sleep or falling to his death in a spectacular death scene that the character of Devlin the only critic who survives Lionheart’s death describes correctly as Yes it was a remarkable performance, he was madly overacting as usual, but you must admit he did know how to make an exit.”