Countdown to Halloween Day 17 – Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 17 – Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)
Cast:        Vincent Price as Gilbert De Quincey
Linda Ho as Ruby Low
Richard Loo as George Wah
June Kim as Lotus
Yvonne Moray as Child

Based on the novel by Thomas De Quincey
Screenplay by Robert Hill
Directed by Albert Zugsmith

Release Date: June 20, 1962

Plot: Gilbert De Quincey stumbles onto adventure as he helps runaway slaves in the middle of a tong war in San Francisco.

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Richard’s Review: This is only my second viewing and, considering I remembered almost nothing about it, I venture to say it may well be my last. Vincent Price always makes a film better but he had his work cut out for him with this one. The plot is all over the place and I’m not sure that any of the characters are very likeable. Oh sure, Vincent isn’t too bad and the Child character made me laugh. I also enjoyed the music. However, the film is full of anachronisms for the early 19th century with devices like machine guns and a speed boat (seen briefly in stock footage). It’s also incredibly bizarre. I just couldn’t get into it, so it’s not a recommendation for me.

Karla’s Thoughts: I didn’t like this one at all. Price wasn’t very likeable and the plot was just too weird. In fact, I found the other characters and even the music equally odd. The movie was all over the place with no redeeming qualities. I won’t watch this one again.

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Trivia:

  • Vincent Price described this film as “the death of me” according to The Complete Films of Vincent Price by Lucy Chase Williams. I think that pretty much sums up his opinion of what is one of his most bizarre and forgettable roles.
  • The film was originally going to be filmed by William Castle in 1959 and was even slated to be in color.
  • Most critics hated the film, writing it off as silly at best. Even the marketing department seemed to be a little off-base with this one. One of their “ideas” was to have an “Oriental girl” in a bamboo cage in the lobby. And if you couldn’t find one, just get a white girl to dress up as one. Seriously? I wonder if any theater actually attempted that brilliant idea.
  • The rest of director Albert Zugsmith’s career was full of “classics,” such as Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) and The Incredible Sex Revolution (1965).
  • Writer Robert Hill is also responsible for Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959), one of the worst Tarzan films ever made.
  • Composer Albert Glasser did work on more than 100 films, including Monster from Green Hell (1957) and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957).
  • Angelo Rossitto is best remembered for his countless horror roles in films such as Freaks (1932) and Scared to Death (1947) with Bela Lugosi.
  • John Fujioka (Auctioneer), billed here as John Mamo, made his theatrical debit here at the age of 37. He went on to star in nearly 100 films and TV roles, including as Kuroda in two episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, The Last Kamikaze and The Wolf Boy.
  • Victor Sen Yung (Wing Young) had previously played Jimmy Chan in the Charlie Chan film series in the 30s and 40s.
  • Yvonne Moray (Child) was 44 at the time of filming. This was only her fourth and final film, having appeared as a Lullabye League Member in The Wizard of Oz (1939). She is reportedly still alive, which, if true, would make her 102 years old in 2019.

Availability: Confessions of an Opium Eater is available on an out-of-print DVD. Shop around for the best price!

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Countdown to Halloween Day 16 – Master of the World (1961)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 16 – Master of the World (1961)
Cast:        Vincent Price as Captain Robur
Charles Bronson as John Strock
Henry Hull as Prudent
Mary Webster as Dorothy Prudent
David Frankham as Philip Evans

Based on the novels Master of the World & Robur, the Conqueror by Jules Verne
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Directed by William Whitney

Release Date: May 1961

Plot: It’s late in the 19th century and Captain Robur wants to ensure peace on Earth with the power of his airship…even if he has to bomb the nations of the world into submission.

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Richard’s Review: This one always gives me a Captain Nemo vibe and with good reason. Jules Verne clearly had a style and certain themes that he liked to revisit and the stories featured in this film are no different. I’ve never really cared for this one much. I’ve given it several attempts over the years and it still hasn’t engaged me. The comedy segments in the kitchen are simply odd and the music is great but out-of-place. And just how much stock footage can you use? There’s also something off about Price’s character, who has a decent idea but a horrible way to execute it. That said, I think this might be the last time watching it as it just doesn’t connect with me.

Karla’s Thoughts: I kind of liked this one as it was different. Philip Evans was definitely the villain of the flick for me, more so than Price. I actually sympathized with his goals, just not how he went about reaching them. I like how the father realized the evil of getting money for weapons. But what was up with the music? It needed to be more suspenseful. However, I’d still watch it again.

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Trivia:

  • Director William Whitney worked on numerous chapter serials and westerns in the 40s and 50s, including Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) and Drums of Fu Manchu (1940).
  • Charles Bronson is best remembered for his countless western and action films, such as the Death Wish series, The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). However, genre fans will also remember him from The Twilight Zone episode Two with Elizabeth Montgomery.
  • Henry Hull also starred in the original Universal horror werewolf flick, Werewolf of London (1935).
  • David Frankham is best remembered by Trekkies for his role of Larry Maverick in the Star Trek episode Is There in Truth No Beauty?. He also starred with Vincent Price in Tales of Terror (1962).
  • Richard Harrison (Alistair) is best remembered for a variety of sword and sandal epics of the 60s, such as Messalina vs. the Son of Hercules (1964), and European spy flicks, like Secret Agent Fireball (1965).
  • Vito Scotti (chef Topage) is well-known character actor but, for me, I’ll always remember him for his roles as the Japanese soldier and Dr. Boris Balinkoff in Gilligan’s Island.
  • Wally Campo (Turner) only had 23 acting credits but he managed to also star in several horror flicks, including Beast from the Haunted Cave (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Tales of Terror (1962) and The Strangler (1964).

Availability: Master of the World is available on Blu-ray as part of The Vincent Price Collection III.

Countdown to Halloween Day 15 – House of Usher (1960)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 15 – House of Usher (1960)
Cast:        Vincent Price as Roderick Usher
Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop
Myrna Fahey as Madeline Usher

Based on The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Directed by Roger Corman

Release Date: June 18, 1960

Plot: When Philip Winthrop goes to visit his fiancée Madeline, he finds her near death and his presence is unwelcome by her brother Roderick. There is a curse on the Usher family and evil lurks in the home itself. Can a premature burial stop the curse or just intensify the situation?

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Richard’s Review: This isn’t my favorite of the Poe adaptations but it’s definitely fun to see Price chewing up the scenery doing what he does best.  His supporting cast is a little weaker than some of the other Price/Poe/Corman collaborations but the atmosphere and music of Lex Baxter is enough to make up for any deficiencies. Not a go to film for me but still a fun flick for a rainy afternoon.

Karla’s Thoughts: I didn’t really care much for this one. I found the whole story nonsensical and quite convoluted. Vincent Price was enjoyable to watch as usual but I didn’t quite understand his motivations, such as why he felt the need to bury his sister alive. The music was good and the movie looked nice but that’s not enough for me to want to watch it again.

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Trivia:

  • As of 2019, Roger Corman is still with us at the age of 93 and still producing films. At current count, he has 415 producing credits along with 56 directing credits, his being Frankenstein Unbound in 1990. This was his first film with Vincent Price and they would work together again seven more times.
  • Richard Matheson was a legendary writer, including films like The Raven (1963) and The Night Stalker (1972), as well as numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone and even Star Trek (The Enemy Within).
  • Mark Damon also worked alongside Boris Karloff in Black Sabbath (1963).
  • Myrna Fahey is best remembered for her television in numerous guest starring roles. She died in 1973 at the age of 40 due to cancer.
  • Roger Corman filmed a real barn burning down for the climax of this film. The footage was so god, it would appear in several of his films.
  • A rare blonde-headed appearance for Vincent Price.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher was first filmed in 1928 and the most recent being in an animated 2015 version narrated by Christopher Lee.

Availability: House of Usher is out-of-print but you can still find it on DVD.

Vincent Price in House of Usher, 1960.

Countdown to Halloween Day 13 – The Bat (1959)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 13 – The Bat (1959)
Cast:        Vincent Price as Dr. Malcolm Wells
Agnes Moorehead as Cornelia Van Gorder
Gavin Gordon as Lt. Andy Anderson
Lenita Lane as Lizzie Allen
John Sutton as Warner
Elaine Edwards as Dale Bailey
Darla Hood as Judy Hollander

Based on the play by Mary Roberts Rinehart & Avery Hopwood
Screenplay by Crane Wilbur
Directed by Crane Wilbur

Release Date: August 9, 1959

Plot: There’s a killer called The Bat and he’s on the loose. What does he have to do with stolen bank money? Writer Cordelia Van Gorder wants to solve the crime…if she doesn’t become the next victim.

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Richard’s Review: I really enjoy this low-budget thriller. Price is in top form and Agnes Moorehead is simply fun to watch. I wish she would have played Cordelia again. The story was fun with a few twists and, just as I thought I had it figured out, it threw a curve ball at me again. This was my first time in about 15 years to watch this one and I remembered very little about it. That said, I don’t want to wait another 15 to watch it again.

Karla’s Thoughts: I’m really surprised they didn’t do a series on the Cordelia character because I really liked her. I wouldn’t consider this a horror film as it was more of a mystery. I loved Vincent Price in this one, as well as Agnes Moorehead. It had me guessing until about halfway through, and then it had me guessing again until the end. I had to laugh at how silly the policeman getting shot in the climax was and especially Cordelia losing air in the room. However, I’d gladly watch this one again.

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Trivia:

  • This was one of the last films for writer and director Crane Wilbur, who had previously written the screenplay for House of Wax (1953) and The Mad Magician (1954).
  • Agnes Moorehead is best remembered for playing Endora on Bewitched (1964-1972), as well as being the original Margo Lane on The Shadow old time radio show, where she played opposite Orson Welles and Bill Johnstone.
  • Gavin Gordon also starred in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as Lord Byron and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).
  • Lenita Lane previously worked with Vincent Price in The Mad Magician (1954).
  • John Sutton previously worked with Vincent Price in The Invisible Man Returns (1940).
  • Elaine Edwards also starred in Curse of the Faceless Man (1958).
  • Darla Hood is best remembered for playing in the Our Gang shorts from 1935 to 1941. This would be her last feature film until Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon (1965), which was followed by two TV movies in 1974 and 1979. She died that same year at the age of 47 of congestive heart failure as a result of acute hepatitis.

Availability: The Bat is available on Blu-ray from The Film Detective.

Countdown to Halloween Day 12 – Dragonwyck (1946)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 12 – Dragonwyck (1946)
Cast:        Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells
Vincent Price as Nicolas Van Ryn
Walter Huston as Ephraim Wells
Glenn Langan as Dr. Jeff Turner
Anne Revere as Abigail Wells

Based on the novel by Anya Seton
Screenplay by Joseph Mankiewicz
Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz

Release Date: April 19, 1946

Plot: In 1844, young Miranda Wells is chosen by her rich cousin Nicolas Van Ryn to live with him and his wife. However, all is not as it seems as murder and madness lurks within the walls of the estate known as Dragonwyck.

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Richard’s Review: I absolutely loved this film for numerous reasons. First, Vincent Price turns in a fantastic performance as Nicolas Van Ryn. Watching the madness sweep over him in the final act is amazing. Second, Gene Tierney is equally amazing as this is really her film. It’s about her journey of becoming aware of the real world and realizing that all she wanted was really in her own backyard the whole time. Beautifully filmed and thoroughly engaging. It’s definitely not a horror flick, despite a brief visit or two from a possible ghost. Highly recommended!

Karla’s Thoughts: I really liked Dragonwyck and would definitely watch it again. This was not a horror movie at all but more of a drama. I’ve heard that some people find the film scary, which I don’t see at all. It’s really Miranda’s tale of growing up and moving beyond being naïve and innocent. By the end of the film, she’s no longer materialistic. Price isn’t necessarily evil as I believe he loved Miranda in a way but he really wanted her for the son she could give him. His journey is one of a slow descent into madness. One of my favorite Vincent Price films so far.

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Trivia:

  • Director Joseph Mankiewicz is best remembered for his classic, All About Eve (1950). He also worked with Gene Tierney again in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). His final film was Sleuth (1972) before retiring. He died in 1993 at the age of 83 due to heart failure. On a side note, he was the granduncle of Ben Mankiewicz, film host at Turner Classic Movies.
  • Anya Seton wrote Dragonwyck in 1944 just before Fox acquired the film rights. Of her eventual twelve novels, she only had one other adapted for the silver screen, Foxfire in 1955. Neither novel was considered her best work, as Katherine, Green Darkness and The Winthrop Woman are still considered classics today. She died in 1990 at the age 86.
  • Alfred Newman composed a beautiful score and worked on more than 200 other films in his long career, including All About Eve (1950), The Egyptian (1954) and How the West Was Won (1962). He died in 1970 at the young age of 68 due to emphysema.
  • Glenn Langan also starred in The Return of Dr. X (1939), Hangover Square (1945) and as Lt. Col. Glenn Manning in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957).
  • Walter Huston was second billed but is really only a supporting character in this film. He played Mr. Scratch aka the Devil in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) but is best remembered for his role of Howard in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).
  • Anne Revere also worked with Boris Karloff in The Devil Commands (1941).
  • Harry Morgan (Klaas Bleecker), billed here as Henry Morgan, is best remembered for playing Col. Potter in 188 episodes of M*A*S*H (1975-1983) and Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967-1970).
  • Spring Byington (Magda) was a well-known character actress in more than 100 film and TV credits. Batman fans might remember her for playing J. Pauline Spaghetti in two episodes in the second season of the late 60s classic series.

Old Time Radio: Dragonwyck was presented on the Lux Radio Theatre on Oct. 7, 1946.

Availability: Dragonwyck is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. It was also released on DVD in the Fox Horror Classics Collection Vol. 2 but is now out-of-print.

Countdown to Halloween Day 11 – Shock (1946)

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Countdown to Halloween Day 11 – Shock (1946)
Cast:       Vincent Price as Dr. Richard Cross
Lynn Bari as Nurse Elaine Jordan
Frank Latimore as Lt. Paul Stewart
Anabel Shaw as Mrs. Janet Stewart

Story by Albert deMond
Screenplay by Eugene Ling
Directed by Alfred Werker

Release Date: February 1, 1946

Plot: A woman witnesses a murder and, upon being committed to a hospital, finds that her doctor is the killer. Now, she desperately tries to convince everyone else she is not insane before he kills her. Will he get away with two murders?

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Richard’s Review: This one isn’t too bad but not necessarily one of Vincent Price’s best films. His character is quite the weasel, allowing a woman to so easily push him into not one but two murders. His battle with his conscience was interesting but how nobody else seemed to question him was frustrating to watch. Paul Stewart also seemed way too trusting. Worth watching once or twice if you were doing something else but, ultimately, rather forgettable.

Karla’s Thoughts: I don’t think I’d rewatch this one again. It left me with a lot of questions, such as why the husband would just randomly trust a doctor he never met and, once he knew Price was trying to kill his wife, why did he not knock him out? Price was good but he played a really weak character, too easily swayed by the nurse. Not horrible but not worth watching again.

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Trivia:

  • Alfred Werker also directed The House of Rothschild (1934) with Boris Karloff, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) with Basil Rathbone, and A- Haunting We Will Go (1942) with Laurel and Hardy.
  • Albert deMond also wrote The Sphinx (1933) with Lionel Atwill and The Crimson Ghost (1946).
  • Eugene Ling’s last screen credit was the underrated classic, Hand of Death (1962), starring John Agar.
  • Lynn Bari also starred in The Amazing Mr. X (1948) and Mr. Moto’s Gamble (1938) with Peter Lorre.
  • Frank Latimore worked with Orson Welles in Black Magic (1949), as well as several classics later in his career, including Patton (1970) and All The President’s Men (1976).

Old Time Radio: Shock was presented on Hollywood Star Time on Feb. 3, 1946.

Availability: Shock is available on DVD.