WATCHING ROGER CORMAN’S THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) AT THE IRISH FILM INSTITUTE WITH VINCENT PRICE’S DAUGHTER!!! BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
The Irish Film Institute’s annual Horrorthon (2015) had been over for scarcely a week when it was time to tread the familiar cobbles of Eustace Street again for an even more special event. Victoria Price, beloved daughter of legendary horror actor Vincent Price, was coming to the IFI as a precursor to a major event in London celebrating her dad’s legacy.
AN EVENING WITH VICTORIA PRICE cost a modest twelve euros and included the following goodies: an hour-long talk/presentation by the lady herself all about her famous father; a chance to buy some special Vincent Price merchandise and have them signed by Miss Price; and, finally, a special screening of one of her dad’s most famous films, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, for which Miss Price would be staying. It was an opportunity not to be missed.
I got to meet her and shake hands (I touched her, I actually touched her!) before her talk started. Stylishly but practically dressed in grey and black with silver rings on her fingers, she was lovely and smiley and very gracious. She told me that her favourite film of her father’s was LAURA with Gene Tierney. Well, that was one of my pre-prepared questions answered, anyway…! It was an auspicious start.
Victoria Price is a great talker and she and her dad were very close. She talked about him with boundless affection and at great length. With the use of some gorgeous slides, she chatted easily and informally for over an hour about possibly the most famous horror actor the world has ever known. Though he was a theatre actor as well and starred in films of other genres beside horror, it’s probably for his horror stuff that he’s best known.
The most well-known and successful of his horror films were HOUSE OF WAX (1953) and Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the 1960s which include: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960), THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964). Although my personal favourite of all his films is WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), I saw HOUSE OF WAX on the big screen earlier this year and I totally fell in love with it.
Victoria (yes, that’s what I call her now that we’re pals, haha!) told a funny story about her father popping into the cinema one afternoon back in the day for a matinée performance of HOUSE OF WAX, after it had been running for an unprecedented amount of time. He sat behind two young ladies who squealed in fear and clutched each other in delicious terror at all the scary bits.
When the film ended, he leaned over and asked them in his full-on, distinctive and lugubriously sinister ‘Vincent Price’ tones: ‘Did you enjoy that…?’ and the two young ladies screamed the place down and jumped out of their skins at the unexplained materialisation behind them of the villain of the piece…! (Admit it, you read that in his voice, didn’t you…?)
We heard about Vincent Price’s lifelong passion for collecting art and his tireless campaign to bring fine art to the American public at accessible prices. We heard about his love for gourmet cooking and the cookery book he co-wrote with Victoria’s mother Mary, A TREASURY OF GREAT RECIPES BY VINCENT AND MARY PRICE.
The cookbook was available to buy on the night for the alarming price of (wait for it!) sixty-five euros. Sixty-five euros…! Mind you, it’s a gorgeous big glossy doorstop of a book that would grace any coffee-table in the world and you could get it signed however you wanted but, still and all, I was kind of glad that I’m no great shakes in the kitchen. Sixty-five euros for a bleedin’ cookbook…!
One of the sweetest anecdotes Victoria told was the one about how her dear old dad always carried a plastic fork (or two!) in the breast pocket of his shirt (she had a slide which proved it) in case the opportunity to taste any interesting food cropped up unexpectedly. He had a great appetite, she told us, not just for food but for life, and in fact the theme of the talk was the one simple word: YES. Her dad’s philosophy in life was to say ‘yes’ to things and his daughter urged us all to do the same.
She also urged us to feel joy wherever possible and told us about her blog in which she advocates the ‘daily practice of joy.’ I left the IFI that night feeling a bit like I’d just emerged from a Brad Goodman seminar. You know Brad Goodman from THE SIMPSONS…? The ‘DO WHAT YOU FEEL’ guy…? I wanted to say ‘yes’ to everything, haha! Good job I didn’t meet any horny exes on the way home…
Victoria also told us an hilarious anecdote about how when her dad’s great pal Bette Davis phoned their house looking for him and Coral Browne, Vincent Price’s third wife, answered the phone, Bette would just say ‘Vincent!’ in icy-cold tones until Coral went and fetched him to the phone. Clearly no love lost there, then!
I also loved the story about Victoria being in a shop in our very own Malahide during her stay in Ireland this week and hearing Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ come on the radio with, of course, her lovely dad’s voice in the middle of it doing the spooky spoken-word bit. I felt a wee bit tearful at that point. The bit about the latter part of Vincent Price’s career in general was heartbreaking. God love him, he carried on acting almost right to the end of his long and fruitful life.
At the break, I bought a copy of VINCENT PRICE: A DAUGHTER’S BIOGRAPHY BY VICTORIA PRICE (1999) for a slightly less terrifying twenty-five quid. Victoria signed it: To Sandra Harris, In Joy! Victoria Price. Absolutely delighted with myself after getting a second cordial handshake from Vincent Price’s daughter, I settled down to watch THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), a gloriously gothic film of about eighty to eighty-five minutes long. Directed by Roger Corman, it stars Vincent Price, Elizabeth Shepherd, John Westbrook and Derek Francis.
Vincent Price plays Verdun Fell, a strange, dark-glasses-wearing character who lives with his servants in a fabulously run-down old abbey and mourns the loss of his beautiful wife, Ligeia. A chance meeting at his wife’s grave, of all places, leads to marriage with a new, aristocratic young woman by the name of Rowena Trevanion.
Rowena, in typically female-fashion, ignores all indications that her new love is still bats**t-crazy about his deceased missus and, some would say, just plain crazy in general. She powers heedlessly through with her marriage to Verdun so you might say that she only has herself to blame when she discovers that all is not quite as it seems at the Abbey. When she begins to think that Ligeia is still alive and taunting her from a hidden location in the Abbey, things take a sinister turn indeed…
The scenery in this film is breath-taking and Vincent Price is brilliant as always, though he’s more morose in this role than his usual tongue-in-cheek self. I absolutely loved Oliver Johnston as Kenrick the faithful old retainer and, I’m sorry to say, I hated that bloody cat. He was just way too scratch-happy!
I found the film a tad confusing towards the end with regard to which wife was alive and which was dead and which wife was doing what to whom and why, but other than that it’s a truly gorgeous, visually stunning film and one of Vincent Price’s most memorable roles. He definitely should’ve gone to SpecSavers, though…!
The film ended just after midnight, by which time I was utterly exhausted. Yeah yeah, I just don’t have the stamina anymore. I stopped for some dubious chips and an even more dubious burger on the way home. The streets of Dublin were quiet as the October Bank Holiday and Halloween were just over and people were minding their pennies. I had plenty of opportunity to think about everything I’d seen and heard that evening and, boy, what an evening it had been!
In the space of a week, I’d met Hammer actress Caroline Munro at the IFI Horrorthon and now I’d met Vincent Price’s daughter, his actual daughter, as well. A lot of the actors and actresses I’d have absolutely loved to have met may sadly all have passed on, but in terms of meeting special people who were close to other special people I’m not doing too badly. In fact, I’m not doing too badly at all.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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