10/27/08

The Halloween Top 13: Number 5: Madhouse

Down to number five, and down to the czar of gothic horror, Vincent Price. I've been a fan of Vince's since probably the Thriller video, or when he was on the Muppets, or maybe with Alice Cooper in the My Nightmare concert video, or could it have been the Time Life books? Whenever I came about it, from that point on I never turned down a Price film. I've been lucky enough to have a friend like Fran Goria, and if there's one thing Fran loves, it's ol' Vinny P. (If it's two things it would be Price and Fresca.) She has become Price zealot of the highest order; she has the shrine to prove it. So it was through Fran that I first saw tonight's film. It's a tidy suspense tale filled with big hats, skull masks, and crazy spider ladies. All of these you will meet when you step inside the...

Madhouse (1974) starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Robert Quarry, Directed by Joe Hill.

The film begins some years ago in Hollywood, when the Doctor Death franchise was raking in loads of dough for actor Paul Toomes (Price). The film fiend is hosting a screening of his film on New Years Eve, and announces he will marry the pretty, young co-star of his next film. Toomes meets a Mr. Quayle who informs Paul that his fiancee Ellen used to be in "art films." Toomes ejects the smut peddler from his party, but Paul also breaks it off with Ellen. Come midnight Paul finds Ellen to make up with her, but he finds her with her head cut cleanly off. Paul doesn't even know if he did it or not which sends him on a one way trip to the funny farm.

Some years later Toomes is ready to work again to help out his friend Herbert (Cushing) who was the writer of the Dr. Death movies. The job is with now producer Oliver Quayle for a series of Dr. Death shows. They begin to work on a new series, but soon girls are dropping left and right, and all of them in ways that Dr. Death has dispatched of his victims. Paul is soon under suspicion, which he still suspects might be warranted. Soon the mark of the real Doctor turns to Toomes. Can he escape the silver screen slasher coming for him, or will he fall prey to the traps of the mind.

Film Facts
--During the costume party scene, Robert Quarry wore his costume for his starring role in
Count Yorga, Vampire

--This was the last mjor production for Vincent Price and ended his long relationship with American International pictures whom he had worked for since the days of the Roger Corman Poe movies,

--Vincent Price sings the song over the end credits,

--The movie is based on the book Devilday by Angus Hall.

Why Do I Love It?
I love it because it's Price and Cushing's steady pimpin' movie. From Price's huge fedora to Cushing rocking the hipster ascot, the clothes make these men. Playing a worn out horror icon, Price injected this final starring piece with a wise balance of the erudite actor with the typical broadly acted self caricature. The latter a style he used so well in The Pit and the Pendulum and the Doctor Goldfoot films. Madhouse also appeals to me because it has the feeling of a castrated giallo. Plenty of black gloves are on display, and the Toombs descent into
madness gave the plot sufficient thrills. The only really unfortunate thing about the film is the shots of the killer. Instead of the bad ass Dr. Death makeup Price sports in his film, the killer dons a skull mask that looks like Screams ugly brother. Since we never see Price's character really reek havoc, it is somewhat disappointing. The clips of Price's early career when he was in films like The Raven with Karloff and his work with Basil Rathbone in Tales of Terror added a new layer of realism to the narrative by allowing us to easily accept that Toombs "is" Vincent Price. It's got everything I want in a Vincent Price film, and yet it's still a bit of PG rated fluff. What saves it is that it gets transformed by the two venerable actors. It's a great movie to sit around and watch with a friend like Fran and I did today. The simple truth is this movie is here in number five because Halloween is Vincent Price.
Bug Rating




Tonight our Top 5 Comes straight from Mark of Mary Shelley Overdrive. The band that is the stuff of myth and legend. To start Mark's e-mail he included a few legends with his first list:

Blacula In Space
Dr. Funkenstein Versus The Creature Of The White Lagoon
Rodzilla (obscure Japanese horror-porn)
Jesse James Versus Frankenstein's Daughter
The Horror of The Hypno-Hustler
Ok, now that I've got you worried, here's the real deal:
1. The Carlos Villarias version of Dracula: No disrespect to Lugosi or Browning, whose work I love, but this is the superior tale. Filmed on the same set, using the same marks, but filmed at night by George Melford after Browning's crew had left for the day, it's a moodier, more stylish film. Besides, Lupita Tovar was way sexier than Helen Chandler.
2. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari: Despite probably 100 or more viewings this silent classic, Werner Krauss still creeps me the hell out.
3.Nosferatu: I've been trying all night, and I can't put it any better than this: "... this first important film of the vampire genre has more spectral atmosphere, more ingenuity, and more imaginative ghoulish ghastliness than any of its successors." - Pauline Kael.
4.The Blair Witch Project: Stylish, low budget, headache inducing greatness. The promotional work was brilliant; to this day I still meet people who think this "documentary" is real.
5.The Night Of The Living Dead: The first movie to really scare the hell out of me as a kid. I still have problems going into basements.
Great List Mark, but you really did have me worried there that I had somehow missed out on and instant classic like Blackula in Space. We'll be hearing a bit more about some of the films on your second list coming up here shortly, so join us back here tomorrow for number 4. Until then Mark also included a festive SNL skit that's perfect for the season.

5 comments:

  1. How the hell have I not seen this?! I'm not even sure if I've heard of it and it looks/sounds really good. I will be checking this one out fo sure.

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  2. Enjoy Rev. would love to see what you think about it.

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  3. I've never seen this one either. I like to know how I missed this one myself. Going to Netflix right now. Great review!

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  4. I LOVE LOVE this movie. A must for any Price fan. However, I do wish that the top 5 list of fake movies were real movies.

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  5. And it's got Michael Parkinson in it!
    Wonderful stuff.

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