Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vincent Price: The Art of Fear

So...while I was browsing through the library's online catalog in search of Vincent Price films to watch for my R.I.P. Screening entries (VP mini-marathon), I came across the book Vincent Price: The Art of Fear by Denis Meikle.  Meikle has put together an exhaustive chronicle featuring all of Price's work in the horror/thriller field from his work in The Invisible Man Returns and the Tower of London in 1939 to his final appearance in Edward Scissorhands (1989).  Price began his career as handsome character actor and sometimes leading man, but soon found himself playing sympathetic villains in the horror movies that were becoming popular.  He took center stage at a time before special effects and the proliferation of blood and gore became the driving force of the genre--a time when skillful acting was primary and lighting, setting, and atmosphere were the supports.

Meikle's book contains plenty of anecdotes and background information--lots of interesting details for the Vincent Price fan.  He also incorporates insightful comments from collaborators like Roger Corman and Richard Matheson.  There are scores of pictures--many rare and previously unpublished stills.  Given all that, this book should be a delight for Price and horror fans alike.  However, much as I enjoyed learning about Price's films, I get the feeling that Meikle doesn't like Price's work much. Very few of the films earn any sort of praise, many of them are praised with faint damns, and only a couple merit any sort of real praise at all.  Meikle seems to take great exception to the campy, over-the-top nature of so many of the horror films (and those of the 50s in particular).  He doesn't seem to understand 1) the time period in which those films were made or 2) that the campy thrills and chills are part of the appeal for those of us who look back on these movies.  And, yet, one of the films that receives a great deal of attention and praise is Theatre of Blood--a most over-the-top performance indeed.  How much more over the top can one get than a Shakespearean actor overplaying the lines while murdering his "enemies" according to Shakespeare's plays?

I recommend the book for the facts, anecdotes, rarely seen pictures, and the commentary from Corman and Matheson.  I suggest that Meikle's point of view be taken with a grain of salt.  Three stars.

1 comment:

Fay said...

All those films, and he was a gourmet cook as well. I keep meaning to look up his cookbook.