|A little devil provides bad advice!|
1. Champagne for Caesar
(1950). It's a shame that Vincent Price didn't make more straight comedies because he's hilarious as a business tycoon in this underrated gem. He plays Burnbridge "Dirty" Waters, owner of the Milady Soap company ("the soap that sanctifies") and sponsor of a popular quiz show called "Masquerade for Money." When Burnbridge doesn't hire an overqualified genius (Ronald Colman), the latter gains revenge by winning big on the quiz show. My favorite scene is when Burnbridge contemplates killing Colman's character, getting advice from a little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other (both played by Price, of course).
|Gene Tierney and Vincent Price.|
(1944). In another atypical role, Price is perfection as Shelby Carpenter, a worthless playboy that lives off older women but somehow manages to get engaged to Gene Tierney's title character (one of the true mysteries in the film!). He and Clifton Webb steal the movie...and get all the good lines, such as: "I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes."
3. The Baron of Arizona
(1950). I'm not sure why Samuel Fuller's fascinating fact-based tale of one of the greatest American scams isn't better known. It provides Price with a dandy role as a meticulous con artist who masterminds an incredible scheme to claim ownership of the Arizona territory (prior to it becoming a state). Like the best villains, Price's character has his good points (he truly loves his wife). In fact, I found myself rooting for him to succeed (despite knowing that he wouldn't).
|Price as stage actor Edward Lionheart.|
4. Theatre of Blood
(1973). Several of Vincent Price's later performances skewed toward being hammy. In this black comedy, he plays a ham--a Shakespearean actor who attempts suicide after being skewered by the critics and ignored at the awards once too often. He survives, though, and with help from his daughter (Diana Rigg), he exacts revenge on those pompous theatre critics. Price is a delight, reenacting death scenes from Shakespeare with relish. It was one of Price's favorite films and, ironically, earned some of the best reviews of his career.
5. House of Usher
(1960). Price gave fine performances in several of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. In fact, one could plug Pit and the Pendulum (
or The Masque of the Red Death
(1964) into this slot and you'd find no argument from me. I opted for this one because Price is compelling as Roderick Usher and because it was the first of the Price-Poe-Corman collaborations.Honorable Mentions: The Last Man on Earth
(1964), in which Price plays the lone human survivor after a plague of vampirism.