Posts Tagged ‘Vincent Price’

Have Gun Will Travel Featuring Vincent Price

Today’s blog is for a great blogathon, Big Stars on the Small Screen,  and it’s found at  How Sweet it Was.  Be sure to click on the link to read great posts about Hollywood stars who decided to brave the world of television.

Big Stars on the Small Screen   In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, television was making it’s entrance into American homes.  Movie studios were understandably worried that this new medium would cut into their profits and keep potential movie goers from coming to the theatres.   Aging movie stars,  neglected or let go by their longtime studios, as well as up and coming stars,  gladly turned to this new medium as another way to keep on working in their chosen field of acting.

Vincent Price( who’s movie career began in the late 1930′s) by the 1950′s had begun to play in horror films which would become his trademark.  When I was a kid, I thought horror movies were the only movies Price appeared in.   From becoming a fan of classic movies I now know how wrong I was!   Price was quite a versatile actor.  Beginning with stage roles and branching into film, it was a logical step for an actor of his abilities  to enter  the medium of television with ease.  He did just that with the Season 2, episode 15 of the Western television hit, Have Gun Will Travel.

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

In 2011, my older kids and I watched the movie Stand by Me.  When the boys in the movie began to sing the theme song for Have Gun Will Travel, my kids asked me about the song.  I knew enough to tell them that  it was the theme song for a popular weekly western tv show that aired in the 1950s.  I decided to do an internet search on Youtube for the song and discovered that some kind soul had put episodes of Have Gun Will Travel on Youtube.  I began to watch the  episodes when I could and got hooked!

Have Gun Will Travel is all about a mysterious man named Paladin.  He lives in a fancy hotel, The Carleton, in San Francisco, circa 1870s.  He dresses in fine clothes, knows gourmet foods, wines, is well-read,  is a very clever man, and appreciates beautiful ladies.  He is also a gun for hire.  Paladin, played with exceptional skill by Richard Boone, would scan the newspapers from around the country, or would receive a letter, asking him for help.  The next scenes would revolve around Paladin, now dressed all in black, on his horse, with his guns, and a hidden derringer, riding into the countryside to his destination in order to solve a person’s problem, for a  fee.  Even though Paladin was a hired gun, he always used wisdom, common sense, logic, and made sure justice was done.  He wasn’t afraid to also quote famous poems or lines from Shakespeare’s plays to help him get a point across.

Richard Boone as Paladin

Richard Boone as Paladin

Have Gun will Travel card

Have Gun Will Travel aired on CBS from 1957-1963, making  the top 10 of television shows during those years.   Season 2, episode 15, The Moor’s Revenge, was the one that starred Vincent Price.   Vincent portrays Shakespearean actor Charles Matthews.  He is successfully touring the western part of the U.S. performing  Shakespeare’s Othello.  Miss Victoria Vestris(Patricia Morrison) is his co-star, his Desdemona, and his wife.   Paladin is at their performance in San Francisco and enjoys it immensely.  Later, at a dinner he has invited Matthews and his wife to, Paladin finds out that their next stop is a small, southern California town called San Diego. Paladin warns them not to go there as it will be the big Cattle Round-Up and the town will be full of cowboys who just want to drink, gamble, and be around the dance hall gals.  Matthews and Vestris scoff at Paladin.  After they leave the dinner, Paladin mails his business card to the owner of San Diego’s Opera House, a Mr. Bellingham(Morey Amsterdam, before he ever appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show) and offers to protect the actors during their San Diego run.

Price on Have Gun Will Travel

Price on Have Gun Will Travel

Matthews and Miss Vestris arrive in San Diego and are shocked and dismayed when they see that the “Opera House” is really a saloon and that the  marquee advertising their performance conveys the following message:  See ALL of Victoria Vestris…Beauty Unadorned!  With Comical Charlie Matthews.  That wasn’t what they were planning on presenting to the citizens of San Diego!  What will they now do?  Also, thrown into the plot for good measure is a surly, hulking cowboy, Ben Jackson(Richard Shannon)who is obsessed with Miss Vestris.  When he overhears that she and Matthews are refusing to perform their show in a saloon, he threatens to kill Mr. Bellingham.  Will Paladin be able to save the show, save the saloon from being torn apart by drunk cowboys, and protect Matthews, Miss Vestris, and Mr. Bellingham  from a cowboy stalker?

Patricia Morrison as Victorica Vestri

Patricia Morrison as Victorica Vestri

Morey Amsterdam as Mr. Bellingham

Morey Amsterdam as Mr. Bellingham

Richard Shannon as Ben Jackson

Richard Shannon as Ben Jackson

As I mentioned earlier, someone has put episodes of Have Gun Will Travel on Youtube and The Moor’s Revenge is one of those.  Click on this link Have Gun Will Travel Season 2 Episode 15 -The Moor’s Revenge and you can view the episode in its entirety.

Price is great as the sort of hammy Shakespearean actor who is stubborn, insisting that the works of the great Bard of Avon will soothe rowdy, drunken cowboys.  Morrison is also good as his “drama queen” of a type wife.  Amsterdam plays the bewildered owner of the saloon well, and Shannon is great as the menacing cowboy.  Of course, Boone is great too, as the very capable Paladin.  I also want to add that this episode was directed by Andrew McLaglen, son of the actor Victor McLaglen, who often appeared in John Ford’s western films, and won an Oscar for Best Actor in  1935 for The Informer.  I am assuming  Andrew probably grew up on movie sets and was drawn into the career of directing.  He directed some western films himself and a lot of the Have Gun Will Travel episodes.

My Classic Movie Pick: His Kind of Woman

Film Noir is a genre of movies that usually have the feelings  of negativity, sadness, pessimism, and danger.    The French coined the phrase to describe American detective stories made in the 1940s-1950s.  I like a good Film Noir, with it’s hero working against the odds to figure out who the baddies are, often dealing  with a beautiful femme fatale out for her own preservation and, and lots of  interesting  side characters who add to the plots.  My movie pick, His Kind of Woman is a Film Noir, but with a difference.  It has  some comedy thrown in for an unusual mix, and the comedy is supplied by Vincent Price, the King of Horror films!

His Kind of Woman poster 1

Robert Mitchum is the hero of this movie.  He is Dan Milner,  a down on his luck gambler.  He’s been approached to live in Mexico for 1 year, and  he’ll be paid $50,000 for his troubles, and is given $20,000 to start his journey.   Dan is curious as to who wants him to live in Mexico for a year, thinking it is a pretty weird request.  Since he’s currently broke, he decides to do as he’s been asked, and takes a flight to his first stop, Nogales, Mexico.  While waiting in the airport bar for his next flight, Dan is happy to listen to a beautiful singer, Lenore Brent(Jane Russell).  Lenore seems irritated by Dan’s attention and  manages to keep him at arms length.   Dan is  delighted to find out that Lenore will  be flying on the same plane with him to his final destination, Morro’s Lodge, in the Baja region.  Lenore tells Dan that  she is an heiress and a singer and that he doesn’t interest her as she has a “friend” she’s meeting at Morro’s.His Kind of Woman Mitchum and Russell have chemistry

Once at Morro’s, Dan figures out who Lenore’s friend is, movie actor Mark Cardigan(Vincent Price).  Price is an absolute joy to watch in this movie.  He is excellent in his  portrayal of  a hammy, full-of-himself actor who just happens to be a great hunter.  Later on in the movie, he saves Dan’s bacon when the bad guy’s henchmen show up to kill Dan.  Cardigan also has romance troubles, as his wife shows up at Morro’s to tell him that she doesn’t want a divorce.  His agent has also come along to tell Cardigan that a divorce could give him negative views in the public’s opinion.  Cardigan is adamant at keeping a positive image so he breaks things off with Lenore.  Lenore confesses to Dan that she’s not really an heiress but she is a singer, and she  thought a rich husband would give her the ticket to the good life.   Dan is quite ready to show Lenore that a rich husband isn’t the be all and end all of life.

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

The main bad guy in the movie is Nick Ferraro(Raymond Burr-a far cry from his Perry Mason and Ironside days!)  Ferraro is a gangster who had been deported 4 years before.  Living in Italy, he was getting worried about his monetary holdings still in the U.S. and came up with a crazy plot to get back into America: find a guy who is the same height and weight as himself, a guy who is a loner without a family, and with the help of a plastic surgeon, kill the loner guy and have his face surgically put upon Ferraro’s face!

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

This brings about Bill Lusk(Tim Holt) who is able to inform that he is an undercover agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  He tells Dan about Ferraro and that the Service knows the Ferraro is itching to get back into the country and that they think he’d try to disguise himself in some way and that Dan may have been brought to Morro’s to be the victim of Ferraro’s plans.

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

There is a minor subplot of an unhappy bride on her honeymoon watching her new husband gambling away their money to a vacationing banker, Myron Winton(Jim Backus-Mr. Thurston Howell III himself!!) Dan steps in and helps the husband regain his lost money and gives the newlyweds  advice to  stay away from the gambling tables.

Helping the Newlyweds

Helping the Newlyweds

His Kind of Woman was directed by John Farrow, written by Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard, and produced by Robert Sparks.  It was distributed by RKO Studios, but Howard Hughes, who had taken over the running of RKO in 1948, meddled in the production of His Kind of Woman and after Farrow’s work was done, Hughes had director Richard Fleischer re-direct many scenes in the movie!  The film was finished in 1950 but sat on a shelf until it’s release in August of 1951.  Despite Hughes’s fiddling with the film, it was a box office hit for RKO.   His Kind of Woman is available at Amazon.  It is available as a single dvd or in a dvd set with 3 other Film Noirs.

With Russell and Mitchum as the movie’s center, a puzzle of a plot, action, and the fun that Vincent Price brings to his role, His Kind of Woman is an unusual Film Noir, worth a viewing, and it’s one of my favorites.  Here’s a trailer that audiences would have seen in 1951 for advertising purposes for His Kind of Woman.

His Kind of Woman movie poster 2

For the Terrorthon: 1953′s House of Wax

When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s, we had a great cable television station to tune into, Channel 50, which  beamed into our northwest Ohio home via Detroit, Michigan.   On Saturday afternoons  at 3:00 p.m., Channel 50 would air Chiller Theater.   My brother and I would tune in regularly and that is where I saw a horror movie that truly gave me a scare: 1953′s House of Wax, starring the wonderful Vincent Price.   Warner Brothers distributed this film, directed by Andre de Toth and produced by Bryan Foy.  Price’s co-stars were Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson, Carolyn Jones, and Phyllis Kirk.  House of Wax was a remake of an earlier Warner Brother’s  movie, 1933′s Mystery of the Wax Museum.   This newer version was the first film to combine technicolor with the 3-D filming technique.House of Wax

Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent  Price)  is  a creative, artistic genius when it comes to making wax sculptures of people.  He and a business partner, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts)  have opened up a wax museum in New York City.  One evening, Burke visits the museum to appeal to Jarrod to make displays that depict infamous and evil people, to lure in more paying customers.  Jarrod refuses to make such exhibits.  He is an artist and doesn’t want to make such macabre displays!   Burke then  announces that if the  museum were to burn in a  fire, they would collect the insurance money.  Jarrod is horrified that Burke would suggest such a thing, decrying the plan because that would mean destroying “his friends”; it is at this point that the audience  knows that Jarrod is  a bit crazy, as he refers to his statues as if they are real, treating them with kindness and respect as he displays them.  Burke, ignoring Jarrod’s protests, sets the skirt of Marie Antoinette on fire and when Jarrod tries to put out the flames, Burke starts setting other exhibits on fire.  He and Jarrod have a fist fight and Jarrod is knocked out, falling onto the  Joan of Ark  display.  Burke then finds a flammable liquid to toss around the museum, and he also turns on the gas lights so that  natural gas will fill the place!   Jarrod awakens, tries to stop Burke, who does manage to flee.  Jarrod tries to stop the inferno, but a part of the building collapses on him and after the fire is over, his body isn’t found.    Seeing those wax figures begin to melt, to burn, to see their eyes pop out of their heads, to see their heads break off their bodies, and to see the bodies crumple in the flames,   to me as a child, that was a very, very  creepy scene!

So scary to me: Melting wax figures!!

So scary to me: Melting wax figures!!

Admiring his Marie Antoinette.

Admiring his Marie Antoinette.

Time marches on and the film focuses on the two ladies in the story, Cathy Gray(Carolyn Jones) and Sue Allen(Phyllis Kirk).  The ladies are good friends, they room at the same boarding house,  and it just so happens that Cathy’s fiance is Matthew Burke!  Sue, herself, has a boyfriend, Scott Andrews(Paul Picerni) who just happens to be a  sculpter for a new wax museum that is opening under the direction of Professor Henry Jarrod!  Jarrod did  survive the fire, but his hands were permanently damaged, so he has had to turn to new artists to help with his sculptures, including another new assistant, who is a mute, Igor(Charles Bronson, but the credits will have his real name listed, Charles Buchinsky.)   Jarrod is also in a wheelchair, as the fire  damaged his legs.  One evening as Cathy is getting ready for a date with Burke, the camera cuts to Burke’s home and a dark, shadowy figure wearing a large hat  and a black cape sneaks into Burke’s home and strangles him!   Burke’s death by a sinister figure dressed in black, who sneaks in and out of the shadows, striking at night, that really  scared me as I watched the film!!   The police are called and Lt. Tom Brennan(Frank Lovejoy) and his assistant, Sgt. Jim Shane(Dabs Greer), are called to the scene of Burke’s murder.

The police are starting to ask questions about the Professor and his museum.

The police are starting to ask questions.

Strangely, bodies begin to disappear from the morgues in New York City, including Burke’s murdered body.  Professor Jarrod has new exhibits being made ready for his museum.  Taking  his late business partner’s advice, the new  exhibits focus on  gruesome scenes of torture or death, some exalting horrible  people.   Sue  visits the museum with her  boyfriend, Scott.  Professor Jarrod is introduced to her and he is immediately drawn to Sue, saying she reminds him of  his Marie Antoinette figure.   It is obvious that upon meeting  Jarrod,  Sue has an intuitive dislike of the man and his museum, but she is tactful about hiding her feelings.  Days go by and one evening  that creepy, shadowy figure in black sneaks  into Cathy’s bedroom and murders her!  A couple nights later, that same shadowy figure steals  Cathy’s body from the morgue.  The shadowy figure happens upon Sue one night as she is walking home alone.  Sue senses she is being followed and with a glance over her shoulder, she sees the creepy figure moving quickly in the shadows, stalking her.  Fortunately she arrives safely to her destination.  The stalker tries to also harm Sue as she is sleeping, but her screams successfully drive the fiend away. Oh how those scenes worried me!!

Stealing Cathy's body from the morgue.

Stealing Cathy’s body from the morgue.

Sue being stalked by the creepy, shadowy figure!

Sue being stalked by the creepy, shadowy figure!

Sue's screams scare away the stalker!!

Sue’s screams scare away the stalker!!

Sue visits the museum again in order to wait for Scott to get off of work.  As she walks around, she notices that the Joan statue in the Joan of Ark exhibit looks a lot like her dead friend Cathy!  Sue shares her fear with Scott and they decide to go to the police.    Sue bravely decides she must find out what has happened to Cathy’s body so she goes alone to the museum and plans to hide there  to explore the Joan of Ark exhibit  after the museum  is closed for the  evening.    She discovers that the figure of Joan of Ark is really Cathy’s dead body!!!!    Professor Jarrod discovers Sue in his museum and with the help of Igor, catches her.  As Sue confronts Jarrod, hitting him with her fists, his face crumbles off in bits and his true face is revealed: a horribly scarred, burned visage is shown, and we know that Jarrod has been the shadowy figure creeping at night finding victims to murder and then putting them into  wax to be  sculptures for his museum!!!  Sue faints at the horrible sight of Jarrod’s face, and he orders Igor to take her below to the wax works.  We next see Sue, waking up from her unconscious state, to find herself chained inside of a long, wooden box with four, high sides.  Her wrists are chained down to the box’s bottom as are her ankles.   Jarrod explains that his plan is to cover her body in extremely hot wax, she’ll die, and then she’ll live on as his Marie Antoinette.  The tension builds as time will be running out for Sue as the wax increases in temperature and begins to flow through intricate tubing where it will soon empty on top of her!   Back at the police station, the officers and Scott and wondering where Sue is, as she didn’t meet them as planned.  As the wax gets hotter and hotter, the police finally get to the museum!  In the nick of time, the good guys arrive, break into the museum, rescue Sue, deal with Igor, and Jarrod gets his own hot wax treatment, by accident.

Cathy's body is the Joan of Ark Statue!!

Cathy’s body is the Joan of Ark Statue!!

Examining the Joan of Ark statue.

Examining the Joan of Ark statue.

Sue sharing her suspicions to the police.

Sue sharing her suspicions to the police.

As I pointed out earlier, this film was  a remake, of sorts, to an earlier Warner Brothers horror film, 1933′s Mystery of the Wax Museum.  I discovered in my research that the 1953 film is  available on a double-feature  dvd,  with the 1933 film.  Some more interesting factoids I discovered were that Jack Warner was reluctant to green light this project, but he finally did and the movie was made in 28 days at a cost of $618,000.  It made a great profit, $23,750,000!   Andre de Toth, the director, was legally blind in one eye, so 3-D effects he couldn’t see and yet for a 3-D film, it is one of the better ones.  Midway through the film is a famous scene of a paddle-ball player showing off his talents and talking right to the camera and aiming his paddle-ball there, one of the 3-D aspects of the film.  This was also the first horror movie Vincent Price starred in, and he did such a fantastic job with the part, that more and more horror parts started coming his way and through horror films he made a name for himself.   Carolyn Jones went on to famously play Morticia Addams in the television comedy The Addams Family, and Charles Buchinsky famously renamed himself Charles Bronson and went on to stardom in many action movies.

Professor Jarrod's real face!

Professor Jarrod’s real face!

Telling Sue how she'll die!

Telling Sue how she’ll die!

Vincent Price is excellent as Professor Jarrod.  Before he suffers from the fire, we can see his love for his art, his politeness to all he is in contact with, we see his decency as a person.  When the wax figures are first threatened with fire by Burke, we start to see the slight madness of Jarrod through his reaction to the threat.  It is a subtle turning of Price’s character, and he performs it so well.  The eerie scene of melting wax figures that seem human-like, the creepy, dark figure sneaking into people’s homes at night to kill them, the stealing of dead bodies at the morgue, the stalking and attempted harm to Sue, all of these elements helped to make 1953′s House of Wax a horror movie that truly scared me as a child.

A publicity still  for the 3-D effects for House of Wax.

A publicity still for the 3-D effects for House of Wax.

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