Plot: What’s it about?
This Scream Legends Collection salutes of horror’s timeless icons, Vincent Price. A master of cinema, Price could be eerie, shifty, noble, and even humorous. His presence in a movie is a sure sign that its worth a look, as his role alone will be reason enough to check it out. In this five disc collection, we have seven of his spookier movies plus a bonus Disc of Horror, in which his colleagues and fans pay tribute to the legend. The assortment is great too, with both Dr. Phibes sure to please, the memorable Theater of Blood, two horror anthologies, and the shocking Witchfinder General, not to mention Madhouse, which teams Price with Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry. These movies have all been available at some point as solo releases, but if you’ve missed out, this Scream Legends Collection is worth a look.
1. Tales of Terror- Here we have three chilling tales of the macabre, starting off with Morella. A grieving husband (Vincent Price) has been in shambles since his wife’s death three years back. Unable to move forward with his life, the man has turned to booze and his life now is bitter and cold. He refused to even let his wife be buried, so he put her corpse on the bed they shared. But when his daughter arrives and discovers the morose situation, how will she react? Next is The Cask of Amontillado, in which a drunken fool named Montresore (Peter Lorre) finds himself encouraged by his wife to spend money, whereas before, it was a chore to ask for even a small amount. But he discovers her generous turn is to do the attention of another man, how far will he go to ensure vengeance is served? The finale tale is The Case of Mr. Valdemar, in which Mr. Valdemar (Vincent Price) suffers from a painful and fatal ailment, but is offered relief by a mesmerist (Basil Rathbone). Those close to Valdemar warn him of the man’s intentions, but does he seek only to help Valdemar, or does he indeed have darker intentions?
2. Twice Told Tales- Twice Told Tales is a collection of three horrific stories, told in sequence to enhance the sheer terror found within each one. The first is Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, in which the good Doctor has noble intentions, but lives to regret the work he has done. He seeks to discover a fountain of youth of sorts, in order to restore the youth of his friends, who have gotten a shade long in the tooth. But as Dr. Heidegger discovers, sometimes finding a miracle can backfire, in most disturbing fashion, to be sure. In Rappacini’s Daughter, we watch as a father’s love for his young daughter turns to a darker side and then some. This man would do anything to make sure his little girl never leaves, but when that desire turns poisonous, his love could become lethal. The final tale is The House of the Seven Gables, a story of intense greed within a wealthy family. As tempers flare over a large inheritance, some family members will do anything to gain the cash, perhaps even murder.
3. The Abominable Dr. Phibes- Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) was killed in a car accident shortly after his wife’s death, but that seems to be just the start of a strange rash of murders. A series of murders have taken place, all of which involve killed doctors and unusual methods, which follow no patterns the police can detect as of yet. But there is a real pattern to these murders, as each of the men were killed in the fashion of a biblical plague, from blood letting to insects and beyond. And the doctors all share a common thread, as all worked on the operation of Dr. Phibes’ wife, which ended in her death. Since Dr. Phibes is sealed in his tomb, who could be behind these murders and what is their motivation? Of course, Anton Phibes had a special card up his sleeve and fought death off, so now he takes aim on those who took away his true love. Will Dr. Phibes take care of those few doctors still in the realm of the living, or will he be stopped short of his final revenge?
4. Dr. Phibes Rise Again- After a chain of events has woke him from a mystical slumber, Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) discovers his life has gone into shambles while he slept. His home has been wrecked and above all else, his sacred scrolls have been taken and without those, he cannot find the Pharaoh’s Tomb and that means bad news. So in his ever vigilant trek to bring his wife back from the dead, Dr. Phibes learns who took his scrolls, packs up his assistant Vulnavia (Valli Kemp) as well as his wife’s corpse, and heads off to track them down. But as he knocks off the team of people who took his scrolls, he is being tracked himself and that could spell disaster for his plans. So as he follows the path to his scrolls and his wife’s return to life, Dr. Phibes is followed by someone who seeks to shut him down, but that won’t be an easy task. Will Dr. Phibes be able to finally bring back his wife, or will he end up in suspended animation all over again?
5. Theater of Blood- Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is a veteran stage performer, but he has never been adored by the critics, to say the least. In truth, his performances often meet with volleys of miserable reviews, without much in the way of praise. This is not to be blamed on the critics however, as Lionheart is a hamhanded actor and in the end, his work isn’t worthy of much critical praise, if any at all. But he has just produced an entire season of Shakespearean plays and still been overlooked for any kind of awards. He even confronts the Critics’ Circle and demands answers, but he is offered none he wants to hear, which sends him into a depression. At his lowest point, Lionheart even throws himself into the Thames River to end it all, but is pulled out by some bums and various other lowlifes. But now his focus is on revenge and in a most dramatic fashion, he plans to exact some payback from the critics who’ve hounded him all these years. Perhaps he never won them over with his acting, but Lionheart still plans to knock ’em dead in the end.
6. Madhouse- Paul Toombes (Vincent Price) is well known to fans of horror movies, as he played Dr. Death in a successful series of motion pictures. But when he discovered his bride to be decapitated, he steps away from Hollywood and becomes somewhat of a recluse. After a dozen years had passed, Toombes was approached to bring Dr. Death back for a television series, which he agrees to make happen. Once he arrives, Toombes meets with a public relations liaison, the writer, and the producer, not to mention the producer’s airhead girlfriend. As production rolls on the new show, things take a dark turn someone dressed as Dr. Death begins to murder those involved. The slayings even unfold like deaths in Dr. Death’s movies, but could Toombes, even in his still shaken up state, be driven to murder?
7. Witchfinder General- Hopkins (Vincent Price) is an educated man, an intelligent person who seeks to exploit the general sense of chaos in England, not to mention the rampant superstition. He goes from town to town, offering his services as a witchfinder. He will weed out the witches, confirm their evil nature, then eliminate them, leaving the town in peace once again. Of course, for his time and effort, he requests payment, but he claims his asking rate is more than reasonable. In truth, Hopkins is simply killing innocent people in the name paranoia, assisted by a sadistic helper, John Stearne (Robert Russell). Will Hopkins be allowed to continue his charade and kill more innocent people, or will someone step in to end his reign of terror?
Video: How does it look?
The films have various aspect ratios, some anamorphic, some not. Tales of Terror and Theater of Blood are the only non anamorphic treatments, shown here in 1.66:1 widescreen. Madhouse, Witchfinder General, and both Dr. Phibes movies are shown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, while Twice Told Tales is here in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. If you’ve seen the separate discs on these, then you know what to expect. These are the same transfers found on the previous Midnite Movies releases, while Witchfinder General sports the same transfer as its solo release. The movies look good for the most part, but some age and budget related issues do surface, of course.
Audio: How does it sound?
These are your basic mono tracks, which means an adequate effort, but no sense of depth or range in the least. But since these movies wouldn’t benefit much from a full surround sound track, I think these mono options more than handle the goods here. The eerie music comes across in fine form, as do the various sound effects, from dripping blood to shrieks and screams. No trouble surfaces in terms of dialogue either, as vocals seem clean and proper at all times in each p[icture. All the movies offer subtitles in English, Spanish. and French, while some also provide French and Spanish language tracks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The fifth disc is titled Disc of Horrors, with three featurettes about the man himself, Vincent Price. The total runtime on all three is about an hour, all interviews with folks who worked with or were inspired by Price. I found all three to be decent, but not substantial enough to fawn over. Even so, I am glad MGM included some exclusive content to this release, since the movies themselves are just re-issues of older releases.