Friday, October 9, 2015

Spotlight on ... Lucia Berlin A Manual for Cleaning Women (2015)

'I have known Lucia Berlin’s work for more than thirty years—ever since I acquired the slim, beige 1981 Turtle Island paperback called Angels Laundromat. By the time of her third collection, I had come to know her personally, from a distance, though I can’t remember how. There on the flyleaf of the beautiful Safe & Sound, her 1988 novel, is an inscription. We never did meet face to face.

'Berlin, who was born in 1936, in Juneau, Alaska, and died in 2004, on her sixty-eighth birthday, based many of her stories on events in her own life. One of her sons said, after her death, “Ma wrote true stories, not necessarily autobiographical, but close enough for horseshoes.” Although people talk, as though it were a new thing, about the form of fiction known in France as auto-fiction (“self-fiction”)—the narration of one’s own life, lifted almost unchanged from the reality, selected, and judiciously, artfully told—Lucia Berlin had been doing this, or a version of this, as far as I can see, from the beginning, back in the nineteen-sixties. Of course, for the sake of balance, or color, she changed whatever she had to in shaping her stories—details of events and descriptions, chronology. One of her sons said, “Our family stories and memories have been slowly reshaped, embellished and edited to the extent that I’m not sure what really happened all the time. Lucia said this didn’t matter: the story is the thing.”

'Berlin’s life was rich and full of incident, and the material she took from it for her stories was colorful, dramatic, and wide-ranging. The places she and her family lived in her childhood and youth were determined by her father—where he worked in her early years, then his going off to serve in the Second World War, and then his job when he returned from the war. Thus, she was born in Alaska and grew up first in mining camps in the west of the U.S.; then lived with her mother’s family in El Paso, while her father was gone; then was transplanted south into a very different life in Chile, one of wealth and privilege, which is portrayed in her stories about a teenage girl in Santiago, about Catholic school there, about political turbulence, yacht clubs, dressmakers, slums, revolution. As an adult she continued to lead a restless life, geographically, living in Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, New York City; one of her sons remembers moving about every nine months as a child. Later in her life she taught in Boulder, Colorado, and at the very end of it she moved closer to her sons, to Los Angeles.

'She writes about her sons—she had four—and the jobs she worked to support them, often on her own. Or, we should say, she writes about a woman with four sons, jobs like her jobs—cleaning woman, E.R. nurse, hospital-ward clerk, hospital-switchboard operator, teacher.

'She lived in so many places, experienced so much—it was enough to fill several lives. We have, most of us, known at least some part of what she went through: children in trouble, or early molestation, or a rapturous love affair, struggles with addiction, a difficult illness or disability, an unexpected bond with a sibling, or a tedious job, difficult fellow workers, a demanding boss, or a deceitful friend, not to speak of awe in the presence of the natural world—Hereford cattle knee-deep in Indian paintbrush, a field of bluebonnets, a pink rocket flower growing in the alley behind a hospital. Because we have known some part of it, or something like it, we are right there with her as she takes us through it.

'Things actually happen in the stories—a whole mouthful of teeth gets pulled at once; a little girl gets expelled from school for striking a nun; an old man dies in a mountaintop cabin, his goats and his dog in bed with him; the history teacher with her mildewed sweater is dismissed for being a Communist—“That’s all it took. Three words to my father. She was fired sometime that weekend and we never saw her again.”

'Is this why it is almost impossible to stop reading a story of Lucia Berlin’s once you begin? Is it because things keep happening? Is it also the narrating voice, so engaging, so companionable? Along with the economy, the pacing, the imagery, the clarity? These stories make you forget what you were doing, where you are, even who you are.

'“Wait,” begins one story. “Let me explain . . .” It is a voice close to Lucia’s own, though never identical. Her wit and her irony flow through the stories and overflow in her letters, too: “She is taking her medication,” she told me once, in 2002, about a friend, “which makes a big difference! What did people do before Prozac? Beat up horses I guess.”

Beat up horses. Where did that come from? The past was maybe as alive in her mind as were other cultures, other languages, politics, human foibles; the range of her reference so rich and even exotic that switchboard operators lean into their boards like milkmaids leaning into their cows; or a friend comes to the door, “Her black hair . . . up in tin rollers, like a kabuki headdress.”

'The past—I read this passage from “So Long” a few times, with relish, with wonder, before I realized what she was doing:

One night it was bitterly cold, Ben and Keith were sleeping with me, in snowsuits. The shutters banged in the wind, shutters as old as Herman Melville. It was Sunday so there were no cars. Below in the streets the sailmaker passed, in a horse-drawn cart. Clop clop. Sleet hissed cold against the windows and Max called. Hello, he said. I’m right around the corner in a phone booth. 
He came with roses, a bottle of brandy and four tickets to Acapulco. I woke up the boys and we left.

'They were living in lower Manhattan, at a time when the heat would be turned off at the end of the working day if you lived in a loft. Maybe the shutters really were as old as Herman Melville, since in some parts of Manhattan buildings did date from the 1860s, back then, more of them than now, though now, too. Though it could be that she is exaggerating again—a beautiful exaggeration, if so, a beautiful flourish. She goes on: “It was Sunday so there were no cars.” That sounded realistic, so, then, I was fooled by the sailmaker and the horse-drawn cart, which came next—I believed it and accepted it, and only realized after another reading that she must have jumped back effortlessly into Melville’s time again. The “Clop clop,” too, is something she likes to do—waste no words, add a detail in note form. The “sleet hissing” took me in there, within those walls, and then the action accelerated and we were suddenly on our way to Acapulco.

'This is exhilarating writing.

'Another story begins with a typically straightforward and informative statement that I can easily believe is drawn directly from Berlin’s own life: “I’ve worked in hospitals for years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the sicker the patients are the less noise they make. That’s why I ignore the patient intercom.”

'Reading that, I’m reminded of the stories of William Carlos Williams when he wrote as the family doctor he was—his directness, his frank and knowledgeable details of medical conditions and treatment, his objective reporting. Even more than Williams, Berlin also saw Chekhov (another doctor) as a model and teacher. In fact, she says in a letter to Stephen Emerson that what gives life to their work is their physician’s detachment, combined with compassion. She goes on to mention their use of specific detail and their economy—“No words are written that aren’t necessary.” Detachment, compassion, specific detail, and economy—and we are well on the way to identifying some of the most important things in good writing. But there is always a little more to say.' -- Lydia Davis



Lucia Berlin Website
'Smoking with Lucia'
'A Roundtable on Lucia Berlin, the Greatest American Writer You've Never Heard Of'
Tom Raworth's Lucia Berlin Tribute Page
'Short Story Master Rediscovered'
'Friends', a story by Lucia Berlin
'Stars and Saints', a story by Lucia Berlin
'Angels Laundromat', a story by Lucia Berlin
'11 Years After Her Death, Lucia Berlin Is Finally a Bestselling Author'
'Lucia Berlin’s Roving, Rowdy Life Is Reflected in a Book of Her Stories'
'Best Kept Secrets: The Fiction of Lucia Berlin'
'Lucia Berlin: Literary genius who transformed my life'
Audio: Lucia Berlin Writing Workshop
'Out of the Dark: A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin'
Lucia Berlin @ Citizen Film
Buy 'A Manual for Cleaning Women'


Lucia Berlin: Pen Pals

Lucia Berlin: Mama

Lucia Berlin: Unmanageable

Lucia Berlin: My Jockey

Lucia Berlin: Angels Laundromat

from Letters
to August Kleinzahler

Boulder itself getting on my nerves. It’s sickeningly sweet and rich and white and every single resident has a golden lab. I’m rigging up a pit on the corner. Clerks don’t say ‘enjoy’ anymore they say ‘thrive.’ My masseuse has really helped my back but she’s pregnant, which is great, except that she claims she knew the kid in another incarnation. The receptionist there is going through the change of life and while she talks on the phone she’s rubbing a sweet potato (oestrogen source) on her stomach, for hot flashes. Plus both of them [put] crystals up their private parts just like when the ladies in Candide used to hide their jewels.

You really should start to think of settling down. Serious. For later … Sometimes I wish that I lived with someone I had loved for a long time, had comfort with. Wake up with his hand on my ass etc.


I’m sorry your bartender is dying. This sounds rude to wonder about but [it] must make it difficult to just go have a drink . . .


I actually know fenestration. Not personally, but the first time I looked it up was reading a 19th-century English architect’s review of another architect, ‘Balsley has a particularly witty way with fenestration.’


Reason I don’t like teaching is same problem I had with marriage – I lose myself.


Where are you? I get disoriented when you go to Germany or Australia. I’m sad that you don’t go to New Jersey any more. Did acacia & plum trees bloom already? We haven’t had winter yet. Deer are confused. Six young bucks hang out in my backyard – scuffing the dead grass, slouching, smoking – sneering at labradors & joggers disaffected deer . . .

I have no news. I am boring old lady. Have to stop myself from talking to grocery clerks about my grandchildren or my cat.


One of my classes gave me a fabulous gift. It is a cup, with Denver skyline & a moon – When you pour hot coffee in it the pope appears in the sky!

So dear heart – my new address as of May 20 – will be . . .


Cioran & Hazlitt have lots to say about envy, writers’. It’s pretty scary. What makes it scarier is that often ‘They’ put you down & haven’t even read your work. Like Gide with little Marcel. Didn’t even open the ms. I think women are the worst.


His ex-girlfriend got millions of $ in palimony because she ‘gave him the best years of her life’. Hey, how about me – I gave him the worst of mine!


OK, so here I am in these terrifying schools and my daddy is in the war, my mother, grandpa and uncle drunk, my mother and grandpa abusing me, sexually and physically (not at the same time, they weren’t sickos or anything). My grandma knew about grandpa but instead of protecting me she decided I was a sinner too and was mean to me, meaner than the others really. I felt bad because she took care of my sister and wouldn’t even let me in the kitchen with them. I was in constant terror of mother and grandpa and awful school torments too. I was expelled from two schools and ran away from one in first year. However in El Paso I met my first and dearest friend, Hope … and was semi-adopted by the Abrahams, was hugged for the first time in my life, kissed and combed and hollered at, part of a family that saved my life, I think. I also became a religious fanatic at Catholic school and worshipped the Virgin Mary, who took care of me … Fight with Hope devastating. Only person I had then was Uncle John who was rarely there or sober. The disillusion when he hit the kid and dog was Awful for me. The year or so left was lonely hell. Only reason i’m telling you this is that i know i have dealt with these few years ad nauseum. Problem is everytime I am scared, hurt, miserable, lonely or in trouble I go straight back to El Paso.


Now it turns out that the flu is carried by wild ducks.

I thought ‘the flu’ didn’t really exist at all, & was just a euphemism alcoholics used when they called in sick.


My first cigarette really was lit by the Prince Ali Khan.

My new computer not only points out in red misspelled words it highlights in green ungrammatical sentences. Everything I write is Greened. I’d check it out but I’d find out what it is I do Wrong and I’d stop. So here is the key for your article. I can’t write a proper sentence! Either verbs or nouns or those helping words are missing, or who knows what I do? And all this time I thought it was Style!


Miles Davis: ‘Those dark Arkansas roads. That is the sound I’m after.’

Turner and Caravaggio are the painters that please me, but Bacon and Alice Neal’s portraits speak to me as a writer. I read their portraits like novels or poems.

More than anyone though is Rothko. Again as much for the effect his work had on me in the 50s as the work itself. Blizzard in NY, no cars! Walked, pulling kids on a sled, to Moma for a Rothko retrospective. Few people, the light from the skylights dazzling, his colours pulsated from the walls, pure, as, well, Arkansas roads.


I can’t wait to hear about your love life at Brown.

It’s hard to get used to the Atlantic Ocean though because the sun doesn’t set in it. But that won’t be an immediate problem … Boots for the snow and you need a truly long great scarf.


Good to hear from you. I laughed, remembered how feverishly I prepared for my classes the first semester. I suppose I still do but without the sense of being an impostor. You’ve probably realised by now that we have a jump on our more seasoned colleagues because we still love literature . . .

Big problem here. The zopilotes, turkey buzzards, pass through here in August on their way to Culiacan or Tijuana. Hundreds and hundreds of them in one old tree … But right about the time they usually head south there occurred a plague that began killing off prairie dogs, and since there are so many of them there are fresh corpses every day. Leaves turning yellow, snow in the mountains and the buzzards are still here. The magpie tree in my backyard has been taken over by stellar jays. Apparently the enormous racket is being made by fledglings who don’t want to feed themselves.

As my mama used to say … life is fraught with peril.

Hope you have some good snow boots.


How can I get you settled down if you don’t do right … So I don’t think you’re hopeless – please make me worry less in my old age about you in yours – find yourself a nice girl and stick around, so to speak.


Now see here you whippersnapper. I don’t want you pestering me any more with all your fol-de-rols & hullabaloos.

You know how sad it is to get no attention? Well, I do want attention. But all these things I said or wrote sound goofy – I don’t even know if they are true. Do I love Chekhov’s work? Yes, no that’s not the problem – Problem is I have never never given any thought to my writing. I get started, & then it’s just like writing this to you, only more legible . . .

Yes I love Raymond Carver’s work – before he sobered up & sweetened his endings – (& before that bitch pimped his work to Short Cuts – awful thing to do). I wrote like him before I ever read him. He liked my work, too – we had good talk. Recognised one another immediately. Our ‘styles’ came from our (similar in a way) backgrounds. Don’t show your feelings. Don’t cry. Don’t let anyone know you … more than exquisite control blahblahblah.


Fine short story in this month’s Harper’s. By Mehta. An old fashioned love story, such a sweet surprise. I loved the Narib Magoub piece in Grand Street, bought some of his books which were not as beautiful, maybe got the wrong ones.

Postman is in sight. He put that Grecian formula on his hair and moustache, now looks diabolical and decadent, which is a vast improvement. I don’t mind him now when he says ‘Enjoy your mail.’


A million New Yorkers at Garth Brooks concert in Central Park. Wow. New York is where I’d live if I could.

Naropa is a scam, really. They give students little soundbites of ‘classes’ every week … Allen [Ginsberg] gave the place a humour and warmth in the summer. He could chant and carry on because he wasn’t taking himself seriously but ______. At a certain age we women are supposed to stop wearing blue jeans or long hair. In her case it’s time she stopped howling around the stage and stamping her feet. It’s like Gravel Gertie having a tantrum. And she’s old enough to know who Gravel Gertie is, if you aren’t.


But the classes are going great, and the thesis students very good. Except this one guy with a book about baseball and magic realism. Why do men think these two are a good combination. Baseball should remain uncontaminated and magic realism … god that solution for no real content reached its nadir when President Salinas on national TV announced that he was going on a hunger strike and it lasted only an hour.

Latin men are so fun in movies. They cry and sigh and say ‘Que Lindo!’ out loud, punch you in the shoulder etc.

Hope you find a lady before the snow sets in.


I was once in Storm Lake, Iowa, for a week. Very in love with a wonderful anthropologist who was divorced. We went there for me to meet his three children, who were living with his parents in Storm Lake. (His wife, an ex Miss Iowa, had run away from home.) I was so happy in Storm Lake. His parents, children and I all got along great. We decided there to do it, get married, combine our seven children. Incredible drive home to Albuquerque, reading aloud a Uruguayan poet, Herrera Y Reisseg, making love by those praying mantis old derricks, big old stars. The day after we got back he didn’t call, and didn’t call again and so I didn’t need to hear anything to realise he had thought better of the whole idea. I was so heartbroken I never even wrote about it, except for one line in some story. ‘And that cad, Harrison.’ Sorry, I digress. All I meant to say about Iowa was that I never saw so many basketball hoops in my life.


Seems to me the kids are just too darn healthy nowadays … get the same pleasure from flossing their teeth, jogging five miles or fucking and a shower. I mean, doesn’t anybody muffle sobs in pillows anymore? Get dizzy with desire in phone booths?

I wrote about sex in the 40s in the story ‘Sex Appeal’ … ‘Sex itself seemed to have something to do with being mad. Cats acted pretty mad about the whole thing and all the movie stars seemed mad. Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck were downright mean. Bella Lynn and her friends would slouch in the Court Caf√©, blowing smoke from their nostrils like petulant dragons . . .’

In my day it was dangerous and wicked. Father Haley, a Jesuit in Chile (in fact the first hard-on I ever saw was in a cassock. But I digress . . .), he told us that a kiss on the mouth was a venial sin, but a kiss on the neck was a mortal sin. It took Freddy Greenwell, an alto sax player, to convince of the latter, later.

Only you can possibly understand this sad story … I’d never tell a woman friend, they are so bitchy. Well, I’ve been very sick. Collapsed lung, near death, 12 blood clots in lungs, ICU etc. Now hobbling around with a cane, on 24-hour oxygen, for rest of life, ugh . . .

I mean was way depressing but the worst moment was one day when I unhooked the damn hose for a minute while I was combing my hair and suddenly remembered this dear lover, Terry. Hmm, I said to my reflection … how come I’m thinking about him? Because the air from the oxygen was breathing on my neck, like a kiss.

Hope this reaches you before you go east. Please don’t take a job. It breaks up the week.


Lucia Berlin A Manual for Cleaning Women

'A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the wit of Lorrie Moore, the grit of Raymond Carver, and a blend of humor and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians.

'Lovers of the short story will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they’d ever overlooked her in the first place.' -- FSG

from Flavorwire

Carpe Diem

Most of the time I feel all right about getting old. Some things give me a pang, like skaters. How free they seem, long legs gliding, hair streaming back. Other things throw me into a panic, like BART doors. A long wait before the doors open, after the train comes to a stop. Not very long, but it’s too long. There’s no time.

And laundromats. But they were a problem even when I was young. Just too long, even the Speed Queens. Your entire life has time to flash before your eyes while you sit there, a drowner. Of course if I had a car I could go to the hardware store or the post of€ office and then come back and put things into the dryer.

The laundries with no attendants are even worse. Then it seems I’m always the only person there at all. But all of the washers and dryers are going . . . everybody is at the hardware store.

So many laundromat attendants I have known, the hovering Charons, making change or who never have change. Now it is fat Ophelia who pronounces No Sweat as No Thwet. Her top plate broke on beef jerky. Her breasts are so huge she has to turn sideways and then kitty- corner to get through doors, like moving a kitchen table. When she comes down the aisle with a mop everybody moves and moves the baskets too. She is a channel hopper. Just when we’ve settled in to watch The Newlywed Game she’ll flick it to Ryan’s Hope.

Once, to be polite, I told her I got hot  ashes too, so that’s what she associates me with . . . The Change. “How ya coming with the change?” she says, loud, instead of hello. Which only makes it worse, sitting there, re ecting, aging. My sons have all grown now, so I’m down from € ve washers to one, but one takes just as long.

I moved last week, maybe for the two hundredth time. I took in all my sheets and curtains and towels, my shopping cart piled high. The laundromat was very crowded; there weren’t any washers together. I put all my things into three machines, went to get change from Ophelia. I came back, put the money and the soap in, and started them. Only I had started up three wrong washers. Three that had just €finished this man’s clothes.

I was backed into the machines. Ophelia and the man loomed before me. I’m a tall woman, wear Big Mama panty- hose now, but they were both huge people. Ophelia had a prewash spray bottle in her hand. The man wore cutoffs, his massive thighs were matted with red hair. His thick beard wasn’t like hair at all but a red padded bumper. He wore a baseball hat with a gorilla on it. The hat wasn’t too small but his hair was so bushy it shoved the hat high up on his head making him about seven feet tall. He was slapping a heavy €fist into his other red palm. “Goddamn. I’ll be goddamned!” Ophelia wasn’t menacing; she was protecting me, ready to come between him and me, or him and the machines. She’s always saying there’s nothing at the laundry she can’t handle.

“Mister, you may’s well sit down and relax. No way to stop them machines once they’ve started. Watch a little TV, have yourself a Pepsi.”

I put quarters in the right machines and started them. Then I remembered that I was broke, no more soap and those quarters had been for dryers. I began to cry.

“What the fuck is she crying about? What do you think this does to my Saturday, you dumb slob? Jesus wept.”

I offered to put his clothes into the dryers for him, in case he wanted to go somewhere.

“I wouldn’t let you near my clothes. Like stay away from my clothes, you dig?” There was no place for him to sit except next to me. We looked at the machines. I wished he would go outside, but he just sat there, next to me. His big right leg vibrated like a spinning washer. Six little red lights glowed at us.

“You always fuck things up?” he asked.

“Look, I’m sorry. I was tired. I was in a hurry.” I began to giggle, nervously.

“Believe it or not, I am in a hurry. I drive a tow. Six days a week. Twelve hours a day. This is it. My day off.”

“What were you in a hurry for?” I meant this nicely, but he thought I was being sarcastic.

“You stupid broad. If you were a dude I’d wash you. Put your empty head in the dryer and turn it to cook.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Damn right you’re sorry. You’re one big sorry excuse for a chick. I had you spotted for a loser before you did that to my clothes. I don’t believe this. She’s crying again. Jesus wept.”

Ophelia stood above him.

“Don’t you be bothering her, you hear? I happens to know she’s going through a hard time.”

How did she know that? I was amazed. She knows everything, this giant black Sybil, this Sphinx. Oh, she must mean The Change.

“I’ll fold your clothes if you’d like,” I said to him.

“Hush, girl,” Ophelia said. “Point is, what’s the big deal? In a hunnert years from now just who is gonna care?”

“A hunnert years,” he whispered. “A hunnert years.”

And I was thinking that too. A hundred years. Our machines were shimmying away, and all the little red spin lights were on.

“At least yours are clean. I used up all my soap.”

“I’ll buy you some soap for crissake.”

“It’s too late. Thanks anyway.”

“She didn’t ruin my day. She’s ruined my whole fuckin’ week. No soap.”

Ophelia came back, stooped down to whisper to me.

“I been spottin’ some. Doctor says it don’t quit I’ll need a D and C. You been spottin’?”

I shook my head.

“You will. Women’s troubles just go on and on. A whole lifetime of troubles. I’m bloated. You bloated?”

“Her head is bloated,” the man said. “Look, I’m going out to the car, get a beer. I want you to promise not to go near my machines. Yours are thirty- four, thirty- nine, forty- three. Got that?”

“Yeah. Thirty- two, forty, forty- two.” He didn’t think it was funny.

The clothes were in the €final spin. I’d have to hang mine up to dry on the fence. When I got paid I’d come back with soap.

“Jackie Onassis changes her sheets every single day,” Ophelia said. “Now that is sick, you ask me.”

“Sick,” I agreed.

I let the man put his clothes in a basket and go to the dryers before I took mine out. Some people were grinning but I just ignored them. I filled my cart with soggy sheets and towels. It was almost too heavy to push and, wet, not everything € fit. I slung the hot- pink curtains over my shoulder. Across the room the man started to say something, then looked away.

It took a long time to get home. Even longer to hang everything, although I did €find a rope. Fog was rolling in.

I poured some coffee and sat on the back steps. I was happy. I felt calm, unhurried. Next time I am on BART, I won’t even think about getting off until the train stops. When it does, I’ll make it out just in time.


p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. He was a big something great, that's for sure. ** N, Hi, buddy. Glad you liked it. Ha ha, I too wish he'd been born with that voice. Well, it's not impossible, is it? ** Jamie McMorrow, Hi, Jamie. Oh, I saw your email. Thank you! I'll get to check out your gif story today. I'm excited. Thank you, thank you so much! Yeah, he, VP, was huge-isa in scale. Not sure about the TV show's language yet. It'll likely depend on who buys it, if anyone buys it, i.e. a network in France or Germany or UK/US ... don't know. It's written in English, obviously. I think in English would be ideal. What's the concentration of your English Lit. class? I mean, what period or country or bent or ... ? Oh, and how did the writers gang meeting go? Fun. My day was another packed one: finished my end of the draft of the script of TV show's first episode, and this morning Zac and I will meet and work on it together to hammer out a version ready to give to Gisele, 'cos we have to give it to her before we head off on our Montreal-centered trip tomorrow. Then the 'TVC' show last night. More of the exact same today plus packing and all of that. Cool, all the best to you too on this hopefully fine, fine day. ** Sypha, That's something. ** Schlix, Hi, Uli! Welcome to Paris, if you're here! Oh, you are, aren't you? In fact, you're on your way to Versailles. Check out the Anish Kapoor whirling water vortex piece. The rest of his stuff there is kind of blah, but that's a seductive thing. Damn, I wish I could have seen you! Enjoy everything! Love, me. ** Etc etc etc, Hi, Casey. Ah, great, Ive been jonesing to read your piece on Mark's book for ages. Can't wait. Everyone, very fine writer of many stripes Casey Michael 'etc etc etc' Henry has written a big, no doubt brilliant piece on Mark Doten's extraordinary novel 'The Infernal', easily one of the best novels to have reached the world this year, and I strongly urge you to read said piece, entitled 'Apocalypse of the Vanities'. So easy too. Click. Thanks much for the clue in, man. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yep. Well, yes, you are utterly correct regarding my and this blog's mega-interest in never-made and imagined metropolises. So take some envy. And I'll find that book asap. Thanks a bunch, Ben. Good, even more excited now for the Wheatley film. Fantastic! ** Krayton, Hi, K. You de-posted it? Oh, then please do. Nice about the love-related descent. I was just trying to figure out why the sentence-slash-exclamation 'Eat that booty like groceries' is so appealing, and I think it's the interplay between the 'ooh' sound of the first 'o' and the 'oh' sound of the second 'o'. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Abortion ... where did that topic come from? I'm okay with abortion. I don't fetishize it though. Why not, though, I guess. A demon, eh? I would say you're easily intimidated, my friend. Never heard that 'wedding prick' thing before. I don't like the word/term 'prick' re: penises. I don't know why. It's appealingly violent and everything. But when someone says 'prick' about a penis, I immediately imagine a penis that looks like some kind of fork or something, which I guess I don't like? McDonalds? That makes sense, I guess. Yeah, that makes sense. ** √Čtienne, Hey, man! You're back over there! Good to see you, far away pal! So Paris really did end up sticking in your craw, as my grandpa used to say. Where in the world did that saying originally come from, I wonder? Well, Rome isn't too, too far from Paris. So, it could be your getaway-slash-second home-ette or something? 'Faerie Tale Theatre': Wait, that was the series hosted by the sublime genius Shelley Duvall, isn't it? If so, yes I did. Mainly to watch her intros and occasional appearances. Or they're what I largely remember. I think 'LCTG' has some Malick-ish-ness, and I know that Zac, its director, loves Malick like I do, so that seems very likely. Oh, you are, or you were, a 'Tree of Life' hater. That always interests me. 'ToL' blew my skull completely off and caused me to be unable to speak for hours afterwards, and it's maybe my favorite of his films. Quite possibly. That or 'The Thin Red Line'. Never been to Mont St. Michel. One of these days, for sure. Rohmer fucking rules. Have a great day over there! ** H, Hi. Oh, Tim Dlugos was one if my very, very best and closest friends. And he was huge influence on my writing and on my life. We met originally because I really liked his poems, and I wrote to him and asked him if he would give me a poem for my magazine 'Little Caesar'. Amethyst Press was originally an offshoot of this gay soft-porn magazine whose name escapes me. It was bought late in its short life by some rich gay guy with the idea of making it a bigger press, but the rich guy turned out to be a dilettante jerk, and he basically killed the press off when running it wasn't fun enough for him. Sad story. I sympathize, utterly and totally, with the visa/immigration stuff. I went through complete hell with that stuff for years because Yury wasn't granted a visa repeatedly, and so ... very best of luck with that. ** Steevee, I don't think I've seen any Wheatley films unless I'm spacing out. ** Okay. Lucia Berlin is an amazing writer. She was largely unknown, a writer's writer for years. Recently her work has been 'rediscovered' and published by a big press, FSG, and people are finally finding her work, unfortunately post-her death, as is so often the case. Anyway, there's a thing about her up above. Hope you enjoy it. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Halloween countdown post #8: Vincent Price Day

'Vincent Price, the suavely menacing star of countless low-budget but often stylish Gothic horror films, died at his home in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 82 years old and died of lung cancer, a personal assistant, Reggie Williams, said.

'The flamboyant 6-foot-4-inch actor with a silken voice and mocking air helped start a major revival of horror films in 1953 with his portrayal of a cruelly scarred sculptor in The House of Wax. He went on to play a succession of macabre characters in the director Roger Corman's film adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, including Pit and the Pendulum and Masque of the Red Death.

'Mr. Price appeared in scores of movies, more than 2,000 television shows and occasionally on stage. In his early films he frequently played historical figures -- Sir Walter Raleigh in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939); Joseph Smith, the Mormon founder, in Brigham Young -- Frontiersman (1940); England's King Charles II in Hudson's Bay (1941) and Richelieu in The Three Musketeers(1948).

'In other supporting roles, Mr. Price was a caddish gigolo in Laura (1944), a cynical monsignor in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), a murderous aristocrat in Dragonwyck (1946) and a florid actor in His Kind of Woman (1951).

'But starting with the three-dimensional House of Wax, Mr. Price joined the pantheon of horror occupied by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. His specialty was the tongue-in-cheek archfiend -- often a demented scientist, inventor or doctor -- whose talents had been corrupted and turned to evil ends.

'"The best parts in movies are the heavies," Mr. Price said in a 1971 interview. "The hero is usually someone who has really nothing to do. He comes out on top, but it's the heavy who has all the fun."

'"Horror movies don't date because they were dated to begin with, they were mannered and consciously so -- Gothic tales with an unreality," he said in 1977. "They have the fun of a fairy tale."

'"To me, films that deal with drug addiction, crime and war are the real horror films," he said on another occasion. "In a world where slaughter and vicious crimes are daily occurrences, a good ghoulish movie is comic relief."

'He savored acting and dismissed people who looked down on his horror-film roles. "I like to be seen, I love being busy and I believe in being active," he once said. "I know some people think I've lowered myself as an actor, but my idea of 'professional decline' is 'not working.' "

'Mr. Price was also a noted art connoisseur and collector. He lectured on art at colleges and clubs, tied for a top prize for his art expertise on The $64,000 Challenge television quiz show in 1956 and for years was a syndicated newspaper columnist on art. He was the art-buying consultant of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and he wrote several popular books on fine art. He was also an accomplished cook and was the co-writer of some best-selling cookbooks.

'Vincent Leonard Price's manner and speech reflected his cultured background. He was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, one of four children of the former Marguerite Cobb Wilcox and Vincent Leonard Price, the president of a candy-manufacturing company. He attended private schools in St. Louis, made the grand tour of Europe's museums as a teen-ager and earned degrees in art history at Yale and the University of London, where he became hooked on the theater and resolved to be an actor.

'He soon won praise on the London stage as Prince Albert in the play Victoria Regina. He repeated the role opposite Helen Hayes in an 18-month run on Broadway and on tour and honed his craft in summer stock and on Broadway, where he emerged as a first-rate villain in the role of a maniacal husband in Angel Street in 1941.

'Among his almost 200 movies were The Song of Bernadette, Wilson, Leave Her to Heaven, Moss Rose, The Baron of Arizona, The Tingler, The Conquerer Worm and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. His personal film favorites included the 1973 Theater of Blood, in which he played a deranged actor who gleefully kills drama critics in ways inspired by Shakespeare; the 1987 Whales of August in which he appeared as a Russian nobleman charming two elderly sisters (Bette Davis and Lillian Gish), and Edward Scissorhands in 1990, which found him cast as the bizarre inventor of the film's surreal title character.

'The irrepressible Mr. Price also did a monologue for Michael Jackson's 1983 hit video "Thriller" and performed an eight-year stint as the host of the Mystery series on public television. For decades, he enlivened commercials for sponsors as disparate as Burger King and the United States Treasury.

'On the stage, he portrayed the dying Oscar Wilde in John Gay's one-man play Diversions and Delights in a tour of more than 200 cities from 1977 to 1982. Reviewers hailed the portrait as a delicate and compelling tour de force.

'What matters eventually is the sum total of one's career, Mr. Price observed in 1986. "People remember you as someone who is working for their pleasure. A man came up to me and said, 'Thank you for all the nice times you've given me.' That's really what it's all about."' -- Peter B. Flint



Vincent Price @ IMDb
Vincent Price Official Website
'104 Reasons to Love Vincent Price on His 104th Birthday'
The Vincent Price Art Museum
Vincent Price Fan Site
'Help get Vincent Price on a US postage stamp!
Eating Vincent Price
'That time Yvonne Craig ran over Vincent Price with the Batgirlcycle'
Vincent Price @ Twitter
Vincent Price Fan Blog
Vincent Price Blogathon
The Vincent Price Papers @ Library of Congress
Vincent Price Legacy


Vincent Price Documentary

An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe - Starring Vincent Price

The Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art

Vincent Price by John Waters

Vincent Price On Racism And Religious Prejudice


PAUL KARLSTROM: Smithsonian Institution, an interview with Vincent Price on August 6, 1992, at his home in the Hollywood Hills—I guess this area is called—up at the top of Doheny, in a home that’s literally covered with art objects.

VINCENT PRICE: I have one thing that I would like to say. In the last year, 1991, I was given by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association a career achievement award, and I really didn’t think that I deserved it on the basis of my films, and I was wondering if they did? You know, because films do change in their appreciation. There are films that become classics that weren’t classics when they were made, and half of this award was given to me because of my involvement with the arts, the other arts.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And was this stated as such?

VINCENT PRICE: Yes. Very much so.

PAUL KARLSTROM: I see. Well, then that’s good. There was recognition of that side of your contribution.

VINCENT PRICE: It’s an area of my life which I didn’t really know that people knew about as much.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Who first contacted you regarding the Archives? Who invited you to. . . .

VINCENT PRICE: I was flying back to New York every weekend while doing films out here in the West Coast. . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: You were living there or here?

VINCENT PRICE: I was living in Los Angeles, but I’d fly back every weekend to do a show that was called The $64,000 Challenge.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Oh, yeah, I remember that.

VINCENT PRICE: And it was Edward G. Robinson and Billy [Pierson, Pearson], the jockey, and myself with the contestants, and it was all on art. And when they asked me if I would do it. . . . I had a game that I used to play which was highly publicized, that I could take any volume on art with reproductions and almost identify a hundred percent what the things were—with certain exceptions, like Oriental art and so forth. You know, different things that were not in my particular ken. And this was publicized at one time, and so when The $64,000 Challenge became a very popular show, they asked me to be on it with Billy [Pierson, Pearson], who had won The $64,000 Question, which was another program. So I went back on the condition. . . . I made the condition that I could talk about American art, about the [deposits] of American art, about the need for study of American art, which now was being done with the Archives. And when I was back there one weekend, Ted Richardson. . . . Edgar was his name?

PAUL KARLSTROM: E. P., Edgar Preston Richardson.

VINCENT PRICE: Edgar Preston Richardson, who I knew slightly, because he was at the Detroit Art Institute, which is my sort of family home. I’m actually from St. Louis, but my mother’s family are from Detroit. And he and Larry Fleischman asked me to have breakfast with them one morning in New York, and asked me to be on this committee. And they as much as admitted that they wanted me there to get them publicity. And I was just going to be on Person to Person, which was really the show of America at that time, and also I was still on the $64,000 thing so I could talk about. . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: So you were pretty visible.

VINCENT PRICE: I was pretty visible at that particular time, because that was the biggest television show ever in the history of the business. So that’s how it began. Because I was fascinated. I had tried to do a little research on certain painters—Missouri painters particularly—and had found it very difficult to do because there was no center for it.

PAUL KARLSTROM: That’s right.

VINCENT PRICE: And this is what Ted Richardson, who had just written this very fine book on American art, told me—that it would take him like a year to find something out about an artist, because the artist’s wife, when the artist had died, had left it to the local library, who never unwrapped it.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Nobody knew it was there.

VINCENT PRICE: Nobody knew where anything was. This is the kind of thing that I think [was] needed at the time desperately. I don’t think people realize now, fifty years later, or thirty, forty years later, how little was known about American art, how little was understood. I remember, just to divert a minute, being invited to go to Canada at that time for the first American art show ever put together in Canada, in Vancouver. I couldn’t believe it, but there had been no interest in American art. People just didn’t know. And I sort of appointed myself a voice for the propagation and to arouse interest in American art because I’m terribly American.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, “terribly” maybe isn’t the right word.

VINCENT PRICE: Misnomer. I really am violently American.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Is it true you actually majored in art history at Yale?

VINCENT PRICE: Yeah. And I taught school for a year, and then I went to the University of London and went into the Courtauld—the second, I think it was the third year of the Courtauld—and that was a great experience, because Hitler was driving out all the great art historians, who were all being brought to London, so it was really a mecca. But then I went into the theater when I was in London. [chuckling] But the inoculation [indoctrination] of art at Yale and the Courtauld really set my life’s pattern. And I’ve probably kept up more study in the history of art than most people who are in it professionally. Because I’m not a professional at it. I’m an amateur—in the French sense of the word, a lover.

PAUL KARLSTROM: But you consider yourself violently American.

VINCENT PRICE: I’m really proud of being an American, and I’m fascinated with America. I’m not fascinated with America at this moment. I’m disenchanted a bit, which is very wrong for me, because I don’t like being disenchanted with my country. And what’s happening to the arts is. . . . Once again, if I were younger and healthier I would be out there proselytizing the arts again, because I do feel that I have contributed something in my association with the Indians and the Archives and the things that I did here: started a museum here. That I’ve made people aware of art where they might not have been. I was the top lecturer in America for about thirty years, and I talked about art. And every time I got on a television show with Johnny Carson, I talked about art. One time I took a picture down. He said, “You love modern art and nobody understands it. Bring something down and explain it.” So I took a Jackson Pollock that I had bought, took it down with me, and the criticisms that were heaped upon this poor painting were unbelievable. And it was great fun over the years. He’d always ask me, “Now how much is it worth now?” And it went from being worth two hundred dollars to being worth almost a million.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So this was rather early on with the Johnny Carson show?

VINCENT PRICE: Oh yes, very beginning of it.

PAUL KARLSTROM: You weren’t majoring in theater at Yale, although Yale now has a distinguished program.


PAUL KARLSTROM: How did that come about?

VINCENT PRICE: Well, I tried out for the [dramat, Dramat], but I didn’t like it. Yale at that time was turning out not actors but technical people and playwrights, and some very fine people. But I wanted if anything to go into the acting thing. And after I graduated from Yale, I taught school for a year, at Riverdale Country School outside New York City, and so I had the inoculation [indoctrination] of theater in New York, because I could go in for very little money and see all the plays. And then I went to the Courtauld in London and there I fell in love with the theater, and that was that.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Well, how did that come about? You went to London to study art history, presumably. That’s why one goes to the Courtauld.


PAUL KARLSTROM: And you mentioned when we were talking the other day that it was an ideal time because of the number of distinguished, primarily German, art historians who were coming either to this country or to London.


PAUL KARLSTROM: So what then deflected you from the study of art and art history when you were in London towards this other area, which then turned into your career?

VINCENT PRICE: The British theater. That’s all you need. It was wonderful. I met all the stars. They were very friendly and very interested in my thing at the Courtauld, because it was new at that time. And people like John Gielgud were very considerate of my ambition to be in the theater.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Oh, is that right? So how did you. . . .

VINCENT PRICE: Well, I just met them, you know, because I was at the Courtauld, and in England the actor knows everything that’s going on in the arts. It’s very different than it is here—or was, actually. I think it’s a little better now, but. . . . The English actor knows about set design, knows about art, knows what’s going on, knows all the painters. If you enter into that world at all—and being at the Courtauld was enough to enter me into that world—I met everybody. I was not an unattractive fellow, and so they accepted me. And then I got a job playing the Prince Consort in a play called Victoria Regina by Lawrence Housman. And this just came about in the funny little theater called The Gate. And I tried out for the part. And my first job at The Gate was a part of a Chicago policeman, with no lines.

PAUL KARLSTROM: But you looked the part presumably.

VINCENT PRICE: I looked the part of the Prince Consort, and I’d been to Germany quite a lot in Austria. And everybody in Germany wanted to learn to speak English, so that they all tried their broken English on me, so I ended up with a German accent, which fit Prince Albert very well. And that was a tremendous success in this funny little theater that only held a hundred and fifty people.

PAUL KARLSTROM: And you were with the production the whole time?

VINCENT PRICE: No, I was with it the whole time in London, and the whole time in New York, but then I didn’t go on the road with it, because Miss Hayes felt that I needed to really get out and have some experience in the theater. So I did a lot of summer stock and then went into New York and did one flop after another and then joined Orson Welles in the Mercury Theater, and that was a very exciting experiment.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Can you tell me a little bit about that?


PAUL KARLSTROM: I’m sure others would be interested to hear as well.

VINCENT PRICE: Well, Orson had done a couple of plays for the WPA, mainly Horse Eats Hat and the wonderful production of Macbeth that was done in Harlem. The black Macbeth was really a wonderful, wonderful, exciting play. And Orson opened a theater called The Mercury in which he did a play, a modern version of Julius Caesar. And then it was so exciting that everybody wanted to be part of it, and the next play they were going to do was a play by [Thomas—Ed.] Dekker, who was an Elizabethan playwright that wrote a play called Shoemaker’s Holiday. And Orson asked me to be in that, and to sign a contract with him to do that and Heartbreak House by [George Bernard] Shaw and a couple of other plays. So I joined, and it was really one of the exciting times in the American theater because there was The Group Theater doing the modern plays of . . . oh, all the modern playwrights.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Was Eugene O’Neill. . . .

VINCENT PRICE: And contemporary with that, too, but. . . .

PAUL KARLSTROM: What about [Clifford] Odets?

VINCENT PRICE: Yes, Odets, Clifford, most definitely.

PAUL KARLSTROM: So you knew him personally?

VINCENT PRICE: Oh, yes, very well. And we did those two plays, and then Mercury Theater was really established and doing and. . . . It didn’t go very long because Orson was a very undisciplined fellow, unfortunately—a genius but very undisciplined.

PAUL KARLSTROM: Now this was before his time in Hollywood.

VINCENT PRICE: Oh, yes. This was the theater. It was before the radio thing too. But I was with that, and then I came out to Hollywood to do a couple of movies.

25 of Vincent Price's 199 films

Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands (1990)
'I knew Vincent Price from films – he was a big movie star – but the first time I met him was when we filmed The Oblong Box. In this picture we were pretending to play chess for a publicity photograph for the film. I don’t play chess and I’m not sure that he did but we had to pretend and found it very amusing. Vincent had a brilliant sense of humour. While we were filming one scene I was lying on the floor, dying – I think I’d had my throat cut – and he was wearing this big voluminous cape. He had to kneel down and ask me something along the lines of 'Who did this to you?’, which didn’t make sense because I would not be able to talk if I’d had my throat slit. All I can remember is him saying to me under his breath, very slowly, 'You are lying on my train.’ I’ve worked with Tim Burton five times and it’s just like being part of a family; life doesn’t get much better than that. Vincent also worked with Tim – he was one of Tim’s heroes (Tim made a film about him in 1982 called Vincent). Later [in 1990] Vincent played the inventor in Tim’s film Edward Scissorhands who dies before he can give his creation proper hands. Vincent died a few years after the film was released – the world lost a great actor and I lost a dear friend.' -- Christopher Lee



Jeff Burr From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
'Released in 1987, From a Whisper to a Scream (also known as The Offspring) has the distinct honor of being iconic actor Vincent Price’s last role in a horror film, which alone makes it a piece of genuine horror history. Price plays historian Julian White in the film. On the night his niece is executed for committing a string of brutal killings, White reveals the sinister secrets of her hometown, Oldfield, Tennessee, a horrific hamlet that spawns evil. But as the town’s murderous legacy is exposed with White’s chilling accounts – including stories of a necrophilic madman, a voodoo priest with life-prolonging powers and a legion of children with an appetite for flesh – White doesn’t realize that he is about the write the final chapter of Oldfield’s morbid history…in his own blood!' -- Dread Central

the entire film

Ray Cameron Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)
'Kenny Everett was a zany comic who started out as a DJ in the 1960s before fronting a prime time TV comedy show in the 1980s. This 1984 film is his only attempt at a big screen offering. Kenny died of AIDS-related illness in 1995, aged 50. The film is a Hammer horror spoof, though many other films and genres are spoofed along the way. It is written by Barry Cryer, who appears in the title sequence. Eight scientists (including Kenny and, more plausibly, Dr Pamela Stephenson) investigate an old house where, 18 years earlier, 18 people were killed there in one night. The others are played by John Fortune, Sheila Steafel, Don (Rising Damp) Warrington, Gareth (coffee ads) Hunt, Cleo Rocos and John Stephen Hill. All were well known 80s British personalities but not entirely convincing as scientists! The best known actor here is Vincent Price, though he only appears in a few scenes, as the 'sinister man'. Pat Ashton's appearance as the murdered barmaid marked her last appearance in a run of 20 years of British comedy shows before she disappeared, which is a shame as she was always good fun. It pretty much also marked the end of John Stephen Hill's acting career though he is better mapped as he went on to immerse himself in his Jesuit faith.' -- David Love


Pete Walker House of the Long Shadows (1983)
'The forgotten 1983 effort of Pete Walker (director of Frightmare and House of Whipcord, among others) promises horrific treasures with its tagline: “Room for every nightmare…A nightmare in every room.” The gorgeous poster art is equally promising, giving us great hope for a long overdue horror ensemble cast of film legends John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price – with iconic acting firepower like that, the film is positively dripping with potential. Lee, Cushing, and Price together on screen together – how could anyone possibly take these exquisite ingredients, and manage to over bake our delectable horror cake? Well, it’s actually very easy: just add Desi Arnaz Junior to the recipe as the film’s lead. Good grief, true believers.' -- Rare Horror

the entire film

Tim Burton Vincent (1982)
'Vincent, a short film narrated by Vincent Price, is a pastiche of styles lifted from the writings of Dr. Seuss and Edgar Allen Poe, and a range of movies from B-horror films, German expressionist works and the films of Vincent Price. One could even argue that the techniques used represent a pastiche of 2D and 3D animation methods, particularly UPA's limited animation style. And though Hutcheon does not discuss the relation of parody to the development of the artist, it seems likely that pastiche is one strategy that maturing artist frequently use to legitimize their own work: it is often easier to mimic a style than to establish one's own. Burton was 24 when he made Vincent, so mirroring other texts may have freed him from serious consideration of his own style while focusing his directorial efforts on other matters.' -- Michael Frierson

the entire film

Roy Ward Baker The Monster Club (1980)
'This attempt by Milton Subotsky at resuscitating the horror anthology formula that he started back in 1965 with Dr Terrors House of Horrors, but in a semi-comic vein, proved a disappointment on its release and was the final film from his Amicus outfit. But the film has since attracted a cult following. Vincent Price appears in the framing device as a vampire who inducts John Carradine’s horror writer Chetwynd-Hayes into a club for monsters, and it’s these scenes where the film is at its weakest – mainly due to the cheap make-up effects used for the club’s denizens and an embarrassing final dance scene. But there are some stand-out moments, namely Kellerman’s grisly demise, the fog-shrouded town that Whitman tries to escape from, and Price’s big speech in which he declares that man is the biggest monster of them all.' -- Kultguy's Keep

the entire film

Jim Clark Madhouse (1974)
'During the 1960s and early 70s, American horror was arguably synonymous with two names: Vincent Price and American International Pictures. Starring in a slew of horror films for AIP (most notably the Roger Corman produced Poe adaptations), Price would go on to become veritable legend in the field of horror. Of course, AIP's British counterpart at this time was Hammer Productions, spearheaded most notably by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. However, by 1974, Hammer's dominance over the horror world had begun to wane due to the company's increasing financial woes. This left Amicus Productions (many of which prominently featured Hammer alum Peter Cushing) to fill the void, and 1974's Madhouse represented a strange convergence of this era of horror. A co-production between Amicus and AIP featuring Price, Cushing, Robert Quarry, and even Boris Karloff (in archive footage), the film would end up being the last that Price would make for AIP; it also would hang on the precipice of the new era of horror that would be unleashed by The Exorcist, which would result in the B-movie features of the 60s and 70s falling out of favor with audiences.' -- Oh the Horror


Behind the scenes

Douglas Hickox Theater of Blood (1973)
'Douglas Hickox manages neatly in his direction to catch the spirit of a demented Shakespearean actor’s (Vincent Price) revenge on eight members of the London Critics’ Circle who he believes denied him a Best Actor of the Year award. Situation [from an idea by producers Stanley Mann and John Kohn] allows for some good old-fashioned suspense and high comedy, such as the sequence in which Price saws off the head of one critic while his spouse, needled into unconsciousness, sleeps beside him. Price uses gory Shakespeare-inspired deaths to systematically murder each of the offending critics. Price delivers with his usual enthusiasm and Diana Rigg is good as his daughter. Ian Hendry heads the list of critics, and Diana Dors is in briefly as Jack Hawkins’ wife whom he smothers to death in a moment of jealousy.' -- Variety

the entire film

Robert Fuest The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
'When a movie's tagline reads "Love means never having to say you're ugly", you know you're in for something out there. I know it's nothing new for me to say, but Dr. Phibes is a really weird movie. As in, it's weird by my standards. They included the original trailer for the film on the DVD and it shows that the film (and its sequel) were marketed as horror movies. The problem is that when you watch this, you don't know if you're supposed to laugh or look deep within and analyze what is going on in front of you. Someone would say that Dr. Phibes is very symbolic. Other people, the kind that create goofy websites where they review terrible old movies, would tell you that Dr. Phibes is about a guy who gets horribly disfigured in a car crash and starts murdering the people who were indirectly responsible for his wife's death. That's a gross over simplification. While this article is more or less here to list the murders of Dr. Phibes, a little explanation of the strangeness is indeed required. Vincent Price dresses up like an elderly Captain Kangaroo and can only talk by plugging his neck into a phonograph. He's got a hole on the other side of his neck...this one's for eating and drinking. If you ever wanted to see a film where Vincent Price drinks wine through a hole in his neck, congratulations. You've found what you've been looking for.' -- Head Injury Theater

the entire film

Gordon Hessler Cry of the Banshee (1970)
'Although there’s a fair amount of blood and a good four sets of boobs, Cry of the Banshee doesn’t manage to be quite as entertaining as its fellow bloodless AIP films, before and after. Gordon Hessler shows great skill in his direction, but the script just isn’t as tight and fun as other efforts. Rather than being witty and having twists and turns in the plots, Cry of the Banshee is more straight forward and really doesn’t have too many shocks until the ending. The deliciously evil quotes usually spewing from the mouth of Price just aren’t there, in this film his actions speak for themselves as he shows no remorse with anyone’s life but his own. That trait is no stranger to anyone who follows AIP, but a murderous tyrant just isn’t as interesting as a madman or a tortured soul out for revenge. On the bright side, it’s a lot of fun watching the diabolical Lord Whitman squirm when he has to face the demon out to get him.' -- Oh the Horror


Gordon Hessler Scream and Scream Again (1970)
'This movie paints itself as a thriller, but it’s a science fiction film in disguise. It has elements of political intrigue, police procedure, weirdo medical horror, and vampires, but doesn’t really do any of them very well. Vincent Price ushers in the weirdo medical horror bit, as he plays a weirdo medical doctor using a weirdo medical experiment to create supermen to Take Over the World ™. Of course, he has altruistic delusions for his stupid experiments, but the backstory to all this is never told. In fact, the explanations found in this paragraph are not given until the final ten minutes of the film, which makes the whole thing pretty confusing.' -- Falcon Movies

the entire film

Gordon Hessler The Oblong Box (1969)
'Price is sort of the hero (he lets his brother get fucked up for something he did, but otherwise he's a good guy), but he still gets to engage in some devilish behavior and display some of his trademark smarm. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he blackmails the family lawyer into finding a suitable body to use for his brother's wake, so no one would have to see his disfigurement. The lawyer protests at first, saying he's no criminal, to which Price instantly retorts: "You're a forger and embezzler, and now you're a grave robber." Hahaha, awesome. Lee is also sort of a flawed hero more than an outright villain - his experiments seem to be for good purposes, and while he never turns in his "guest" despite his crimes, he doesn't condone or assist him either.' -- Horror Movie a Day

the entire film

Michael Reeves The Conqueror Worm (1968)
'Produced by the British Tigon organisation, the film keenly exploited the commercially successful costume horrors from Hammer in the UK and Roger Corman in the US. Nevertheless the film has a broodingly sinister atmosphere, with Vincent Price playing the historical figure Matthew Hopkins, who traveled the country executing supposed witches under the powers given to him by the Roundhead parliament during the Civil War. The Conqueror Worm is one of the few films directed by Michael Reeves in his awfully brief career. As a child he started making short films featuring his school friend Ian Ogilvy. His first professional work was as an associate director on The Long Ships (1964), and then as second-unit director on Castle Of The Living Dead (1964), taking over as director mid-production. When he got The She-Beast (1966) right to everyone’s amazement, he was entrusted with bigger budgets and made better films. In 1967 he directed and co-wrote The Sorcerers (1967), giving Boris Karloff a major role in one of the few films worthy of his talent. Reeves even refused to allow my old friend Vincent Price to overact in The Conqueror Worm. Annoyed, Vincent snapped “Young man, I have made eighty-four films. What have you done?”, to which Reeves replied “I’ve made two good films.” All was forgiven when Vincent saw the end product. Alas, on the 11th of February 1969, whilst working on The Oblong Box (1969), Michael Reeves passed away aged just twenty-five, when he unwittingly combined alcohol and sleeping pills.' -- HNN


Mario Bava Dr. Goldfoot & The Girl Bombs (1966)
'While watching this film, one is faced with many question, chief among them being: why would Bava, the master of morbid horror, have been assigned to direct this sophomoric comedy, and why should he have accepted? Bava was a working director. He took the film to fulfill contractural obligations and to put food on the table. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to make the films they want to make. So much for excuses: as a comedy, it's is unfunny, and as a film it is, quite literally, a mess. The lighting is flat and functional, the use of accelerated motion is, even by 1966 standards, terribly out-dated, and the performances range from the somnabulistic to the downright awful. Vincent Price occassionally manages to get a chuckle out of his lame dialogue, but this sort of material is quite beneath his talents. All told, this film represents an all-time low for both Price and Bava.' -- Mario Bava Reviews


Norman Taurog Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
'The great Vincent Price obviously had fun with his characterization of Dr. Goldfoot in this campy spy spoof directed by Norman Taurog. With his henchman Igor (Jack Mullaney), the demented doctor builds a machine that mass-produces an army bikini-clad babes. Goldfoot programs his vixens to seduce the wealthiest men alive and convince them to sign their fortunes over to him - thus enabling the fiendish doctor to amass tremendous wealth and take over the world. Frankie Avalon co-stars as Secret Agent Craig Gamble, who sets out to destroy the women and bring Goldfoot's plan to a screeching halt. Annette Funicello and Harvey Lembeck provide cameo appearances. Strictly for fans who loved those 1960s drive-in quickies.' -- RT

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Roger Corman The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
'Monster movies, beach movies, biker movies - if you wanted it done fast and on the cheap with elements that looked great on a poster, Roger Corman was your man. But while the vast majority of his producing output would fall under the heading of "hypnotically entertaining junk," Corman found the time to direct eight Poe adaptations in the early 1960s, movies that reveal him as a filmmaker possessed of considerable ability and visual flair. They're a window into the career he might have had if he weren't so darn fond of making gobs of money as efficiently as possible. Corman always liked Masque and originally intended to adapt it hot on the heels of his first Poe film, House of Usher. He hesitated in part because he was nervous about the comparisons invited by portraying death as a hooded figure immediately in the wake of Ingmar Bergman's iconic The Seventh Seal. Vincent Price plays Prince Prospero (alliteration is always awesome!) because that was practically the law when Roger Corman filmed Poe; he's in seven of the eight films in the cycle. Price shows why he's one of the great icons of horror cinema, commanding your attention every second he's on screen, savoring every line reading, and somehow managing to infuse a truly horrible character who engages in kidnap and murder like he's going to Starbucks with a genuine pathos.' -- word & film



Ubaldo Ragona The Last Man on Earth (1964)
'Finished in 1961, but not released in the US until 1964, The Last Man On Earth appears, at first glance, to be just as flawed as the two adaptations that followed it, largely because of its poverty stricken budget. But compared to the dated Omega Man, which imagined Matheson's vampires as a spooky albino cult, or I Am Legend, which squandered its promising build-up with a botched ending and unconvincing creature effects, this early version of the book holds up extremely well. Like the book, The Last Man On Earth is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has been almost entirely destroyed by plague. Infected victims have been transformed into shuffling, zombie-like creatures with a lust for blood, and lone survivor Robert Morgan (Price) can do nothing but scratch out an existence by day, and cower in his house by night. Shot in stark, scratchy black and white, the film slowly relates the minutiae of Morgan's dull existence, disposing of bodies, hanging up wreathes of garlic, or grouchily fashioning wooden stakes on a lathe. "They're perfect. Just wide enough to keep the flesh apart so their body seal can't function," Price intones with lip smacking relish. "But how many more of these will I have to make before they're all destroyed?"' -- Den of Geek

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Roger Corman Tower of London (1962)
'Though Tower of London is no masterpiece, it's still an enjoyable Grand Guignol, thanks to Vincent Price's flamboyantly villainous performance and the atmospheric cinematography which favors dank corridors and secret passageways lined with cobwebs. Most interesting is the fact that Price also appeared in the 1939 version of Tower of London but as a victim - the ill-fated Duke of Clarence. Another fun trivia tidbit: Price had originally committed to starring in an adaptation of Poe's The Gold Bug but began work instead on Tower of London when the former project died in "development hell." It was also directly after starring in Tower of London that Price began his long and successful partnership with the Sears Roebuck and Company chain, buying inexpensive European art for their American stores.' -- TCM

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Roger Corman Tales of Terror (1962)
'Three stories adapted from the work of Edgar Allen Poe. A man and his daughter are reunited, but the blame for the death of his wife hangs over them, unresolved. A derelict challenges the local wine-tasting champion to a competition, but finds the man's attention to his wife worthy of more dramatic action. A man dying and in great pain agrees to be hypnotized at the moment of death, with unexpected consequences...' -- collaged

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Albert Zugsmith Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)
'The movie is a coveted title for fans of actor Vincent Price, at that time contracted with American-International Pictures to appear in highly successful gothic horror movies. With his imposing good looks and a cultured voice capable of making the worst dialogue read like Shakespearian prose, Price was highly sought as a new icon of horror villainy. Some incidental evidence indicates that Confessions may have been considered for release by A.I.P., but it is likely that moguls Arkoff & Nicholson would find it too arcane, too adult and too tame to be one of their youth-oriented matinee chillers. Nevertheless, plenty of kids saw it in Allied Artists matinees, and probably couldn't make head or tails of it. But Confessions had Vincent Price, and in 1962 Vincent Price was a guarantee of kid interest. Confessions of an Opium Eater is bizarre with a capital "B", a movie that got released even with its drug-related subject matter named in the title -- which for a subsequent re-issue was changed to Souls for Sale.' -- DVD Talk

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Roger Corman The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
'Following The Fall of the House of Usher, this was the second of Roger Corman's gothic movies loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe tales and produced by the low-budget exploitation studio American International. Both starred the larger-than-life barnstorming aesthete Vincent Price and had literate scripts (the work of pulp writer Richard Matheson, author of Spielberg's Duel), handsome sets (production designer Daniel Haller) and widescreen colour photography (veteran Floyd Crosby, who'd won an Oscar in 1931 for Murnau's Tabu). Their style and opulence belie the modest budgets and shooting schedules (in this case, $300,000 and 15 days). Received with grudging respect by the press, Time magazine called it "Edgar Allan poetic", while Hollywood Reporter wrote of "a class suspense-horror film of the calibre of the excellent ones done by Hammer".' -- The Guardian



Roger Corman House of Usher (1960)
'Price dominates an otherwise indifferently acted film as Roderick Usher, the mad, hypersensitive, last surviving male member of a cursed, degenerate family, who harbours incestuous desires towards his cataleptic sister, with whom he lives in a creepy New England mansion that itself is possessed by an evil spirit which contaminates the immediate, mistbound area. The movie, shot in CinemaScope and colour, is punctuated by shocking moments, but is more notable for its claustrophobic, doom-laden, necrophilic atmosphere and elegant camerawork than the kind of fashionable, in-your-face horror that was launched in the same year by Psycho.' -- The Guardian

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William Castle The Tingler (1959)
'I am William Castle, the director of the motion picture you are about to see. I feel obligated to warn you that some of the sensations— some of the physical reactions which the actors on the screen will feel— will also be experienced, for the first time in motion picture history, by certain members of this audience. I say 'certain members' because some people are more sensitive to these mysterious electronic impulses than others. These unfortunate, sensitive people will at times feel a strange, tingling sensation; other people will feel it less strongly. But don't be alarmed— you can protect yourself. At any time you are conscious of a tingling sensation, you may obtain immediate relief by screaming. Don't be embarrassed about opening your mouth and letting rip with all you've got, because the person in the seat right next to you will probably be screaming too. And remember— a scream at the right time may save your life.' -- William Castle

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William Castle House on Haunted Hill (1959)
'As unfashionable as it may be to say so, none of William Castle's horror movies lives up to the promise of his early noirs, such as The Whistler and its sequels and When Strangers Marry. But if one had to pick the best of the campy horror films that made his reputation, this 1958 feature would probably be it, with or without its promotional gimmick of “Emergo” (an illuminated skeleton flying over the heads of the audience). Vincent Price plays a wealthy man who offers a group of people $10,000 to spend a night in his haunted mansion; Robb White wrote the script, and the costars include Richard Long, Carol Ohmart, and the ever reliable Elisha Cook Jr.' -- Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Kurt Neumann The Fly (1958)
'Slightly above average 50s science fiction (1958), enlivened by a nearly literate script by James Clavell (Shogun). Al Hedison (before he changed his name to David and became a TV star) is a scientist meddling with a strange theory of molecular exchange; he discovers, once again, that there are things-that-man-was-not-meant-to-know when he accidentally trades heads with a fly. With Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, and Kathleen Freeman; directed by Kurt Neumann in 'Scope.' -- Chicago Reader


p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Ah, well, maybe if you see her film, it might change your mind? Had that lustrous waterfall you linked to been turned into a gif, it would have sat squarely amidst the others, be assured. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. They are porn-like. Porn stars. Huh. Yes, yes, about gravity's illustration. I think their charisma has a bunch to do with that. Or I know that's why I keep staring at them. ** Bernard Welt, Hi there, Bernard! Now you'll have me nerdily deciding what geometric form I'm centered within all day. Yeah, everything you say about Chantal Ackerman, completely. So terrible. As important and respected as she is, I've nonetheless been amazed and impressed by the huge response her death has had here in France. It's so strange. Great about Eileen. Yes, she's suddenly an overnight sensation outside our circles. Amazing and great. I haven't seen 'Grandma', of course, due to my not quite determined TV blackout. Wonderful to see you, dear B. ** Steevee, Gotta see this 'Grandma' thing, clearly. ** Cal Graves, Hey Cal! Great to see you! What's up, where you been, what's going on? I'm very good, thank you. And you? ** Jamie McMorrow, No, I get with the relaxed thing,. The post's title was entirely comical. Gotcha on your period of The Fall concentration. Well, yeah, those earliest times were the shit. Me, I'm really good with The Fall up through 'I Am Kurious Orange'. I have a strange (?) fondness for the Brix period. The TV show isn't inspired by other TV shows, for me anyway, And I don't think for Zac. Gisele is into the idea of reviving the kind of puppet-based TV show that was a popular thing when she was growing up. So I guess the French equivalent of the popular puppet TV shows that were big in the US in the '60s like 'Shari Lewis & Lambchop', 'Captain Kangaroo', Howdy Doody', etc. I grew up watching those, but I'm not thinking about them when we're writing the script. The premiere last night was a really big success! I'm happy! My day was all about the premiere, basically, and writing the TV show. More of the same today. How was your Thursday, eh? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, yeah, I saw some of those Eliasson waterfalls other places. Nice. ** Schlix, Hi, Uli! Nice waterfall in that 'Fist 2' game. Nice game title too. I'm very good. The premiere went extremely well last night, whew! Oh, man, when are you here? I leave on Saturday morning heading over to No. America for a festival screening of Zac's and my film. The last TVC show I get to see is on Friday. When are you here? Cool! ** H, Hi. Thank you very much about the waterfalls. I do remember that promised blog post. I have a memory like a hawk, as they say, most of the time. This blog is pretty open. Or it daydreams about being eternally open, at least. Take care. Hope to see you soon. ** Krayton, I started your fiction piece, but I'm still waiting to finish it 'cos I'm trying to squeeze too much stuff into the last couple of days before I leave. I liked the beginning a bunch. Transference, huh, how so? ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Dogshit tired, what a term. Say what you like about the US of A, but, damn, do they/we think up some interesting terms. I did not get the eclair. Isn't that sad? I don't even have the 20 minutes right now to walk to the eclair place and back. Isn't that dogshit sad? Those pane of glass waterfalls are nice, yeah, even though they're usually in horrible bourgeois hotels and misused as a method of soothing the rich. But yeah. ** Gary gray, Hi, Gary! Good to see you, bud! Glad you got amazed by that waterfall stack. And, whoa, comparing it James Benning is, like, the greatest compliment in the world. I am almost tearing up over here. Yes, Bruce Boone is fantastic! 'Century of Clouds' is also really great, and, I think, my favorite of his far too few books. How are you, man? ** Okay. I thought Halloween and a Vincent Price post really deserved each other. Don't you agree? Surely. See you tomorrow.