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DVD SAVANT

Savant Review:

Vincent Price
THE SINISTER IMAGE


Vincent Price The Sinister Image
All Day Entertainment
1987 / Color, b&w / 1:37 / approx 180 min. / Collector's Edition / Street Date May 28, 2002 / $24.99
Starring David Del Valle, Vincent Price, Harvey Lembeck, Susan Hart, Tommy Kirk, Aaron Kincaid

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This DVD is a collection of features of special appeal to Vincent Price fans. One extended interview is accompanied by some real rarities from his career that are far from his best work, but certainly show the Master of the Macabre's breadth of talent.

Synopsis:

In a 1987 interview, the genial Price relates details of his long and varied career, talking warmly about his many directors and costars from stage, screen and television. A second, audio-only interview, made a year later is included as well. The Wild, Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot is an independently filmed tie-in TV program to promote the movie, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Another earlier TV show from 1958, Freedom to Get Lost, features Vincent as host and star of an unsold pilot for a television series. Three Skeleton Key is a radio program from 1950's Escape! show.

Vincent Price makes for such good company, that the modest production values don't impede our appreciation of the main 'Sinister Image' interview on this disc. Price comes off as a terrific guy - gracious without being fluffy, aware of his great career but not over-impressed by it. He's nothing like the snooty and contemptous madmen and maniacs he plays in our favorite horror films, and his personal perspective on his life on the stage, radio, in movies and television benefits from a sharp memory and a discerning judgement. Although he's worked with just about every famous name in show business, there's never a hint of name-dropping. He's able to praise the praiseworthy without being a bore, and to talk about his controversial or difficult co-stars without being catty or a gossip monger.

A good example is his discussion of Michael Reeves, the young and inexperienced director of Witchfinder General, with whom Price had a very confrontational and infuriating relationship. Price adds up the pros and cons, explains Reeves' shortcomings and how he accommodated them, to do what was best for the film. Instead of involving his ego, Mr. Price is capable of seeing the situation for what it was and telling it straight, even if a punk director did push him around. He comes across as a supreme gentleman.

The other items on the disc are likewise going to be best appreciated by confirmed Vincent Price fans. The major extra, The Wild, Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot, is a Shindig! TV special that mixes music with a minimal plot. Agents from SIC try to get the goods on the fiendish doctor but are waylaid by one of his seductive female robots. It opens amusingly, and then bogs down into derivative pop songs, stale jokes and campy posturing. Harvey Lembeck is Price's clod henchman, and is much better at the silly skit humor than his counterpart in the actual movie. Tommy Kirk, Susan Hart and Aaron Kincaid are terrible ... but the Golden Girls are not bad at all, as their choreographed machine moves are interesting, and their go-go dancing is tops. Perhaps they were borrowed from the Shindig! chorus? Music director Les Baxter contributes some very recognizable musical bridges and stings. The show is definitely a television original. No footage from the feature appears, and there's no hint of the rumored musical outtakes, which is rather disappointing.  1 The 30 minute show comes complete with embarassing tv commercials aimed at teenagers. One Stridex ad that brings back painful memories has a volunteer girl demonstrate the product, obediently taking orders like one of Price's robots.

The other television show, Freedom to Get Lost, is a talky one-act affair that has Price as a runaway nuclear scientist who meets a woman as lonely as he while evading government surveillance men. The drama is pretty ineffective and the twist ending obvious from the beginning, but Price carries the show bravely. He also appears as the program host; the show is a first episode in what appears to be an unsold pilot called Half Hour to Kill.

By contrast, Three Skeleton Key is a fun radio show that gives Price's expressive voice a good workout. The dramatic music is done in the old, emphatic radio style that's fun too.

A second audio interview isn't very well-recorded, and I only listened to a part of it, so I don't know if it covered material not already gone over in The Sinister Image show. It sounded more like a writer's rough interview recording than something for public presentation.


The DVD of Vincent Price The Sinister Image has some of All Day's best production work. The menus are interesting and are accompanied by relevant bits of interview audio. The compression on the television shows is excellent. Both would appear to be from 16mm prints but the quality looks so good that Freedom to Get Lost might be 35mm. The main interview with Price was originally produced on a public access TV setup and has its limitations, but still looks rather attractive. Instead of cutting away to film clips, we stay with Price and interviewer David Del Valle, which is good.

Mr. Del Valle's commitment to Vincent Price is commendable, but he could use some of the star's self-awareness; he shamelessly namedrops and self-promotes during the interview, and his liner notes are little more than a fan recounting of his relationship with Price. Indicative of the content is the full-color portrait of Del Valle with Price on the cover of the liner insert.

Del Valle-Price photos also appear in an exhaustive photo montage, backed by the score from The Haunted Palace. This is a really nice extra, as it fully covers Vincent Price's entire career, and has many rare-looking behind the scenes photos that only staunch fans will fully identify.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Vincent Price The Sinister Image rates:
Interview and TV Shows: Good
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: two half hour television shows, radio show, extra interview.
Packaging: AGI case
Reviewed: June 8, 2002


Footnotes:

1. The word is that there were several musical numbers cut from Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, supposedly because Arkoff and Nicholson thought Price looked too fey in them. I was disappointed not to see them when I personally caught up with the movie in the early '90s, because of a very strong memory from '65. I had caught just the end of a show, that was using what might have been one of these outtakes under its end credits - Price marching along through the ranks of synchronized Golden Girls, warbling lines about his evil nature while the robots filled in with the chorus. My memory is that it was similar to The Monster Mash. I really don't remember anything else, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the end of the previous episode of Shindig! promoting the next week's special. MGM hasn't yet located any of these outtake goodies, which hopefully still exist.
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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