Saturday, August 14, 2010
My True First Look at; Vincent Price
Although I have known Vincent Price to be a king of cinema, I just watched Dragonwyck from 1946 where he stars opposite Gene Tierny as a cold-hearted, eccentric Dutch lord in the late 19th century who kills off his petulant, gluttonous wife in order to marry the governess of his daughter, against whom he holds great resentment. Although gaining a son to carry on the Van Ryn name is ostensibly his goal, the plot (and his character) spiral into a dark, confused maelstrom of rage, drug abuse, and a Henry VIII-like propensity to dispense with wives in the hopes of gaining a son. The undercurrent of family-bred psychosis adds another manic thread in an already Cosby-like sweater of a movie.
What strikes me most about seeing Vincent Price in this earlier movie is one: his HEIGHT! The man was 6' 4" in the 1940's!! His contempt for everything from such a great height, his flashing eyes and drug-addict stubble dressed in such narrow, sweeping dressing gowns is awe inducing. Secondly is the subtlety with which he plays out emotions - pretty unusual for actors of his time who invested heavily in exaggerated gestures and body postures. And although he is a murderer, and although he is a sociopath, and although he is terrifyingly tall, we (I'm pretty sure it's not just me) actually come to feel badly for him towards the end when we see a man struggling with a drug addict's mind to re-claim everything he has known and everything he had been told from boyhood he would have. He has lost control of his tenants, spurned his daughter, lost his infant son, and lost the control and respect due to him as patroon of his land and died indignant, confused, and alone. Just flipping brilliant.