Fright flashback

What would Halloween be without a little Vincent Price?

I’ve complained about my hometown before, but am obliged to say at this juncture that in humble Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, we actually had something better.

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was produced in 1971 by our one and only TV station, CHCH. This hour-long, 130-episode kids’ show combined the mid-century sensibility of Famous Monsters of Filmland with the then-hip look and sound of psychedelia: kaleidoscopic “special effects” plus Top 40 hits spun by “The Wolfman,” an affectionate rip-off of legendary DJ Wolfman Jack.

Frightenstein’s only real star was Vincent Price, who appears at the beginning and end of each episode, and reads mock-macabre poems and other interstitials.

Frightenstein’s producer tracked down Price, who agreed to work for $3000 a day, one quarter of his usual per-diem appearance rate.

He loved children, he explained simply. And the gig sounded like fun.

CHCH checked their tiny budget. They could only afford Price for four days, tops.

Four days it would have to be.

Everyone signed on the dotted line.

I’ve heard the story of what happened next from different sources, and it never ceases to warm my heart:

Price arrived at the modest TV studio, got into makeup and costume and was handed reams of doggerel poems about some crazy characters he’d never heard of before.

He’d read each piece once, put his head down, then look up at the camera’s red light and utter his lines perfectly in one take.

Next!

New makeup, new costume, same perfect delivery, hour after hour.

Finally, it was time for a break. The weary yet exhilarated crew turned off the cameras and lights.

Then they looked around and realized that Vincent Price had disappeared.

Oh well, they said to each other, what do you expect? He’s a big star and all. Plus he’s, like, 60 years old, so he probably went for a nap…

The studio door opened a few minutes later.

It was Vincent Price and a cab driver, hauling “two-fours” of beer from the nearby Brewer’s Retail.

He handed cold stubbies out to the cast and crew and regaled them with tales of old Hollywood, his days working with Karloff and Peter Lorre and Gene Tierney and Cecil B. DeMille and all the other greats he’d known.

Then he posed for photos with everybody individually.

On an overnight rush, these were blown up into 8 x 10s, which Price personally autographed for everyone at the station.

Over the course of four days, taping over 400 of these interstitials, Price never complained, blew a line or missed a mark.

In an era when standards of conduct were collapsing, Vincent Price insisted on behaving like the well-bred gentleman he so often portrayed on screen.

What a wonderful story. Like Sean Connery, Vincent Price was another icon from a now-lost and lamented era. Steyn Kathy Shaidle (oops, my bad—M) is right to laud his rock-solid, unflappable professionalism, and here’s the proof:



Also like Connery, we’ll never see Vincent Price’s like again. Which is really kind of tragic for the rest of us, when you think about it.

Update! Okay, one last hurrah for Halloween.




Can’t remember where I ran across this, so no “Via” link, but it’s good stuff.

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