Once upon a deadline dreary, while I pondered weak and weary on the opening paragraph for a toy feature I heard a rapping at my chamber door. That rapping was neither a black bird of portent, nor the dead brought back to life. For the dead back to life, I had only to look upon my desk. The dead man in question is Vincent Price, and a return from the grave was fairly common in many of the horror movies he starred in, though this return is much more contemporary.
Vincent Price has had a long and distinguished career in film and television that spanned decades, though many modern audiences are most familiar with his voice and his role as the inventor in Edward Scissorhands or as the dastardly Egghead from the campy Batman series. Well-educated (he graduated from Yale), he initially had roles as a romantic lead, roles that would soon give way for more varied parts. Price's acting style made him seem never entirely wholesome, and playing sly villains seemed to fit him best. One of his lasting relationships in film was with Roger Corman, with whom he made a plethora of Poe based films (Edgar Allan Poe, that is) in the 1960's, including the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven.
The Raven is one of Poe's most well-known work, and it has been pondered by those weak and weary on many a midnight dreary. When Roger Corman pondered it he decided on a whimsical approach rather than one of stark terror, and the film version with Vincent Price was more farce than frightening. The casting of the film almost seems to be a dream team with the aforementioned Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre headlining it, and a small part for budding actor Jack Nicholson (who ended up doing quite well in his own right).
For a better look at the original film, we turn it over to Horror Host and Historian Professor Anton Griffin of the Midnight Shadow Show to fill us in on the details:
American International Pictures made the Raven in 1963. (It was actually the fourth movie to be made with that title, the first was a 1912 silent, followed by a 1915 version, then the classic Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi version in 1935.) Roger Corman directed this 'unofficial' entry into his Edgar Allan Poe series of films he helmed for AIP. I say 'unofficial' because this Raven was made as a broad comedy, but with horrific elements. The overall feel of the movie is Edgar Allan Poe, but with a healthy dose of the creepy fun of Disney's The Haunted Mansion thrown in for good measure.
The film finds AIP stalwart, Vincent Price as Dr. Erasmus Craven, a wizard living in self-imposed exile with his daughter Estelle. Erasmus was the son of a great and powerful wizard who was formally the head of the Council of Wizards until his death. The Council is now headed by the evil Dr. Scarabus, lifelong enemy of the Craven family. Erasmus is also introduced while mourning the death of his wife, Estelle's stepmother Lenore. This mourning for the '..lost Lenore' is the main usage of Poe's famous poem, but the stygian born black winged bird himself plays an important part in the story. A stately raven arrives on Erasmus' doorstep one 'midnight dreary' and miraculously speaks in Peter Lorre's voice! Lorre, who plays fellow wizard Adolphus Bedlo, was transformed into a raven by the evil Dr. Scarabus and comes to Dr. Craven for help. Complicating matters even more, Bedlo swears to him that he has seen Craven's 'dead' wife Lenore walking around Dr. Scarabus' castle. This sets off the action as Craven, Bedlo, Estelle, and Bedlo's son Rexford (played by a very young Jack Nicholson) embark on a quest to Scarabus' castle to save Lenore's trapped spirit... or so they think.
The Raven is great fun, and the horror stars really chew the scenery in each and every on screen moment. Vincent Price is wonderful as Craven, thoughtful, quiet, mild-mannered and heroic, while Boris Karloff portrays the classic black-cloaked villain in Dr. Scarabus. The real treat however, is Peter Lorre as Dr. Bedlo. Lorre reportedly improvised most of his lines, and his occasional mutterings and snide comments with Price and Karloff are hilarious. Price kept up with the scene stealing Lorre tooth and nail, but Karloff was reportedly not amused with all the off-script dialogue. The dinner table scene is a priceless moment where one can actually see the frustration in Karloff's eyes as he banters with Lorre.
The film concludes with Craven and Scarabus facing each other in the infamous duel of the wizards. There is a lot of symbolism in the battle as Karloff attacks with classic gothic trappings of his generation, (sharp weapons, bats, gargoyles) and Price defends and counters with the more modern trend of comic, tongue in cheek style (eggs, confetti, turning the gargoyles into puppies, etc.) Also a plus, is Hammer film beauty Hazel Court who plays 'the rare and radiant maiden, Lenore'.
The film is fun, light-hearted, and a perfect film for young kids who love wizards and magic.
Now, with the help of NECA, Price has returned to haunt your home. Gentle Giant Studios were able to build a digital model of Price's face from a life mask (which is basically a casting of a person's face) that is used not to sell vacuum cleaners (as with Fred Astaire) or beer (John Wayne), but to create a miniature doppleganger of the master of horror as part of the Reel Toys line. NECA has used this dead-on representation of the actor to rest atop a 1:6 scale body and create a new entry into the toy market
The outfit that Price dons in the film would have easily fit on a pimp from the 1970's, with plenty of velvet, fur and a wild hat to top it off. The jacket is a rich blue with faux fur on the sleeves. The hat can be used as a bongo drum, wastebasket, ice bucket and an aid to reach objects on the top shelf. It's a hat, too. The only thing you need is a boppin' cane to make the outfit complete, and Price settles for a bird (the raven, natch) to finish out the ensemble. NECA has done a great job working with various materials to create a great costume. The costume is layered with the velour robe, a fully sleeved silken shirt underneath and removable pants and belt. The hat fits well and the raven looks nice when hanging with Mr. P.
The figure is packed in a window box that shows off the figure and has imagery from the poster art for the movie. The package is designed for retail display and isn't quite as nice as the gatefold packaging that permeates most of the 1:6 scale market, but is clearly sufficient for the task.
This figure is the first foray into the 1:6 scale for NECA, but you wouldn't know it from the result. The body they designed in-house is based on many of the other 1:6 scale figures with a high level of articulation and some interesting joints. The feet have a mid-foot joint so they can bend, and the ankles can bend with a twist in the leg just above them. The knees are interesting in that they have wedges cut out of the calf and thigh, and these allow the knees to bend back fully like a double jointed knee, but without the double joint. The mid-thighs have twists and the thigh joints are ball-jointed. The waist is jointed so it can twist and bend, and the chest also has a sort of ball-joint that allows more bending. The shoulders are ball-jointed and there are mid-bicep twists with double-jointed elbows. The wrists can bend and there is a wrist twist joint that is like a ball joint in that it also allows some side-to-side motion to the wrist. The neck can twist and allow the head to look up, though it can't look down.
The likeness stands out, and the work of Gentle Giant is probably better suited to this scale than many of the smaller figures they often work on. As nice as the face looks, the hands are what are most impressive about this figure. Both hands are designed to allow a wide range of poses by making the fingers bendable. The fingers are a bendy material and each one (including the thumb) can be moved and posed independently. All together it is a very nice 1:6 scale body, probably more agile than the living Vincent!
More pictures of Vincent Price
|Where to buy Vincent Price: This Vincent Price action figure is a limited edition of 5,000. It retails for about $29.99 and is available in specialty stores, as well as various online toy retailers, such as Monster Mania.