Vincent Price on Blu-ray: THE OBLONG BOX And HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS From Kino Classics
There was a time near the introduction
of Blu-ray as a format that it was difficult to find Vincent Price
films on Blu-ray. For a couple of years all that existed in high
definition was Edward Scissorhands, one of Tim Burton's best films,
but hardly a Vincent Price film, though his mark on it is
unmistakable. However, over the last three years, it appears as
though you can't swing a dead cat without hitting two or three new
Blu-ray releases featuring the king of the genre. Most of Vincent
Price's major features have already been released, but some of the
lesser known AIP films and some others are just now making the leap
from DVD, and in some cases only MOD (manufactured-on-demand) DVD, to
Blu-ray.Let's take a look at some of the latest.
The Oblong Box
- Gordon Hessler
- Lawrence Huntington (screenplay)
- Christopher Wicking (additional dialogue)
- Vincent Price
- Christopher Lee
- Rupert Davies
- Uta Levka
House of the Long Shadows
- Pete Walker
- Michael Armstrong (screenplay)
- Earl Derr Biggers (novel)
- George M. Cohan (play)
- Vincent Price
- Christopher Lee
- Peter Cushing
- Desi Arnaz Jr.
The Oblong Box is a late cycle Poe adaptation starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, however, it is really Alistair Williamson as Sir Edward Markham who does most of the heavy lifting. The film is (quite) loosely based on the Poe short story of the same name, however, it doesn't stick slavishly to the text and therefore allows the material to settle better with modern audiences in 1969.
The film starts when Sir Edward is abducted and mutilated while in Africa following some typically anglo misdeeds among the locals. When he returns to his brother Julian (Price) in England, his appearance and demeanor have become so grotesque that Julian decides it would be best to keep Edward locked away from prying eyes. Edward naturally disapproves and uses some medical trickery to escape from Julian, all the while indulging his newly developed sadistic urges.
When Edward comes across a mad doctor using robbed corpses for his experiments in the guise of Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee), Edward finds just the right man to help him keep his true identity silent while exacting his revenge upon his brother Julian for attempting to kill him. What follows is a nasty tour through late 19th century London and yet another story of graverobbing and murder under Victorian skies.
While the film isn't great, and is certainly nowhere near the overall quality of Vincent Price's Corman-helmed Poe adaptations, The Oblong Box does have its charms. It is sufficiently gruesome to hold modern attentions, however, it does appear to spread 30 minutes worth of story out over a 96 minute run-time. The Oblong Box is certainly a lesser Poe adaptation, but Price and Lee manage to wring every bit of value from their relatively limited screen time. It's difficult to recommend whole-heartedly to anyone apart from Price completists, but as a member of that group, I'd give it a moderate recommendation
KL Studio Classics has done a satisfactory, though not superlative job with the Blu-ray disc of The Oblong Box. The image quality is solid, though not exemplary, with satisfying levels of detail, both in bright and low lit situations, as well as a relatively low amount of print damage mostly in the expected places like credits and transitions. The audio, a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, is similarly satisfactory. No fancy gymnastics on this track, but the dialogue and background tracks are clean and clear, so I'll take it.
The Oblong Box on Blu-ray only has two major extras. The first is an insightful audio commentary from film historian Steve Habermann. The track is quite academic, which is great for the academics out there, however, it does often feel like a chore with facts being narrated very dryly. Some people will love it, I prefer a little bit of spice. The second major extra is a 1969 short titled Annabel Lee, which is essentially a reading of Poe's classic poem by Vincent Price with some footage that looks like well-selected stock images to accompany the audio. Not bad, but not great, though I'm glad I have it.
The Oblong Box on Blu-ray by KL Studio Classics is perhaps a better release than the film deserves, but here it is. If you're a Vincent Price fanatic like I am, this is indispensable, in spite of the mediocre nature of the film. Recommended, with reservation.