THE OBLONG BOX (Gordon Hessler, 1969)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Wednesday, October 24, 6:45, and Thursday, October 25, 5:00
Vincent Price made more than 125 films in his long career, including a slew of horror classics and cult favorites, highlighted by seven Edgar Allan Poe collaborations with Roger Corman and key roles in such other great works as Laura, The Ten Commandments, and Edward Scissorhands. So it’s extremely curious that for “Victoria Price presents: Vincent Price x 3,” Price’s daughter has selected three of his lesser-known frightflicks, Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General) (aka The Conqueror Worm), based on the Poe short story), Jim Clark’s 1974 Madhouse, and Gordon Hessler’s debut, The Oblong Box. Paying tribute to the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death — Price died on October 25, 1993, at the age of eighty-two — Victoria will be at the Quad for screenings of the first two but not the third, leaving it completely up to the audience to figure out just what the heck is going on in this crazy film. Price stars as Sir Julian Markham, a wealthy British man who sees his brother, Sir Edward (played by Alister Williamson and voiced by an unidentified actor), crucified and his face disfigured by a vengeful African tribe. The brothers return to England, where Edward is locked in an upstairs room because, his mind gone, he is a danger to himself and others. He ultimately gets out, setting off on a bloody trail of murder as he meticulously chooses his victims, his face hidden behind a crimson hood.
The American International Pictures production, which is set in 1865, also features Rupert Davies as Kemp, a friend of Julian’s; Uta Levka as Heidi, an unfortunate prostitute; Sally Geeson as Sally, a maid who takes a liking to Edward; Peter Arne as Trench, Julian’s duplicitous solicitor; Hilary Dwyer as Elizabeth, Julian’s fiancée; Harry Baird as N’Galo, a local witch doctor; and the great Christopher Lee as Dr. Newhartt, the first time Price and Lee ever worked together on camera. The Oblong Box bears little resemblance to the Poe story; the movie is a messy mélange of body snatching, throat cutting, voodoo (with a racist depiction of most of the black characters), and mistaken identity, lacking in elements central to Poe’s style. Hessler would go on to make Cry of the Banshee and Scream and Scream Again with Price, in addition to Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park and Murders in the Rue Morgue. With Halloween around the corner, “Victoria Price presents: Vincent Price x 3,” which runs October 24-25, should get you in the proper mood; Vincent Price has a way of doing that, even in his lesser films.