I feel like this might be one of those Mandela Effect things. I was sure Vincent Price, one of the exalted, untouchable pillars of the horror movie world, had played a vampire at some point in his career. Why wouldn’t he!? He looks like a vampire all the time. He wears capes and stuff with ease. Heck, he even narrated “Thriller” and starred in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. Surely he’s been a vampire, right? Well, not really. He’s been vampire-adjacent a few times, sure. But whereas birthday mate Christopher Lee made a career out of sucking blood, and Peter Cushing made a career as a vampire killer, Price has been weirdly absent in the vampire movie pantheon.
Price’s birthday is May 27, which just so happens to be the same day as Lee’s, the day after Cushing’s, and the day after World Dracula Day. So, as we’re in the midst of Nerdist Vampire Week, I thought, “Perfect! Ol’ Vinny P has some vampires in his repertoire.” But, no. Not really. At least not as many as his persona would have you believe. I was sure I’d seen Price in vampire fangs and capes before. And after doing some digging, I think I know why I thought this. But first, the filmography.
American International Pictures
Vincent Price had an impressively long career. He made his debut in 1938’s Service de Luxe and worked consistently all the way up until his death in 1993. Along with Lee, Cushing, and Boris Karloff, Price was always a grand statesman of the horror genre. They added professionalism and gravitas to even the lowest-rent productions. With his pencil-thin mustache, perfectly coifed hair, and silky voice, he made the jump from Film Noir to horror in the ’40s and ’50s and never really looked back.
In 1940, he starred as the titular imperceptible anti-hero in The Invisible Man Returns; he made a voice cameo as the character at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948. But it wasn’t until 1953’s House of Wax, where he played the villainous proprietor of said wax museum, that Price had his first iconic horror role. He made a string of camp classics for William Castle in the ’50s and ’60s, and followed that with a cycle of beloved Edgar Allan Poe (and H.P. Lovecraft) adaptations for Roger Corman.
In these, especially the Corman films, Price played Gothic villains; necromancers, debauched Satan worshipers, and shut-in aristocrats galore. A lot of these characters, from Roderick Usher to M. Waldemar, have attributes of what we could consider “vampiric” while not actually being an undead bloodsucker. There are a few undead in there; Joseph Curwen in The Haunted Palace is a form of undead thing. You could believe some of them were vampires, but none of them are.
It wasn’t until 1964 that Price finally appeared in a movie that even had vampires in it (the Abbott and Costello cameo notwithstanding). That movie is The Last Man on Earth, an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s seminal sci-fi/horror novel I Am Legend. Price plays the titular last man on Earth when a plague has turned everyone else into vampires. So he goes around and stakes them all. In his first vampire movie, Vincent Price is the only one who isn’t a vampire. There’s even a vampire dog in it.
American International Pictures
In the 1970 movie Scream and Scream Again, a supremely weird and convoluted film, a seemingly unkillable serial killer drains victims’ blood. Sounds pretty vampiric, right? Well, yeah, kind of. But it’s much more about scientific experimentation; Price plays the scientist, not even the vampire guy. Anyway, it’s a bizarre movie. But Christopher Lee is the good guy in it, and Peter Cushing’s in it also.
What I’m getting at is Vincent Price didn’t play vampires. And yet when he’d appear on a lot of television shows in the ’60s and ’70s, most often comedies, he’d play someone somehow vampire related. He guest starred on a 1967 episode of F Troop—the broad comedy about a battalion of cavalrymen in the Old West—as a character who dresses cartoonishly like a vampire and whom the dumb main characters think is a vampire.
I’ve linked to this clip for thoroughness, but please be aware of the horrible stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in the form of white actors in redface. The past was a mistake.
He also appeared as a vampire, kind of, in this sketch opposite Dean Martin in some comedy show.
In both of these cases, Price isn’t actually playing a vampire; he’s playing the public image of a vampire made famous in 1931 by Bela Lugosi. Bela Lugosi had long since died by the time of these TV appearances, and Price became a sort of stand-in for easy jokes because of his connection to horror.
There is one (1) feature film in which Vincent Price plays a vampire, and it didn’t come until 1981, when he was 70. It was The Monster Club, the very last of the famed Amicus Productions anthology horror films. This one was weird; mostly a comedy, with minimal violence and gore, and a lot of musical numbers that I hope were cool at the time.
Price plays Eramus, an old vampire who bites the aging writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes (played by horror legend John Carradine, someone who actually did play Dracula) and then takes him into the titular Monster Club where he proceeds to set up three stories with other creatures of the night. It is not the best movie, and though there are plenty of vampires in the movie, Price’s acts the least like a vampire. It’s really just a couple of old guys talking.
In a career spanning nearly 60 years, this is it. Vincent Price played a vampire in the wraparound segments of a comedy horror anthology movie late in his career.
I’m a big fan of Vincent Price, and have seen a good many of his movies. Even I assumed he’d played a vampire in a major dramatic horror film. But he didn’t. And that surprised me. The end.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!