Bob Dylan once said “the times they are a-changin”, and as elementary a statement that is, it’s a statement that still bares monumental relevance. Society changes, and with it so does pop culture. Today’s horror market differs drastically from the content fans were subjected to 30, 40, even 50 years ago.
That said, once one has established himself as a profound contributor to his art, he’s not likely to be forgotten; in fact, it’s probable that he’ll find himself a comfortable spot in the history books, and serve as inspiration for latter generations of artists. Such is exactly the case with Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, or as I like to refer to them: The Holy Trinity Of Horror Icons.
To outline each leading man’s career would require an obscene amount of time that I just don’t have today, so, rather than provide a film-by-film outline of each man’s perspective career I’ll mply highlight some of the greatest efforts put forth by these three talented performers.
Peter Cushing: Given Peter’s petite frame and eloquent speech, he was often cast in the protagonist role, frequently filling the shoes of doctors, or men of law. He served as a wonderful Van Helng on multiple occaons, and worked to solve macabre mysteries from a scientific standpoint in numerous genre pieces.
Cushing’s phycal stature didn’t solely restrict him to the hero role however. In fact, Cushing fans can make a solid case that the Englishman put forth a career defining performance as the nister Victor Frankenstein in 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein. While I may argue that Cushing’s greatest role came as Doctor Van Helng in 1958’s Horror of Dracula, the topic is wide open for debate, and determining who may be wrong or right is absolutely imposble.
Whichever de of the spectrum you prefer to have seen Cushing, his body of work speaks for itself. Cushing appeared in countless genre films, some of the best of which have (thankfully) made their way to DVD in recent years.
Personal recommendations: Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles , The Abominable Snowman, The House That Dripped Blood, The Brides of Dracula, The Mummy, The Gorgon, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Horror Express, Asylum
Christopher Lee: Quite the oppote of Cushing is Lee (though they starred oppote one another on many instances), a lumbering 6’5” behemoth of a man with a haunting gaze that rarely seems to leave his face. As you’d likely expect, Lee portrayed many villains in his heyday, including Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Mummy and Fu Manchu. Much like Cushing, Lee is a master of characterization, and therefore capable of scaring the trousers off his viewers, which he’s done for over 50 years.
Lee wasn’t always the gruesome menace however. He invested the first decade of his career working smaller parts; bit roles. He also appeared in plenty of televion, though rarely in long-running fashion. It really wasn’t until the late 1950’s that Lee began realize his potential as an onscreen terror. From that point, there was little looking back.
Remarkably, at nearly 90 years old, Lee is still hard at work. He’s grown accustomed to lending his voice to cartoon features and video games in the latter stages of his career, but this living legend still tends to pop up in the occaonal horror feature, a la Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.
Personal Recommendations: The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Rasputin: The Mad Monk , The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Wicker Man, Corridors of Blood, Horror of Dracula, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, Katars, The Gorgon, The Face of Fu Manchu, Horror Express, Howling II, Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Vincent Price: Vincent and Lee shared a number of milarities: both were extremely large men with piercing stares and powerful presence. Like Lee, Price also enjoyed tackling the villainous role habitually. The major difference between the two was the soft demeanor Price could turn on like a light, at any time. If sympathy was expected of an audience, Price could summon it forth. That unique acting capacity helped separate Price from nearly every contemporary on the playing field.
Price wasn’t quite as prolific in his genre attack (he spent nearly two decades focung on televion in the early stages of his career), but when he gned the dotted line to appear in a genre piece, he gave it his all and then some. He was also wise enough to play the protagonist frequently, which resulted in lighter type-casting.
Interestingly enough, Price is featured in two of the most recognizable horror films in history: House on Haunted Hill and The Last Man on Earth.
Personal recommendations: House on Haunted Hill, The Last Man on Earth, The Masque of the Red Death, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Bat, House of Usher, The Fly, Return of the Fly, The Tingler, Theater of Blood, Edward Scissorhands, Pit and the Pendulum