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MikeBSG

Conqueror Worm/Abominable Dr. Phibes

7 posts in this topic

So, what did you think about these two.

 

I've seen "Conqueror Worm" once and while I think it is a good film, I don't think it's as great as some claim. (I found it odd that the TCM Underground ad for the film seemed to underplay that it was a Vincent Price movie.)

 

I much prefer "Abominable Dr. Phibes." I remember when it first came out, the poster showed Price in skull makeup kissing a beautiful woman with the (mock "Love Story") caption: "Love means never having to say You're Ugly."

 

I think "Phibes" is very clever and makes terrific use of music. Yet it seems to arouse a lot of hatred in critics who prefer "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for some reason.

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Well, I always enjoy Vincent Price, but I was rather disappointed in TCM's presentation of CONQUEROR WORM. I recorded this movie off the Action Channel in pan & scan about five years ago and was delighted to see it on the TCM schedule--hoping that it would be letterboxed. The schedule said it wouldn't be letterboxed, but I took a chance because DirectTV said it would be. When I got up this morning to watch it on Tivo, of course, it was in full screen. This didn't upset me too much because the schedule varifies this, and TCM always tries to get the widescreen versions of all the movies they show. I know it was out of their hands to get the letterboxed version as they are bound by their vendors, but, boy, what a slap in the face for them to show the commercial about the evils of pan & scan and the blessings of letterboxing RIGHT before Rob Zombie's introduction of the movie--almost hypocritical! Add to that the fact that all of the clips from the movie they showed during Zombie's spiel were in widescreen as well. That's a bit too much dramatic irony for me.

 

Other than that, keep up the good work TCM because you hit the nail on the head 99% of the time!

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Hi Gerb: I too was disappointed by the pan and scan (not to mention that the US print of the film distributed by AIP has a completely different soundtrack score and has Price's quote from Poe's 'The Conqueror Worm' tacked on as a prolog and epilog). However, it is at least the uncut version - the UK release was snipped by censor John Trevelyan by a minute or so for excessive violence and the UK DVDs have restored the footage from extremely poor quality videos. Hopefully Criterion will eventually produce a definitive edition. Meanwhile, check out Benjamin Halligan's book on Michael Reeves, which provides a fascinating backstory to the film as well as a complete survey of the director's tragically brief career.

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On the actual film tho, I enjoyed it. Kinda.

 

After all I'd heard about it, I was glad to finally see it, but i didnt like Vincent's "Witchfinder Hopkins" anywhere near as much as his Prince Prospero, or Roderick Usher. He was devious as hell that's for sure, just seemed like a one-note song tho, and I hated his assistant dude.

 

It was quite a brutal flick, got me thinking, which many of these "witch hunt" flicks seldom do. This Hopkins character was based off a real individual, who really did this sort of thing to people. How horrible, what a terrible way to die, I lay there thinking about it as I went to sleep that night and was a little troubled. Overall I liked the film for the most part, but it certainly doesnt touch any of Corman's Poe flicks with Vincent in my opinion, that's for sure

 

Anyway, the title is but tacked on, as many of you know. Here's the original poem in case you want to read it-

 

THE CONQUEROR WORM

 

by Edgar Allan Poe

(1843)

 

Lo! 'tis a gala night

Within the lonesome latter years!

An angel throng, bewinged, bedight

In veils, and drowned in tears,

Sit in a theatre, to see

A play of hopes and fears,

While the orchestra breathes fitfully

The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,

Mutter and mumble low,

And hither and thither fly-

Mere puppets they, who come and go

At bidding of vast formless things

That shift the scenery to and fro,

Flapping from out their Condor wings

Invisible Woe!

 

That motley drama- oh, be sure

It shall not be forgot!

With its Phantom chased for evermore,

By a crowd that seize it not,

Through a circle that ever returneth in

To the self-same spot,

And much of Madness, and more of Sin,

And Horror the soul of the plot.

 

But see, amid the mimic rout

A crawling shape intrude!

A blood-red thing that writhes from out

The scenic solitude!

It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs

The mimes become its food,

And seraphs sob at vermin fangs

In human gore imbued.

 

Out- out are the lights- out all!

And, over each quivering form,

The curtain, a funeral pall,

Comes down with the rush of a storm,

While the angels, all pallid and wan,

Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"

And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

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As some people may know, the director originally wanted Donald Pleasance for the lead in "Conqueror Worm." He wasn't happy to get Price, and the two sparred through the filming.

 

"Conqueror Worm" was important for Price in that it came after some truly dreadful films for AIP, like the "Dr. Goldfoot" movies, and so this movie showed people that Price could actually act. But I prefer his work for Corman. In this film, I get the feeling that Price doesn't know if his character is a true believer or a cynic because he is getting no guidance from the director.

 

You might want to look at the Czech film "Witches' Hammer" from around 1970, in which the inquisitior is played by a physically unassuming Donald Pleasance type. It is available from Facets Multimedia.

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