May 27, 2011

The Zombie Movies of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Linnea Quigley

Today marks the birthday of horror icons Christopher Lee (89) and Linnea Quigley (53). In addition, today is the birthday of Vincent Price. Although he passed away in 1993, were he still with us, the legendary horror actor would be celebrating a classy 100th birthday today

To celebrate this trio of terrifying thespians, I wanted to summarize each actor's contribution to our beloved zombie genre.

VINCENT PRICE

During Vincent Price's career, zombies were not in vogue as they are today, so Price's zombie credentials are quite few and far between. While he did have a role in Tales of Terror (1962) in which he played a hypnotized man who returns from the dead, I would argue that Price's first contribution to the zombie genre came when he starred in The Last Man on Earth (1964), a vampire film based on the novel I Am Legend that would go on to directly inspire Night of the Living Dead (1968), which we all know sparked the zombie invasion of popular culture.



Some decades later, Vincent Price would finally make is debut in a true zombie project when he lent his iconic voice to Michael Jackson's Thriller music video (1983). Price lends the track some horror cred as he raps about "grizzly ghouls from every tomb . . . closing in to seal your doom"



Vincent Price's final venture into the world of zombie would be with the zombie action comedy Dead Heat (1988). In Dead Heat, Price played Arthur P. Loudermilk, the creator of a device that would help him and other rich tycoons achieve immortality. In reality, Price died shortly after in 1993.



CHRISTOPHER LEE

Although Christopher Lee's career was very active during the surge of zombie films in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Lee didn't lend his talents to many zombie films. While he's mingled with the undead in the shape of Frankenstein's monster, mummies, and undead witches -- and even though he's most recognized for playing Dracula, one of the most popular undead characters in all of horror -- Lee has only two movies on his filmography that even come close to being called "zombie films." First, he starred in the anthology film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) in a segment where he plays an art critic stalked by the zombie hand of an artist.



Then, in 1972, Lee starred in the very cool Horror Express as an anthropologist who discovers a frozen alien creature that thaws aboard the trans-Siberian express and absorbs the minds of its victims, turning its mindless victims into its undead minions.



LINNEA QUIGLEY

From the Scream Kings to the Scream Queen, of our celebrated actors  this birthday girl has contributed the most iconic scenes to zombie media. In Return of the Living Dead (1986), Linnea Quigley made a splash with her jaw-dropping graveyard strip and dance as Trash, the hot young punk girl who fantasizes about being eaten alive.





Quigley didn't stray back into zombie films very much for the rest of her career except for bit parts in movies like Corpses are Forever (2003) and Zombiegeddon (2003), but you don't really need to do much else in the zombie genre after you star in a horror workout video featuring aerobic zombies gyrating and twisting by the side of the pool. There's no way of topping that!