My Week with The Muppet Show: Week Four, Day Four

Published: August 14, 2003
Categories: Feature

Somebody explain this to me: What does Vincent Price do, exactly?

Back in the day, when Kermit introduced him to me as “the crown prince of terror,” I accepted that information like the sweet, innocent child that I was. Now that I’ve grown into a hard-bitten, cynical Muppet journalist, I find my childlike faith weakening.

I mean, yes, he was in House of Wax, yes, he was in Theatre of Blood, yes, he played the lead role in Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. And they were all very scary, I’m sure. But what does he DO?

Let’s take a look at the historical record, courtesy of his guest appearance on The Muppet Show.

Vincent first appears on the House of Horrors sketch, with Fozzie and Gonzo renting a gothic castle as their summer cottage. There’s thunder, there’s lightning, there’s organ music and ghosts. So far, so spooky, right?

Then there’s a knock, Fozzie opens the huge creaking door… and this walks in.

I mean, talk about a buzzkill, right? It’s the cafeteria lunch lady with a frilly ascot.

“Excuuuse me,” he intones, “but do YOU have a ROOM for the NIGHT? You seeee, the RRRRROAD has WASHED OUT. And my HORSE… had a FLAT. TIRE.” Now, I’ll admit that it’s kind of scary to see a guy mangle a not-very-funny gag like that, but it’s not in the top ten on my personal scream parade.

For the balance of the sketch, Vincent sh’booms around in his velvet cape, pursing his lips and wringing his hands.

“Ohhhh… this is terrible, TERRIBLE!” he moans. At the stroke of midnight, as it turns out, he turns into a bloodlusting animal. As the bells toll, he cries, “Quicklah, QUICKlah… Preparrrre a DUNGEON!… Chains! MANacles! BIND me! Urrrrhhh aaahhh… grruuurrr gghhhh…”

Okay, so I don’t know what kind of weird scene Victor’s into here with the chains and the manacles, but if he calls out sick tomorrow, we could sub in Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly with no questions asked.

This isn’t so much “Oh! That’s so scary!” as it is “Ohhhh, that’s so SCARY…

Now, I know what you’re going to say — he’s not supposed to be really scary here. It’s a comedy sketch on a puppet show. It’s just a parody. But for my money, if you’re gonna bill yourself as the crown prince of terror, then when you make an appearance on a television show, I want to see more princing and less mincing. C’mon! Gimme some scare, man! Make with the fright!

It’s like an episode where Elton John shows up to play the kazoo, or Rudolph Nureyev just lounges on the recliner and eats Doritos. If you’re not gonna actually do the thing that you’re supposed to be famous for, then why are you wasting my time? I could be looking at Muppets right now.

It doesn’t end with that sketch, of course. Vincent spends the whole episode doing broad, hammy takes to the camera, while the Muppets do their best to live up to the horror theme around him. This is the first theme episode, by the way, where they build the whole episode around one particular thing. It’s a good tweak to the format — it makes the episode feel coherent, and it sets the stage for great things to come.

It’s just a shame when you theme the episode around horror and chills, and then the guest star shows up, and he’s your grandma.

by Danny Horn

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