By Ty Burr
Updated October 29, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Vincent Price departed this world with the same gently dementedtiming that marked his career: He died-at 82, of lung cancer-lessthan a week before Halloween. He leaves behind a legacy of paradox.Of all the madmen, ghouls, and ravening nutjobs the screen has givenus, his were the nicest. His plummy elocution and old-softy eyesconvinced us there was really nothing to be frightened of-until heplunged the knife deeper.Price was born into privilege: A Midwestern candy-manufacturingscion who attended Yale and the University of London, he playedopposite John Gielgud on the London stage before venturing toHollywood in 1938. After 15 years of dramatic roles (including one inLaura), Price starred in 1953’s House of Wax, and the horror genreacquired its dainty, waspish master. To Price, it was a sweet relief.”I much prefer the heavy,” he said recently. ”They’re so dull, thosegood people.” Until Tim Burton’s in-the-works documentary on hismentor is completed, here are five reasons that Price was right:*House of Wax (1953) He revived his career killing off visitors tohis wax museum. Unfortunately, you can’t rent it in the original 3-D.

*The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Arguably the best of the sevenEdgar Allan Poe flicks the star made with Roger Corman.*The Conqueror Worm a.k.a. Witchfinder General (1968) One ofPrice’s least- known roles (as a 17th-century witch-hunter) is one ofhis best.*Theatre of Blood (1973) An actor’s revenge: Price plays asucculent Shakespearean ham who (gulp) kills off his critics.*Edward Scissorhands (1990) Burton gave his hero a touchingvaledictory by casting him as the title character’s cobwebbedGepetto