Roddy McDowall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Vincent in Fright Night.
Fright Night is rather enjoyable horror film about a teenager Charley (William Ragsdale) suspecting that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire.
Fright Night is not a by the numbers vampire movie due to the sense of humor it has about the subject with the characters in the film having seen other vampire movies. This element is perhaps best represented by Roddy McDowall who plays Peter Vincent, his names stemming from horror actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, a former horror movie actor turned horror TV host. Of course Peter Vincent unlike his namesakes isn't a very good actor as shown in the brief clips we see of his films shown on TV, as Roddy McDowall does some extreme slices of ham fitting for a terrible actor in the genre. We do not meet Peter Vincent in person until later in the film when Charley seeks some sort of expert in the field vampires in order to expose Jerry. Unfortunately that expert is Peter Vincent, who has just been fired from being host of the show. McDowall sets the tone well for his performance from his first scene as Peter outside of the television, so to speak. McDowall is rather entertaining as he plays Peter in a bit of a self loathing daze as he first assumes Charley is just a fan wanting an autograph, until his hilarious break in his mindset when Charley states he's interested in something else.
McDowall just adjusts throughout the scene so well as he portrays Peter's inability to exactly decipher how to interact with Charley. First as McDowall brings all the fluster of a proper actor's ego as he states that he's been fired due to low ratings. This suddenly changes when Charley pledges his belief in vampires, and McDowall's face light up so wonderfully as Peter believes he knows a true fan. McDowall has this dissolve into the best sort of confusion and fear as Charley makes it known that his belief is real. Despite Peter's hasty exit he is brought back into the situation by Charley's friends Amy (Amanda Bearse) and "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), who want to use Peter as a method to prove to Charley that Jerry isn't a vampire. McDowall is once again a joy as Peter tries to put on the act of the true actor who just wants to move on from his experience, making it all the funnier in his snap delivery in accepting the assignment when offered a 500 dollar saving bond for his trouble. This leads Peter to go with the trio to set things "straight", with Peter going full costumed as a true vampire hunter.
This leads to a very enjoyable scene for McDowall as he plays it with such pride with Peter Vincent as a man finally in his element. McDowall is quite charming in the scene as he has Peter giving a bit of a show, for the money he has been payed, as Peter goes about "proving" Jerry is not a bloodsucker through a test. After the test though, Peter accidentally discovers Jerry's true nature through a mirror, and McDowall's surprised reaction is pure gold as the confidence of before disintegrates in an instance. After this point the film proceeds to its final somewhat darker act, and a bit of a challenge is presented to McDowall in terms of maintaining the right tone with his performance. McDowall succeeds in seeding in a few of the dramatic moments into his performance in a natural fashion. McDowall is rather affecting before the final battle, as the full extent of Peter's self loathing appears as refuses to help Charley.
That makes when he finally comes to Charley's aid all the more powerful, as McDowall earns the change through the way he shows Peter trying to build up his confidence. I love the way McDowall approaches this as an actor striving hard to stay in character as he even keeps reminding himself that he's a vampire hunter. The most remarkable moment for McDowall though is when he watches the death of one of the monsters. McDowall is surprisingly moving in the moment as reveals the empathy in Peter for the poor creature as it writhes in pain. Now the rest of his work is less serious minded in the finale. McDowall never undercuts the intensity of the situation yet still manages to earn plenty of laughs through his very amusing reactions throughout the fight. I love how McDowall is constantly playing with Peter's act occasionally being the killer he needs to be, but more often a scaredy-cat just barely making it through. I must admit I really enjoyed this performance by Roddy McDowall. McDowall finds just the right touch for the movie and never slips in terms of treading the fine line of the dark yet humorous material.