Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tales of Terror

I'm going to review another great DVD Matt sent me. It's called Tales of Terror and it's from 1962. Tales of Terror is a set of what I'd call three mini movies. Each mini movie is based off of a story by Edgar Allan Poe. The stories featured are "Morella", "The Black Cat", and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar".

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This collection of mini movies was directed by Roger Corman and each one stars Vincent Price.

This DVD is a fun watch, especially if you're a fan of Poe's stories. Here's what I thought about each one:

Morella

This one was my least favorite. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch it, but don't go into this expecting anything remotely lighthearted. Not that any of this is lighthearted, it's just that this one is a real downer! Vincent Price shows a lot of expression in his role as Locke, the widower who lives in a rundown, spiderweb infested house. His eyebrows get a real workout. Probably the most interesting part of this story is his house. I have never seen so many thickly layered cobwebs. A Tarantula eventually appears. Do Tarantulas even spin webs?

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See the cobwebs? The rest of the house is like that too.
There's not too much more to say without giving the whole story away. Basically, Locke's daughter comes home to visit him after a long separation and things do not go well. There is also a mean-spirited ghost involved.

The Black Cat

This story was the one I was most familiar with. From what I've read, this version was a combination of "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado". Peter Lorre plays Montresor Herringbone in this and he does a great job of being the bossy, repulsive, drunken husband of Annabelle (played by Joyce Jameson).

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Joyce Jameson as Annabelle
It's hard to imagine why Annabelle married Montresor. He stumbles around yelling at her, while taking all the money she makes and spending it at the pub. (Plus she's a million times better looking than he is.) Montresor also has an annoying way of yelling at the black cat Annabelle owns. He even throws the cat when it gets near him, in a way that I doubt we'd see in a modern movie.


On one particularly bad night, Montresor takes the small amount of money his wife has made from sewing and heads out to the pub. He gets extremely drunk and stumbles down the road to a wine tasting. Here, among more proper gentlemen, he drunkenly declares that he is the best wine tester around. Luchresi, played by Vincent Price, is known to the best.

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I love the expression on the guy's face behind Peter Lorre.
So the two of them have a competition to see who can identify wines the best. It's worth watching this just for Vincent Price's facial expressions! It's so funny seeing him act like the haughty wine taster. We're nearly in cheeseball, Egghead territory with him at that point.

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Peter Lorre just gulps down the wine, but he is great at identifying it after all his drinking experience.

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Luchresi helps a stumbling Montresor home. There Luchresi meets Montresor's wife. You can guess where that leads. Some twists and turns happen after that, involving Montresor's revenge and the irony of that black cat.

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

I really enjoyed watching "The Black Cat" but this one was my favorite. Vincent Price is back again, this time as a dying man named M. Valdemar. He has a lovely wife named Helene (played by Debra Paget). Valdemar loves his wife so much that he only thinks of her happiness. He tells her that once he is gone, he wishes her to marry again so she won't be alone. He feels she should marry his doctor since they already have such a connection. This isn't too creepy since the doctor is a nice man, and you get the feeling he and Helene already have feelings they don't act on because of their respect for Valdemar.

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Add to that mix Mr. Carmichael, Valdemar's personal hypnotist, (played by an outstanding Basil Rathbone.) I kept trying to place who I was watching, and it's bizarre that I didn't figure it out sooner. I've been watching Basil Rathbone play Sherlock lately, so he should have been more recognizable. It's just that he was about 20 years older by this point and acting like a completely different character. He was convincingly evil.

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Mr. Carmichael has convinced Valdemar to be part of an experiment. The deal is that as Valdemar dies, Carmichael will put him in a trance, thus making his spirit stick around as his body loses life. Valdemar's wife and doctor try to talk him out of this experiment, but he insists that he owes Carmichael for years of hypnotising his pain away. I won't say much more except, the experiment works, Carmichael has the hots for Valdemar's wife, and I loved the ending. It was a total surprise!

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Matt just told me today that the other side of this disk contains Twice-Told Tales - some versions of Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories, so those should also be a fun watch!

By the way, don't watch the trailer for Tales of Terror before watching the full movies. The trailer strangely gives away the endings to all three stories! Luckily, I watched the trailer on the DVD extras after watching everything else.

P.S. ~ If you follow me on twitter you might have seen an Edgar Allan Poe pin board I shared recently. There are a lot of cool old illustrations on that page:

Edgar Allan Poe pin board

8 comments:

  1. It probably won't shock you when I say I have this DVD :) I haven't watched it in a long time though.

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    1. Dex ~ No, that doesn't shock me. :) It's pretty entertaining, hey? Vincent Price shows a lot of range through these stories. I just started watching the "Twice-Told Tales" side today. It's pretty intriguing so far.

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  2. I love the poster at the top of the page!

    I remember Morella from when I was a kid - the spooky castle and the end where the woman returns from the dead. All the interpersonal stuff sort of goes in one ear and out the other when your seven one eight - spooky stuff!

    Peter Lorre and Vincent Price were great in the Black Cat. The Wine Tasting scene is really funny and I loved when Vincent Price hooked up w/ Lorre's wife. These same Actors plus Karloff and Rathbone star in a similar movie called Comedy of Terrors - Lorre doesn't play the same screamy role as he does in the Black Cat and The Raven, he's more subdued and wry.

    Vladimir is my favorite - great actors and drama. I didn't recognize Basil Rathbone either and was shocked when I realized it was him. He is truly hateful in this movie.

    Tales of Terror and Twice Told Tales is a great peak into the past with great sets, color, and Vincent Price. The House of Seven Gables is my other favorite in this collection.

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    1. Matt ~ Me too! Great font.

      Oh, I can see how a lot of the dialogue in "Morella" would be kind of "whatever" for a kid. The most memorable part of that is the castle and of course all the craziness in the end. I thought you'd be a fan of that castle since I know you like the look of haunted houses. I ran across this creepy promotional photo for "Morella":

      Ghost Woman

      I didn't even remember her looking that bad!

      Yeah, that wine tasting scene in "The Black Cat" is classic!
      I can't imagine anyone other than Vincent Price in that role. He's great at being the foppish dandy. It's pretty funny when he first meets Lorre's wife. The two of them acting kind of fake concerned. I liked how that story was shown in both a creepy and genuinely funny way.

      I can't remember if I've seen "The Comedy of Terrors". I just watched the trailer and I still don't remember! I've seen those guys in so many things it's a bit of a blur sometimes.

      Oh yeah. Basil Rathbone had me talking at the screen! He was believable as the evil hypnotist. That goes to show what a great actor he was. He's believable to me in every role I've seen him play.

      The sets were really something for these old movies. Classic spooky stuff. I liked the vivid colors too. "The House of Seven Gables" is the only one I haven't watched yet. The other two on that side were depressing but well done! Quite the twists and turns in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment". As it turns out, they should have left well enough alone with that mysterious fountain of youth. I was left haunted by the thought of Vincent Price's character keeping a wicked secret like that for 38 years! He'd seemed like the perfect best friend. I've been enjoying watching him in so many different roles.

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    2. That's one heck of a spooky photo - that one sent a chill down my spine! Yeah, the fountain of youth one was kind of eerie in a Twilight Zone kind of way - I didn't mind the drama in that one - it kind of fit together ok.

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    3. Matt ~ Yeah, she's a creepy one! It was funny for me to look at that picture since I didn't get such a good look at her in the movie. There was a lot going on by the time she appeared. I agree that the fountain of youth story had a Twilight Zone vibe. The Twilight Zone often left me thinking "if only the characters had done something different". There were often huge consequences for a bad decision.

      Near the end, I found myself suspecting that Vincent Price's character had had a relationship with that woman before she died. I was totally shocked when he admitted to being the one who killed her. How about when she turns into a skeleton in that wedding dress! Pretty spooky stuff.

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  3. It looks like three very spooky must-see movies.

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    1. Julie ~ Yeah, especially the last two. "The Black Cat" is really funny in parts. If you're into Vincent Price's brand of humor, you'll be laughing at his wine tasting scene. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is just an excellent story. I've never read/seen a similar plot.

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