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  Tales of Terror Go With PoeBuy this film here.
Year: 1962
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Maggie Pierce, Joyce Jameson, Debra Paget, David Frankham, Leona Gage, Alan DeWitt, Wally Campo
Genre: Horror
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Three tales of terror based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. In the first, a young woman, Lenora (Maggie Pierce), returns to the isolated mansion of her father, Locke (Vincent Price), only to find he has never forgiven her for the death of her mother after childbirth. In the second, obnoxious drunkard Montresor (Peter Lorre) is obsessed with uncovering the hidden money of his wife (Joyce Jameson); on his way home he stumbles across a wine tasting evening featuring renowned expert Fortunato (Price), but sows the seeds of his own downfall when he invites him back home to meet his wife. In the third, a mesmerist (Basil Rathbone) persuades a dying man, Mr Valdemar (Price), to let him hypnotise him at the point of death - with horrendous results.

The fourth of Roger Corman's Poe films, this was scripted by Richard Matheson and adapted Morella for the first tale, then The Black Cat with a touch of The Cask of Amontillado thrown in for good measure, and lastly The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. The shorter running time for each of these stories means that they cut to the chase quicker than the others in this series, leaving not much room to build up the atmosphere of dread and morbidity that were the trademark of the Corman versions of Poe. Price stars in them all, and gets to be initially serious, next playful, and finally inert for the last story.

Although shorter in length, the adaptations do tend to plod. In Morella, the lugubrious Locke keeps the mummified corpse of his wife in their bed, to do what with we are never told but can probably guess, and when her vengeful spirit apparently kills Lenora, Locke sees her lifeless body and says, "Oh how I envy you!". All of which is fun, but that's about the best of it. Fortunately this is the briefest of the episodes, as it ends predictably, especially if you've seen The Fall of the House of Usher.

The longest story is The Black Cat, which features some ripely enjoyable overacting by Lorre and Price, particularly in the wine tasting scene, with Price pulling some extraordinary faces. When Fortunato is invited back, he instigates an affair with Montresor's wife, leading to more revenge when Montresor drugs them and bricks them up in his cellar, forgetting about the much-detested pet of his spouse. There is a notable dream sequence here (in stretched-out-o-vision), where Lorre's head is pulled off and played with by Price and Jameson, but again it's a predictable comeuppance that ends the tale.

Saving the strongest till last for The Case of Mr Valdemar, the most commanding presence proves not to be Price, who spends most of the action lying down, eyes closed and employing a spooky voiceover, but the villainous Rathbone. As Carmichael, he keeps Valdemar in a state of limbo, questioning him about the afterlife and persuading him to demand that his widow (Debra Paget) should marry the mesmerist. This benefits from Rathbone's wonderful tones and a gruesome climax which rounds off the proceedings nicely, but Tales of Terror is a minor work in the Poe cycle, mainly entertaining thanks to its cast rather than the chills it offers. Music by Les Baxter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Roger Corman  (1926 - )

Legendary American B-Movie producer and director who, from the fifties onwards, offered low budget thrills with economy and flair. Early films include It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors and X. The Intruder was a rare attempt at straightforward social comment.

Come the sixties, Corman found unexpected respectability when he adapted Edgar Allan Poe stories for the screen: House of Usher, Pit and The Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death and The Tomb of Ligeia among them, usually starring Vincent Price. He even tried his hand at counterculture films such as The Wild Angels, The Trip and Gas!, before turning to producing full time in the seventies.

Many notable talents have been given their break by Corman, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, Monte Hellman, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, James Cameron and Peter Bogdanovich. Corman returned to directing in 1990 with the disappointing Frankenstein Unbound.

 
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