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  Tower of London Richard The Turd
Year: 1962
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Bruce Gordon, Joan Camden, Richard Hale, Sandra Knight, Charles Macaulay, Justice Watson, Sarah Selby, Donald Losby, Sara Taft, Eugene Martin, Morris Ankrum
Genre: Horror, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: King Edward is on his death bed, and has gathered his family around him to prepare for his passing. Prince Richard (Vincent Price) arrives with his wife Lady Anne (Joan Camden), and rushes up to the bed chamber just in time to hear the monarch tell Richard's brother Clarence that he is to be the next King until the eldest of the two boy princes come of age, and although he conceals his feelings well, Richard is most displeased. He invites his brother down to the kitchens to share a glass of wine, but as their conversation continues, he draws a dagger and plunges it into Clarence's back, then places the body in a nearby vat. One down...

Price had already appeared in a version of the history of King Richard the Third, back in the thirties and similarly horror-tinged, but there he had played Clarence and was memorably drowned in a barrel of wine; here he seized the opportunity to turn the tables from the opening ten minutes. The trouble with this is that not only was this a remake inferior to its predecessor, but that there was already a perfectly good verison of the story in Laurence Olivier's Richard III from the previous decade, and that had the benefit of being drawn from the far more famous William Shakespeare play rather than made up in cod-historical dialogue by the three screenwriters.

Although this rendering did have something in common with its better version, which is that it came across as very theatrical in its origins, with the American-accented line readings making this seem more like an item of dinner theatre than a vital movie. There were concessions to the film world in that here Richard has hallucinations of his victims, seen in time-honoured double exposure fashion, who torment him and play up the psychological troubles the character suffers here. Regardless of the second rate material, Price gives the role his all, and you're left in no doubt that this aspiring royal is pretty much raving mad, much as his characters in director Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series had been.

Colour film might have helped bring this to life, yet it remains disappointingly set-bound and more than a little drab, so it's up to the cast to breathe life into the hoary old tale. Price appears to be offering us his powerful Lear, but then you realise he's offering us his powerful leer as the facial expressions he cycles through become perilously close to comical, though as ever with this star's hamming, it's never less than entertaining and even works up a little sympathy for the wicked Richard with his hunchback and a drive to succeed that even he does not fully grasp the implications of. Elsewhere, the actors are overshadowed, and fall back on middling impressions of Ye Olde English personalities.

As for those horror aspects, along with the frequent supernatural torments the villain must suffer through he puts others through torment as well, with Sandra Knight making a memorable victim when she refuses to go along with Richard's plans and ends up in the torture dungeon, leading to a sado-masochistic reading of the set-up that escaped the original version. One of the visions that features her sees Richard accidentally strangle his wife Anne, to lay on the mental agony, and when the two young princes fall victim to his plotting, you can imagine how that strikes him. Therefore an odd situation develops in that the character who is meant to be the bad guy ends up being more memorable than anyone else, which is less down to his evil behaviour and more down to his portrayal as a poor soul who was barely responsible for his actions due to his madness. An interesting take, but it needed better framing. Music by Michael Anderson.
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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