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  Twice Told Tales Three's A Shroud
Year: 1963
Director: Sidney Salkow
Stars: Vincent Price, Joyce Taylor, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning, Mari Blanchard, Abraham Sofaer, Jacqueline deWit, Edith Evanson, Floyd Simmons, Gene Roth
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: These are three stories of horror from the pen of the great American nineteenth century writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, beginning with the tale of two old friends who spent their retirement living in the same house. Carl (Sebastian Cabot) stayed there because the tomb of his long lost love was in the grounds, a woman who had tragically died on the night before their wedding, and he had never gotten over her death, spending the years remaining to him in mourning, attending to his job as a scientist. The friend was Alex (Vincent Price) who he was currently celebrating Carl's birthday with, but as a storm raged outside the crypt was damaged and they ventured out to investigate...

The most obvious forerunner of Twice Told Tales was perhaps not something like Flesh and Fantasy or Dead of Night, but one of the Roger Corman-directed adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe yarns, a series that usually starred Vincent Price, who was all present and correct here, and had recently offered the world Trilogy of Terror. As the name suggested it detailed three of Poe's less substantial (plotwise) stories, or at least those that were more difficult to expand into feature length scripts, and United Artists evidently thought they could capitalise on that market with a movie of their own, so raided the more supernatural inflected writings of Hawthorne, though producer Robert E. Kent put his own spin on things.

Kent tried the same trick with Price in the slightly later Diary of a Madman, bringing Guy de Maupassant to the screen, but this had the edge for entertainment thanks to the usual anthology bonus of having not one story going on long enough for you to get bored, or so the filmmakers would have hoped. In truth, these three segments did come across as less cinematic and more like a trio of television episodes edited together to craft a feature, and if it hadn't been for the copious amounts of blood in the last effort then it could well have ended up on the small screen quite comfortably. Also Hawthorne purists may be less enamoured of the way Kent altered the texts to make them more horrific, though this verging towards the tacky was amusing in itself.

Assuming you weren't a stickler for the page, that was. The first instalment sees Carl and Alex discover the body in the broken coffin is perfectly preserved, and discern this is down to a special water that is so pure as it leaks into the tomb that it can reverse the ageing process. Trying it on themselves, like you do, the years fall away and they look far younger (though still middle-aged, it had to be said, obviously the makeup department were not miracle workers), so the next step available is to bring the deceased bride to be back to life. When Sylvia (Mari Blanchard, a cult starlet who was sadly never blessed with good health) is restored she is understandably confused, but the relationship complications are rather soapy before the downbeat ending.

Next up we get more tragedy when Price plays an Italian who sustains his daughter's virginity by making her poisonous to the touch thanks to regular transfusions of a toxic plant they have in their garden - one brush against it and you turn bright purple then die in steaming agony, as will happen should you decide to get your hands on the girl (Joyce Taylor). Then one day Brett Halsey notices her from his window and tries to woo her, so the nutty father seeks a compromise. It's a memorably weird tale, at odds with Sidney Salkow's rather mundane direction and the moderate production values, that tends to fall apart when you wonder why the girl put up with it in the first place. Lastly was a fanciful version of Hawthorne's celebrated American Gothic The House of Seven Gables which Price had actually appeared in earlier during the forties; it was a trifle slow going in the opening stages, but built up to a diverting lunacy once the family curse was in full effect, and Beverly Garland added interest as Price's wife. Overall, Amicus would do these better soon, but it wasn't bad. Music by Richard LaSalle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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