Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

TALES OF TERROR (1962) * * *

Director Roger Corman's TALES OF TERROR stars Vincent Price in a trio of short horror tales loosely distilled by Richard Matheson from four of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories.

"Morella" is the first entry, derived from Poe's "The Haunting of Morella". A dying girl, Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce), returns to her isolated palatial mansion on the Massachusetts coast to see her father Mr. Locke (Vincent Price) for the first time in 26 years. Locke asks, "What happens after death, to someone who does not choose to stay dead? Someone like Morella." The home is liberally covered in cobwebs. Locke disowned his daughter for contributing to the death of his wife, Morella. Lenora discovers the body of her mummified mother on permanent display in the parlour. Father and daughter attempt to make amends, but Morella has other plans. Price is excellent as the bitter and resentful father.

"The Black Cat" combines Poe's "Cask of the Amontillado" with his "The Black Cat". Both stories involve somebody being walled up, so it's a good choice. It is the longest tale in the movie and considered to be the best. Fortunato Lucrezzi (Vincent Price) asks, "And what is it just before death that leads inexorably to that death?" Montressor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) is the henpecked, cuckolded husband of Annabel (Joyce Jameson). He is an abusive alcoholic and challenges wine-tasting champion Fortunato in a competition at the classy Wine Society. Montressor does surprisingly well, but loses because of drunkenness. Fortunato takes him home and meets beautiful Annabel. When Montressor discovers Annabel's unfaithfulness, he kills her and walls up her body with her lover Fortunato in the cellar. He tells Fortunato, "Haven't I convinced you of my sincerity yet? I'm genuinely dedicated to your destruction." Montressor has a nightmarish hallucination of Fortunato and Annabel playing a football game with his detached head, and then is apprehended by the authorities because a noisy black cat was accidentally walled up with the lovers.

"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a good adaptation of Poe's "The Strange Case of M. Valdemar". Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), an unethical hypnotist, places M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) in a state of suspended animation at the time of his painful death from tuberculosis. Valdemar speaks from beyond and Carmichael wants to be in control. When Carmichael tries to claim Valdemar's bride Helene (Debra Paget) for himself, Valdemar's corpse arises and its rotting flesh melts before our eyes into a "nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putrescence."

The cast also includes: Leona Gage (Morella Locke), Wally Campo (Barman Wilkins), Alan DeWitt (Chairman of the Wine Society), David Frankham (Dr. Elliot James), and others. Music is by Les Baxter.

This anthology is currently out of print. It is the fourth and one of the best of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations. They are all very good. TALES OF TERROR is as stylish as the rest, but lacks subtlety. However, if you like overdone cobwebs and excessively spooky atmosphere, that's a good thing. The other Poe films by Roger Corman are: THE RAVEN (1963), CONQUEROR WORM (1968), PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964), TOMB OF LIGEIA (1965), HOUSE OF USHER (1960), and also HAUNTED PALACE (1963)--which is based mainly on H. P. Lovecraft's "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward". TALES OF TERROR is similar to TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1989), THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973), and TWISTED TALES (1993).

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