Over the weekend I found myself in an increasingly rare place: looking for something to watch on a Saturday night. Of course, I flipped through Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu trying to figure out what to watch, but it was a trip to my trusty DVD rack that finally helped me figure out what to put in my brain: Vincent Price flicks!
As you can see in the above shot, I’ve got the MGM DVD set, two of the three Scream Factory Collections and a trio of Kino-Lorber offerings in The Oblong Box, Madhouse and House Of The Long Shadows. I watched those latter two somewhat recently, so they were out. From there, I focused on the most important aspect of a film: run time!
I kid, of course, but after wasting so much time trying to figure out what to watch, I figured I didn’t have much time before falling asleep on the couch only to wake up confused and drooling. Laziness wound up working for me though, as it lead directly to the second Scream Factory Collection’s first film: The Raven!
I’d avoided this one over Last Man On Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again!, Return Of The Fly, House On Haunted Hill (an all-time fave) and even The Tomb Of Ligeia because I thought it was a straight-ahead Poe adaptation. I was delighted to find out that it’s not only a Roger Corman-directed flick, but also a comedy! If you’re not sold yet, the film also stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and a young Jack Nicholson! The plot revolves around a pair of magicians (Price and Lorre) and their kids paying a visit to Karloff’s more out-there magician.
We begin with Price thinking about his beloved Lenore and a mysterious black bird appearing. However, this one’s a wise-acre who’s actually Lorre’s cranky, shady magician. After getting him back to his human form, Price agrees to see the man responsible, Karloff, accompanied by his own daughter and Lorre’s son (Nicholson). Once there, the magic really starts to flow once they get there, backs get stabbed and Price — who’s played most of the film as the straight man — coming into his own as a more responsible and powerful wizard culminating in a mostly dialog-free supernatural battle between Karloff and Price at the end.
Don’t expect the kinds of special effects we’re used to these days, of course, but I really enjoyed how much Corman did with what was surely a limited budget, but a nice bag of classic filmmaking tricks that produced a movie that I’m now excited to own!
If you’re wondering whether I fell asleep or not during Raven, I definitely did. Luckily, the children distracted themselves enough on Sunday to allow me to finish and also watch Tower Of London altogether! This one, from the third Scream Factory collection, also comes from director Roger Corman. I watched an interview with him before checking out the picture itself and it was interesting to hear him talk about how they wanted to take their approach to Poe, but mix it up by using Shakespeare’s Richard III as a jumping-off point.
Fun fact, I’ve never read that play, so this one was all surprises (except for the fact that I started this one sometime in the last few years, but turned it off…or fell asleep). Anyway, Price plays Richard, whose brother, the king, is about to die. King Bro announces that he’d like their other brother to serve as the realm’s protector until the oldest prince comes of age. Not a fan of this move, Richard offs his younger brother and then anyone else who gets in his way!
Though he gets what he wanted, Richard finds himself haunted by his victims and potential ones. I’m a big fan of the double exposure ghosts, especially when used in black and white that looks super crisp (even if Corman would have preferred to work in color). There’s a great scene towards the end with grown-ups trying to get the prince and his family out of the castle that was tense and ultimately less than fully successful. The film then ends with the mad king declaring war and waging into the battlefield himself. I won’t spoil it, but I really appreciated how Corman ended this film — bolstered with footage from the Universal film of the same name. Of course, it helps when you’ve got an actor like Price who can murder every scene possible!