When I started digging into Vincent Price’s films for It’s All Connected, I wondered if I’d get burned out. I mean, I fully expected to watch more Brian De Palma flicks earlier in this process, but they were all hitting a lot of the same buttons. With Price’s movies, though, I’m having a great time watching one of the best actors of all time plying his craft in a variety of roles ranging from the very serious to the delightfully silly! And with 1962’s Tales Of Terror, you get all of that in one package!
Carrying on the connections beyond just Price starring in the film as he has in the past three films, this is another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation directed by Roger Corman from a Richard Matheson script. Adding to the pedigree, Tales also stars legends Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone. And, for a bit of variety, it’s an anthology film made up of three Poe stories: “Morella,” “The Black Cat” and “The Case Of M. Valdemar.”
In the first tale, Lenora (Maggie Pierce) returns to the home visit her father Locke (Price). She hasn’t been there since she was a baby, 26 years prior. See, pops grew to hate his daughter when her birth shortly lead to the death of his wife/her mother Morella (Leona Gage). Not only did he let the house become a cobweb-filled horror show, but he also left his wife in the bed she died in becoming somewhat mummified. Lenora and Locke make amends, but there’s still one very angry force who has something more to say about the past. This one has some surprisingly cool special effects and a great performance by Price as the drunken, nearly-broken widower.
Things get a bit funnier for “The Black Cat” which features Peter Lorre’s Monstresor, a drunk with a mad-on for his wife’s cat. After getting thrown out of every public house and failing to scrounge up money from strangers — even with great lines like, “Can you spare a coin for a moral cripple?” — he winds up at a wine tasting showcasing Fortunato (Price) as the best taster around! Mostresor starts talking smack about Fortunato and the two get into a taste off in one of the more delight scenes in film history. However, the pair are not destined for friendship as Fortunato begins seeing Monstresor’s wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson). At that point it turns into “Cask of Amantillado,” the first Poe story I ever read, you get a wonderfully odd nightmare sequence and a killer ending!
Finally, we end with a real weird one! In “The Case Of M. Valdemar” Price plays Valdemar, who’s really into a mesmerist by the name of Carmichael (Basil Rathbone). Carmichael manages to pause Valdemar at the moment of death, trapping him in a ghastly transitional state. Carmichael even tricks Valdemar’s wife Helene (Debra Paget) into marrying his own creepy self instead of the much more handsome Dr. James (David Frankham). As with many a Poe story, this one revolves around an inability to escape the dark mistakes we make. And, like many of the Poe adaptations, this one ends in fire!
I watched Tales Of Terror on the DVD from the MGM Vincent Price box set I scored back in my Wizard days. As of now it, and most of the AIP Price films are streaming on Amazon Video if you want to check them out (and you should!). It’s funny, I put off watching this movie that whole time and I think it might be because the back of the DVD says the movie is 2 hours long, but it’s actually 90 minutes. It’s too bad I didn’t watch it sooner, but it was also a very fun classic that I now know to watch several times over!
Okay, I’m sticking with my boy Vincent, but next time we have a different director, a different screenwriter and also a different author being adapted (even though they put Poe’s name on it for publicity)!