TALES OF TERROR (director/writer: Roger Corman; screenwriters: Richard Matheson/from an Edgar Allan Poe story; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Anthony Carras; music: Les Baxter; cast: Morella: Vincent Price (Locke), Maggie Pierce (Lenora), Leona Gage (Morella); The Black Cat: Peter Lorre (Montresor Herringbone), Vincent Price (Fortunato Lucrezi), Joyce Jameson (Annabel Heringbone); The Case of M. Valdemar: Basil Rathbone (Carmichael), Vincent Price (Ernest Valdemar), Debra Paget (Helene Valdemar), David Frankham (Dr Elliott James); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roger Corman/Samuel Z. Arkoff/James H. Nicholson; AIP; 1962)
“The film should appeal to fans of the weird and those with a campy sense of humor more than those who are more serious about drama and Poe.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Richard Matheson loosely adapts a trio of Edgar Allan Poe short stories that is directed by Roger Corman (“The Raven”/”Tower of London”/”The Fall of the House of Usher”). This makes his fourth Poe film. The stories are uneven, and the only constant is Vincent Price in all the segments. “Morella,” the least effective of the three stories, tells of the embittered Vincent Price, a necrophilia figure home alone in a New England castle, visited by his resentful dying 26-year-old daughter (Maggie Pierce) he abandoned at birth after blaming her for his wife’s death. While reuniting with her dad, her mother’s vengeful spirit returns from the grave to possess her daughter; “The Black Cat,” the film’s best effort and the one with a rich sense of black comedy and an hilarious wine-tasting sequence, tells of a tipsy wine connoisseur (Peter Lorre) who walls up his wife (Joyce Jameson) and her lover (Price) alive only to be caught by the police due to the sounds of the wailing cat he accidentally sealed up with them. “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” the most chilling of the three tales, tells of a terminally ill elderly man (Price) kept alive in a hypnotic state at his moment of death by an evil mesmerist (Basil Rathbone), who has designs on stealing his young and beautiful wife (Debra Paget).
The short stories are fun but too short to have much substance, subtlety or impact, and we get short-changed on the usual effective atmospheric style Corman brings to his cheapie films. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun film that has the good sense to cast Price, Lorre and Rathbone. The film should appeal to fans of the weird and those with a campy sense of humor more than those who are more serious about drama and Poe.
REVIEWED ON 8/11/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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