(director: Rowland V. Lee; screenwriter: Robert N. Lee; cinematographer: George Robinson; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Ralph Freed/Hans J. Salter/Frank Skinner; cast: Basil Rathbone (Richard, Duke of Gloucester), Boris Karloff (Mord), Barbara O’Neil (Queen Elizabeth), Ian Hunter (King Edward IV), Vincent Price (Duke of Clarence), Nan Grey (Lady Alice Barton), John Sutton (John Wyatt), Miles Mander (King Henry VI), John Rodion (Lord De Vere), Ronald Sinclair (Prince Edward), John Herbert-Bond (Prince Richard), Ralph Forbes (Henry Tudor), Rose Hobart (Ann Neville), Leo G. Carroll (Lord Hastings); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Rowland V. Lee; Universal; 1939)

“Gruesome chilling tale of dynasty change.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Rowland V. Lee (“Son of Frankenstein”/”Captain Kidd”/”The Count of Monte Cristo“)directs this confusingly told historical tale, that overcomes its flaws with some spirited spine-tingling scenes. It’s a gruesome chilling tale of dynasty change--the Tudor dynasty replaces the Plantagenets. It tells of the court intrigues during the reign of the English King Edward 1V (Ian Hunter), in 1471, and the ruthless rise to power of his impatient brother Richard the Third (Basil Rathbone), who in his scheme to snag the crown takes short cuts that has him eliminate at least six rivals. The script is by the director’s brother, Robert N. Lee.

After Richard arranges for theweakling senile Plantagenet King Henry VI (Miles Mander) to be killed, Richard is then aided by the robot-like Mord (Boris Karloff), the court executioner, to murder another rival, his half-brother, the Duke of Clarence (Vincent Price), in a vat of wine, because he stands in his way to the throne.The cluelessKing Edward 1V, the new king, is unaware of his brother’s treachery and on his deathbednames Richard as protector for the boy king Edward (Ronald Sinclair) and his younger brother (John Herbert-Bond).

John Wyatt (John Sutton), who was exiled by a jealous Richard to France, returns to try and stop the power-hungry Richard from getting the crown. But before he can bestow the royal treasure he stole from the Tower upon Richard’s rival, Henry Tudor (Ralph Forbes), Wyatt is caught and imprisoned. With the help of Queen Elizabeth (Barbara O’Neil), John’s cousin, and Lady Alice (Nan Grey), John’s lover, John escapes with the treasure to France to be with Henry Tudor. In revenge, Richard has Mord murder the young ruler and his brother. Richard’s reign of terror is ended, however, when Henry Tudor returns triumphantly with his troops and at Bosworth slays both the psychopath Richard and the dutiful moronic executioner Mord.

It has its macabre fascinations, but Shakespeare did it better and without such comical camp that brought laughter instead of serious purpose to this historical tale.