TWICE-TOLD TALES(director: Sidney Salkow; screenwriters: Robert E. Kent/based on the Short Stories Dr Heidegger’s Experiment and Rappaccini’s Daughter and the novel The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne; cinematographer: Ellis W. Carter; editor: ; music: Richard LaSalle; cast: Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment: Sebastian Cabot (Dr Carl Heidegger), Vincent Price (Alex Medbourne), Mari Blanchard (Sylvia). Rappaccini’s Daughter: Brett Halsey (Giovanni Guasconti), Joyce Taylor (Beatrice Rappccini), Vincent Price (Dr Giacomo Rappaccini), Abraham Sofaer (Professor Baglioni), Edth Evanson (Lisabetta). The House of the Seven Gables: Vincent Price (Gerald Pyncheon), Beverly Garland (Alice Pyncheon), Richard Denning (Jonathan Maulle), Jacqueline deWit (Hannah Pyncheon); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert E. Kent; United Artists; 1963)
“Offers a few genuine thrills.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sidney Salkow (“The Great Sioux Massacre”/”The Long Rifle and the Tomahawk”/”Blood on the Arrow”) directs this somewhat dull supernatural horror thriller that nevertheless offers a few genuine thrills. Vincent Price stars in all the three adaptations of the Nathaniel Hawthorne stories: Dr Heidegger’s Experiment, Rappaccini’s Daughter and the novel The House of the Seven Gables. Price was recently in Roger Corman’s low-budget Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, and now ventures off to another studio to offer his usual macabre performance. The screenplay is by producer Robert E. Kent.
In Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, two septuagenarian longtime friends, Dr Carl Heidegger and Alex Medbourne, meet in Carl’s house to celebrate his birthday. Heidegger’s fiancée Sylvia (Mari Blanchard) collapsed on the eve of their wedding 38 years ago and he never married, and is still in love with her. When the storm blows open the entrance to Sylvia’s crypt, the guys are startled to find her body preserved. Heidegger believes the water dripping into her coffin prevented her aging and drinks it after distilling it. Presto. He regains his youth. Then Alex drinks the elixir, and then the mad scientist Heidegger uses the water to bring Sylvia back to life and we learn she was having an affair with Alex.
In Rappaccini’s Daughter, the handsome Giovanni Guasconti (Brett Halsey) is a young student visiting Padua, Italy, and becomes enamored with his beautiful neighbor, Beatrice (Joyce Taylor), he sees from out his courtyard window and chats her up while she’s in dad’s magical garden. She’s the daughter of the overprotective noted botanist Giacomo Rappaccini (Vincent Price), who has a few screws loose ever since his deceased wife was unfaithful; to protect his daughter from sin and keep her from running off, he has injected her with deadly plant toxins that makes anyone who touches her history–which puts a monkey wrench in Giovanni’s romantic plans until he’s invited over by her dad to see if things could be worked out, and they are in a fittingly bizarre way.
In The House of the Seven Gables, Gerald Pyncheon (Vincent Price) returns with his new bride Alice (Beverly Garland) to his family home, ignoring warnings of the family curse on the house erected in New England in 1691. Gerald greedily desires to find the treasure that is rumored to be buried in a vault somewhere in the house. But Alice learns the hard way that she’s in a haunted house, as 150 years ago Pyncheon’s ancestor arranged a witchcraft conviction of an innocent man so that he could steal his property to build the house and from then on all Pyncheon men have been cursed.
None of the tales were that bad or that good, but all have the proper eerie atmosphere to make it a tolerable watch and there’s fun watching the articulate Price do his macabre thing. The cinema version of Hawthorne’s literary efforts are too blunt and lacking in the subtlety found on the written page to allow these bizarre tales to be suspenseful and imaginative. If you didn’t read the stories, you might mistakenly think Hawthorne was a B-film horror writer and not the great writer he was.
REVIEWED ON 11/15/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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