Tales of Terror was another outing from iconic film director Roger Corman in which he brings us three more tales based on the works of famed author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe. The films star his regular stable of actors that he used for many of these stories, including Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Joyce Jameson.
The first story is about a man named Locke (Vincent Price) whose wife Morella died just months after their daughter was born. On her deathbed she blamed her newborn daughter for her death, and in a fit of grief her husband nearly throws the baby through the window to her death. Unable to bring himself to do it however, he sends her away instead. Twenty-six years later she returns to see her father one last time before she herself dies of some mysterious illness, which is just the opening Morella was waiting for. Now it’s time to get her revenge.
The second story is based on The Black Cat, and gives us a drunkard named Montresor (Peter Lorre) who’s been married to a beautiful blonde named Annabel for a mostly miserable seventeen years. One night he ends up at a wine tasting and challenges a world renowned wine taster named Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price). The two come to a draw in the challenge, and later when Fortunato helps Montresor home, he meets his beautiful wife and the sparks fly. Unfortunately, Montresor finds out about their affair and soon takes his revenge on the both of them, but it’s his wife’s black cat that he’s desperately hated since the day it set foot in their house that gets the ultimate revenge.
The third story is about Ernest Valdemar (Vincent Price), a man whose illness has him close to death. Basil Rathbone plays a hypnotist names Charmichael who’s been mesmerizing him and taking away his pain. For this he asks nothing in return except for a small favor from Valdemar. He wants to mesmerize him right before his moment of death to find out if he can keep the brain conscious and in a hypnotic state, even after death. It’s a favor that Valdemar is all too happy to provide for all the pain he’s been freed from, but unfortunately, Charmichael has more on his mind than just a simple experiment. He wants Valdemar’s beautiful young wife for himself, even though Valdemar asked her to marry a handsome young doctor after he was gone. Charmichael wants it all though, and in his madness to keep the experiment going far longer than originally stated, he moves into the house and keeps Valdemar in a perpetual state of hypnosis, despite the fact that his body is decaying more and more by the day. When the wife begs him to release her late husband, he renigs on their deal and insists that she marries him instead of the doctor. That’s when Valdemar has finally had enough and gets his revenge.
This particular film isn’t my favorite film of Corman’s that he made in this vein, but it does contain one of my favorite bits, which is the wine tasting scene in The Black Cat. Price is absolutely over the top in that one, and the drunken Lorre is the perfect foil for his effeminate stuffiness.
Morella, the first story in the film could have been done a bit better in my opinion. It felt somewhat rushed, as though they were trying to squeeze the story into the time allotted. The old, run down look of the mansion was great, though it did raise a lot of questions, like where was he getting all the alcohol to keep himself drunk all the time? Where was he getting his food? Who washed his clothes? Did he bathe at all? There was so much more that could have been thrown into this one, but in the end it really wasn’t all that great of a story to begin with, so it’s probably better that they didn’t.
Now The Black Cat I thoroughly enjoyed for the reasons already stated, but there was always just something magical that happened when you put Vincent Price and Peter Lorre together, as was evidenced by my favorite outing of theirs, A Comedy of Terrors, which is one of my all time favorite films. That one even has Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Joyce Jameson. This particular film has Lorre playing the abusive, alcoholic husband, with Price playing the lover who wants to take his wife away from it all, while those roles are reversed in A Comedy of Terrors.
The third story took a darker turn once again with Basil Rathbone playing an unscrupulous villain. This story is a good one, though I felt the ending was a little lackluster. Again, this story could have used a bit more content, though I think this one only really needed it at the end. The way it ends is fine, but it happens a bit fast when compared to the build up to it.
This new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber looks and sounds absolutely spectacular, and comes with an on camera interview with Roger Corman, audio commentaries by film historian Tim Lucas and Vincent Price historian David Del Valle along with actor David Frankham, “Trailers from Hell” with Roger Corman and the original theatrical trailer. It also has a reversible cover art.
The only thing I can really ding this release on is the lack of subtitles, which I complain about endlessly even though no one seems to listen. Every release should include subtitles, especially when you’re going through all the trouble to make a nice looking and sounding blu-ray release like this.
All in all, this is another excellent blu-ray restoration release from Kino Lorber and one that any fan of classic films or any of the actors in this film will want to add to their collection. Make sure you pick up a copy for yourself today, if for no other reason than to see the wine tasting scene between Lorre and Price. That scene alone is worth owning the film for.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=1959