Twice Told Tales includes three short stories based on the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the first story, Dr. Heidigger’s Experiment, two elderly friends (Vincent Price and Sebastian Cabot) are sitting and having a drink when a sudden storm erupts and causes Dr. Heidigger’s wife’s tomb to open up. She died when she was still young and beautiful, and when they opened the coffin to look at her, they found that she had been preserved perfectly. After testing the water that had been dripping into the coffin from the tomb’s ceiling, Dr. Heidigger discovers that it has miraculous properties. Testing it on himself, he becomes young again, and encourages his friend to drink it as well. Once they’re both young again, he comes up with a plan to use the water to bring his beloved wife back to life, but unfortunately that decision creates some detrimental and unforeseen circumstances.
In the second story, Vincent Price plays a brilliant scientist who has isolated himself away from the world, along with his beautiful daughter. His wife cheated on him and then abandoned their family, so to prevent his daughter from leaving him as well, he infused an incredibly acidic poison into her body that made it so no one could ever touch her without dying, thereby saving her from the sins of the world. When a handsome young medical student comes to live in the room that overlooks their garden however, the two fall in love and desperately try to find a way to cure her of her condition so they can be together. Unfortunately, the cure may be worse than the condition itself.
In the third story, The House of Seven Gables, Vincent Price returns home with his new wife to their ancestral home where his sister is still living. His goal is to find a secret vault that was built into the house so that he could claim the treasures therein. Standing in his way though is a curse put upon the house by the man his family stole the land from, and a love from the grave that desperately wants to be reunited.
This isn’t one of my favorite Vincent Price movies, though it’s not because of his performance, or because of deficiencies in anyone else’s performances. It’s simply the stories that I find rather…I don’t know. I don’t want to say boring, because they’re not. I think they just lack something that his Edgar Allan Poe movies that he did with Roger Corman had. I know this will probably sound odd, but for me this film felt more Disney than macabre, like the Poe films do. Comparing this one to Disney films is about the best comparison I can make. It just has that sort of a feel to it.
As far as the stories go, the first one is quite good, though the ending seems a little…what’s the word I’m looking for? Irrational? Contrived? I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it was obvious how it was going to end up from the time they first brought the dead wife back.
The second story was and always has been my least favorite of the three. It plods along at a slow pace, and really isn’t all that interesting. Vincent Price does a wonderful job as the girl’s father, but he’s really the only shining spot in an otherwise dull story.
The third story was far and away the best of the three, not only because of Price’s masterful performance, but also because of the addition of Jacqueline deWit who played his sister Hannah. The pair played off of one another as though they were two parts of a whole. There was a beautifully macabre and unscrupulous relationship between the two that worked so beautifully, despite the general dullness of the story. Still, though it was somewhat dull it was the best of the three and definitely had its moments.
This new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber has a beautiful transfer, and does look and sound much better than the original MGM DVD release. It also includes audio commentary by film historians Richard Harland Smith and Perry Martin, “Trailers from Hell” with Mick Garris, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. What it doesn’t include however is subtitles, which every film release should have. I can’t for the life of me figure out why some of these classic film releases have them and some don’t. I’d love to see some consistency there, and would encourage not just Kino, but all distributors to make sure that their releases include subtitles. Not everyone can hear all that well, or at all, and they deserve to be able to enjoy the films just like anyone else.
While not perfect, this film has strong performances and three stories that you’d come back to watch every so often, just as I have over the years. Hell, it’s worth watching for Vincent Price’s performances alone, but watching him play off of Jaqueline deWit in the third story was really something special. If you collect Vincent Price films and you love the classics, this is definitely one you’ll want to add to your collection.
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=2191