Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Roger Corman's Classic Poe Trio ...

Tales Of Terror

Director Roger Corman once again brings together some of the icons of classic horror for this Edgar Allan Poe compendium of stories, Tales Of Terror. Vincent Price is the ubiquitous link throughout the three segments of the film, starring alongside fellow genre luminaries Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone.

Corman’s infamous prolific output turnaround on these American International releases completely belies the high quota of production values. The sets are well constructed, and the use of costume and colour is luscious.

The charming and pretty young Maggie Pierce co-stars alongside Vincent Price in the opening segment. Morella is the tale of a daughter estranged from her father, who blames her for the untimely death of his wife. Living alone in his remote castle like estate house, atop a cliff, overlooking the ocean, Vincent Price’s character of Locke now lives his life through drink, drowning his sorrows as each day wastes away.

Locke’s daughter Lenora returns to the household in order to make peace with her father. Once home she discovers her fathers state of health and mind is not all that it should be. Holding on to the memory of his dear wife is far more tangible than Lenora realised, for cocooned in a myriad of webs and dust up in one of the bedrooms lays the decayed body of Morella, her mother and wife of Locke !.

A beyond the grave tale of retribution, playing out with delicious aplomb under the direction of Roger Corman and the mercurial talents of Vincent Price.

The middle segment of the terror trio, The Black Cat, has Peter Lorre as the central character of Montresor, a somewhat washed up man well past his mid life and looking at his future through the bottom of a constantly emptying glass of booze. Every coin he can get his hands upon is spent at the local brewery. His younger pretty wife distraught at his changed persona.

Meandering in the streets in a half drunken state as usual on one particular day he chances upon a wine tasting gathering. He is beside himself at the opportunity to down free alcohol and does just that when he challenges wine connoisseur Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price) to a tasting session, bragging that he knows more about wine than this dandy gent.

The chance meeting of the two leads to Fortunato Luchresi meeting Montresor’s wife and it is not long at all before the two have an affair behind his back. Montresor discovers their indiscretion and plots their downfall in a devilish demise. He chains them both up in his cellar and then proceeds to incarcerate them behind a brick wall that he himself puts up.

Montresor discovers his wife’s hidden coinage and sets out that evening to spend his findings on drink, sharing in his good fortune with those in the tavern with him. The drink flows freely, but in his drunken stupor so does Montresors tongue. The following morning the police show up at his home asking after the whereabouts of his wife !.
What unravels is the clever twist of fate that delivers Montresor his own twist of sobriety, courtesy of the titular Black Cat !.

The final episode is The Case Of M. Valdemar. The startling tale of M. Vladimir (Vincent Price), a decent man who is dying. His devoted wife at his side, and a loyal friend and doctor at his bedside to aid in Valdemar’s last remaining days. At the forefront, however, is the cold character of Carmichael, a practitioner in hypnotism and a man who has managed to gain Valdemar’s trust. He has persuaded Valdemar to assist him in his research into what transpires beyond the veil of death. Valdemar has agreed to allow Carmichael to hypnotise him at his moment of death, to then use his spirit caught in a state of limbo to question about what does indeed lay beyond this mortal life.

Carmichael is an unpleasant personification of selfish advancement to the detriment and anguish of others. The role is masterfully realised by the splendid Basil Rathbone, synonymous with the role of Sherlock Holmes, here against type but acting with a recognised infusion of arrogance that he portrayed on screen so very well. As well as using the affable Valdemar to further his own end he also lusts after the poor mans beautiful wife, played by the very attractive Debra Paget.

At the point of death the hypnotic deed is done but of course Carmichael leaves poor Valdemar in a state of limbo for far longer than ever agreed to. Valdemar’s wife and the good doctor must act in order to make things right, and allow Valdemar to pass on over into the afterlife. Carmichael refuses to release Valdemar from the hypnotic state, and in turn forces himself upon his wife, insistent that she become his wife or Valdemar will never be set free !.

The overwhelming love and devotion to his wife triggers a deep set reaction within Valdemar, and in keeping with the films theme of revenge Carmichael gets to experience first hand what lays beyond death !.

A splendid horror anthology, colourful and classy, with a splendid cast of horror greats, all under the direction of a man in the prime of his profession. Tales Of Terror never looked so good as it does here, in yet another wonderfully presented High Definition print showing on the MGM HD Channel.

Tales Of Terror Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

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