Title: Tales of Terror
Release Date: July 4, 1962
Plot: Narrated by Vincent Price, this film takes three Poe stories and adapts them into short films. Included are The Black Cat/Cask of Amontillado, Morella, and The Case of M. Valdemar.
Review: Unlike the other films in this series, this one tackles three Poe stories in three separate short films. Maybe it was due to this or me taking a week off to deal with finals, but this was definitely more interesting than The Premature Burial. The short format means less padding and more getting to the point, and this particularly stands out in the second short. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s tackle Morella.
Peachy keen Vincent Price returns, not only as our narrator, but as a main character in all three shorts. Here, he plays the broken husk that was once Locke, father to Lenora and widower of Morella. Rather than playing the tortured, poetic soul, he instead is a bit more vindictive and has turned to alcohol. To go along with this change, the setting is more ghostly and faded, rather than dark and gloomy.
Turns out Locke never got over Morella’s death, and decided to keep her corpse in their bed. This is weird to even Lenora, but her impeding death and strained relationship is far more pressing. The shortness of the acts is detrimental to the building of their relationship and tension, but this one still provides a few scares.
The second short is where this film really shines, as Peter Lorre and Vincent Price meet again to craft a comedic take on this tale. Peter Lorre plays the perpetually drunk Montresor Herringbone, who challenges Price’s Fortunato to a wine tasting contest. Lorre as a drunkard is hilarious to watch, and Price having to carefully guide him home is a well done scene. Much like in The Raven, they play off each other extremely well. The best example being the wine tasting scene.
One contest later, and a clingy drunk Montresor is lead home by Fortunato. Here, we meet Annabel, Montresor’s wife and cat lady. Fortunato, a fellow cat lover, hits it off with her and ends up having an affair. Montresor takes a while to find this out, but when he does, it doesn’t end well. Lorre gets to darkly mumble as he plots their deaths. The action, as with the first picks up quickly and Fortunato ends up behind a brick wall.
Adding to the effectiveness of this one is the music used and weird film filters. Montresor was slipping the camera and editor some booze on the side, and it adds to the surreal tone this one sets.
Our third and final tale recounts the case of M. Valdemar, a man dying of some unnamed internal illness. Valdemar’s hypnotist, played by Basil Rathbone, is incredibly sketchy, but seeing as Valdemar trusts him, everyone goes with it. Said hypnotist wants to keep Valdemar’s mind live after death, in an attempt to gain all of his wealth and his wife. This one is a lot of talking,and doesn’t really live up to the second short. What happens after death is a nice concept to base a horror film on, but this one simply had no time to build a proper story.
Highlight’s: All of the second short, but especially the tasting contest. Peter Lorre works off of price really well, and I’m glad this concept got a feature length film.
Recommendations: These are short enough that they won’t bore and provide good adaptations of Poe’s work. I reccomend finding this one and giving it a shot.
Next week, we enter not the world of Poe, but the equally demented mind of H.P. Lovecraft.