• Tales of Terror



    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 14, 2015
    Directed by: Roger Corman
    Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Joyce Jameson, Basil Rathbone
    Year: 1962
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    The Movie:

    The fourth in the Corman-Poe film series, Tales of Terror sees director Roger Corman, leading actor Vincent Price, and screenwriter Richard Matheson reunite for the third time after the successes that were House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. This film utilizes an anthology structure and brings a trio of Poe-penned classics to the screen in an overall successful manner. Price is the only actor to appear in all three vignettes but he is supported by some truly wonderful actors like Peter Lorre, Joyce Jameson, and Basil Rathbone, just to name a few.

    The first of the film’s stories is “Morella” which follows Lenora (Maggie Pierce) as she returns to her parents’ home after many years away. Once home she meets her father, Locke (Price) still grieving over, and blaming Lenora, for the death of his wife, Morella (Leona Gagne). His sorrow for her death is such that he keeps her lifeless body in her old bedroom, he cannot bear to have her entombed. After a rocky beginning, daughter and father make amends when Lenora reveals an illness. From there a spectral image of Morella haunts and possess Lenora bringing not only death to all involved, but also destruction to the family home.

    While “Morella” is my least favorite of the three stories, Corman and Matheson embed some interesting concepts in their adaption to keep it exciting. Necrophilia is touched upon with Locke keeping his beloved Morella’s lifeless body in their bed, while the idea of incest is hinted at when Lenora is possessed by and made to look like her mother. These touches give “Morella” a bit of needed bite. Unlike the later vignettes, Price’s co-star are not a match for his strong performance.

    The second entry, “The Black Cat” feels a bit like the odd duck of the trio as it is the only one played for laughs. This is fine though, as the vignette is quite funny. Montresor Herringbone (Lorre) is an abusive, deadbeat drunk. He is constantly stealing money from his poor wife, Annabelle (Jameson), and drinking the night away. One evening he happens upon a wine makers convention. Here meets and challenges the world famous, suave wine taster, Fortunato Luchresi (Price) to a contest, this leads to Fortunato and Annabelle meeting and falling in love. The duo begin an affair which Montresor soon discovers. To get revenge, he entombs the lovers behind a brick wall in his cellar. A problem arises when he discovers he also entombed his wife’s noisy black cat.

    “The Black Cat” is my favorite of the three tales. The trio of leads are all great and have great chemistry together. The tasting contest between Lorre and Price is hilarious with each actor giving a standout performance. “The Black Cat” also has the best pacing of the three entries. It is always moving forward and never drags. While longer than “Morella” it feels quite a bit shorter. Although “The Black Cat” may seem like a rehearsal for Corman’s The Raven and Jacques Tourneur’s The Comedy of Terrors it is, in my opinion, better and funnier than the later films. Like the first story, Corman and Matheson place a strong emphasis on the horror and finality of burial/entombing, however in this film the husband cannot wait to entomb his wife.

    The last story is “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” which feature Price as an dying old man with a younger wife, Helene (Debra Paget). Valdemar has an affection for mysticism and the mystic, Mr. Carmichael (Rathbone). The mystic puts Valdemar under a trance while he is dying trapping his body in a type of suspended animation preventing his soul from leaving. Carmichael uses this as blackmail to get Helene to marry him instead of Valdemar’s preferred choice of a friendly doctor (David Frankham). Seeing his wife terrorized by Carmichael brings the sort-of dead Valdemar to rise from his slumber to enact a gooey revenge on the mystic.

    This final story is the goriest of the three and placing it at the end works well. The melting, messy Price dishing out revenge gives a strong visceral image to audiences they will not soon forget. Rathbone is quite good as the Carmichael, his performance has a strong sinister edge. Also fun is the psychedelic lighting created by a spinning mysticism box. The burial/entombing motif is not strong in this entry, however the wife stealing concept from “The Black Cat” reappears in this story.

    Tales of Terror is not the best of the Corman-Poe films but is still a lot of fun. There are plenty of great moments and performances that make the film a success.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Kino Lorber’s blu-ray release of Tales of Terror features a robust, but not fantastic, 1080P 2.35:1 image. Colors and image detail look great considering the age and budget of the film. While there is some minor dirt and damage on the print, none of it is distracting. The release is given a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that sounds very good. The dialogue is clear and the music sounds great. Overall, Kino out did themselves in giving Tales of Terror a strong release with solid image and sound quality.

    Kino also gave the film a selection of worthy extras. We are given a 10-minute on-camera interview with Corman. The producer-director gives historical background on why he and Matheson opted to go for an anthology structure for the film, as well as their reasoning for injecting comedy into “The Black Cat” segment. Corman also shares a humorous anecdote about how the casting of titular black cat became great publicity for the film. The release also features two commentary tracks, one with writer Tim Lucas and a second with Price historian David Del Valle and Frankham. Lucas’ track offers the valuable background information and analysis of the film and crew a viewer expects from one of his tracks. While Lucas is often dry, he is never boring. Del Valle and Frankham share the second track and talk about the actor’s relationship with Price, as well as some history of the film. Like the Lucas’ commentary, it is fun to listen to Del Valle and Frankham as they watch and discuss the film. Lastly, there are two versions of the theatrical trailer, the first of which is the film’s original trailer as it was shown in 1962. The second version is from the Trailers from Hell website and features an introduction and commentary from Corman. A great deal of the information Corman shares on the trailer are similar to his insights from the disc’s interview. While, this extra repeats information it is still nice to have on the release.

    The Final Word:

    Tales of Terror is a great film to watch on a lazy day. It is funny, gory, and never boring. While not Corman’s best film it is a worthy entry in his filmography. The film is further proof of Corman’s talents as a director.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Nice review, but I question the use of the term 'gory' as this film has zero gore on display.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      I think Price's melting features in the final segment qualify as "gory."