This MGM film from 1962 is an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe
short horror story adaptations, directed by Roger Corman,
and starring Vincent Price in three different roles.
Morella, a young woman called Lenora visits her father's
mansion house, seeing him for the first time since she was
a baby. The house is run down, having been left practically
untouched for those years. Her father, Locke, is still in
mourning for his wife Morella, who died of a weakness only
weeks after the birth of their child. He has kept the corpse
of his wife, and she is after revenge, having on her deathbed
blamed the baby for her plight.
is a rather mediocre short, and in my opinion the weakest
story with which to hook an audience. Vincent Price is good
enough as Locke, but there's very little plot to act out.
It's a strange choice for a Poe adaptation, because much of
this tale is literary; in other words, the horror is psychological.
The Black Cat, Montrasor, a drunken man is cruel to his
wife Annabel, and takes all their money meant for food. After
a wine-tasting competition, he invites Fortunato, the expert,
home. An illicit affair begins between Annabel and the wine-taster.
When Montrasor finds out he invites Fortunato for dinner and
drugs him with the sherry. He then proceeds to brick-up the
wine taster and Annabel in the wall of the cellar, going out
afterward to celebrate his genius. An indiscreet comment whilst
drunk brings the police to the house the next morning. They
carry out a search, but Montrasor believes he is home free
because the wall is a professional job. That is until an unearthly
noise emanates from the wall.
might think it strange I've given a synopsis of this segment
without one mention of a black cat. The truth is in this version
of Poe's short story the cat is pretty much incidental until
the end. In Poe's original, the man hates the cat to the point
that it takes over his life. He even kills it, only to have
another almost identical feline turn up to take its place.
For the sake of this brief adaptation there is a certain amount
of poetic licence used. However, it works quite well and is
arguably the strongest of the trio here. Peter Lorre plays
the drunken man with panache, and Vincent Price acts his well-to-do
toff with tongue firmly in cheek. The wine-tasting competition
is hilarious with Price taking dainty sips, inhaling, swilling,
and pulling all sorts of faces, whilst Lorre has his glasses
filled and swigs them down in one go.
The Case of M.Valdemar, Valdemar (Vincent Price) has
an incurable illness. The pain is kept in check by a rather
sinister hypnotist called Carmichael, who asks only that he
perform an experiment at the point of the man's death. Valdemar
gives blessing to his wife Helene to marry Doctor James (of
whom she is fond) after he is gone. With Valdemar on his deathbed,
Carmichael performs a special hypnotism which means that as
his body dies his mind lives on. They hear his mind speaking
with a chilling voice. He is in an unknown dark place filled
with people, and sounds tormented. Helene and Dr. James plead
with Carmichael to release his hold on Valdemar, but he refuses.
When the hypnotist tells Helene of his intention to take her
as his wife - by force, if necessary - Valdemar returns to
his grey corpse to exact revenge.
there's little substance to this story in cinematic form,
the performances make it quite strong. Basil Rathbone, stalwart
as the world's most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes,
is convincingly creepy here as Carmichael. There is the least
amount of excessiveness here, with the handful of actors all
playing it straight, as should be. Helene screams a few times
and falls into a dead faint, but what would you expect if
your father talked to you from beyond the grave, and then
returned to his body to kill someone!
would be easy to say that this film is not so much Tales
of Terror, as Terrible Tales, but that would be
too much of an injustice. Granted, it's cheaply made, with
even the exterior scenes being shot on studio sets, but it's
better than many of the films from around this period. Indeed,
this could have been a lot worse, but for the professional
screenplay from horror maestro Richard Matheson (Duel,
A Stir of Echoes, Hell House, The Shrinking Man, Nightmare
At 20,000 Feet, etc.), who plainly aims for a cocktail
of fear and fun.
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