Monday, 11 May 2015

Tales of Terror (1962)

Don't you just love these old kooky horror pictures, look at this cast! Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone, three ghoulish tales with three epic stars. As I'm sure you all know this is one of Roger Corman's Poe movie adaptations that made up his eight movie series (give or take). Most of which all starred Price and a selection of the greatest horror icons of the silver screen.

The movie is narrated by Price and all three tales star its a Price vehicle then. After the admittedly pointless narration we kick off with 'Morella' with Price. A young woman travels home to see her father (Price) who dwells on his own within a dusty cobweb ridden mansion. The woman wants to reconcile with her father after many years of no contact, the reason being her mother died giving birth to her and her father has never forgiven her for it. In fact he kept the young girls dead mother in the bedroom where she died, a rotting corpse, as you do. As the pair slowly grow closer together over time events take a turn for the worst as the spirit of the dead mother comes back for revenge.

This entire story seemed totally ludicrous to me frankly. A woman dies giving birth to her daughter and blames the baby on her deathbed for her demise. I mean yeah sure the baby did cause it but that's not the babies fault sheesh. Then that child's father (Price) hates her for most of her young life because of it?! The ending is even more weird because I have no clue why the dead mother comes back from the dead and does what she does (kill her daughter and husband), I also have no real clue why the mothers resurrected body swaps places with her recently murdered daughter, and why they then swap back again once the husband is dead (Price). So the dead mother comes back from the dead and kills her daughter for revenge and kills her husband whom she loved very much for...? I don't know.

I loved the visuals in this short tale. I adored the old creaking mansion set on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, the haunted house look with lush period interior decorations (whatever period it was). The whole atmosphere in this tale was perfectly creepy and just what you'd expect from this type of old fashioned spooky story, its just a shame the plot made no sense.

The second tale was 'The Black Cat' which also incorporated 'The Cask of Amontillado', this starred Peter Lorre alongside Price. Here we see the drunken loutish Herringbone (Lorre) who abuses his wife by taking all her hard earned money and spending every night at the local pub. After stumbling into a wine tasting event he meets up with and befriends Fortunato Luchresi (Price) a wine expert. Herringbone invites Luchresi back to his place for drinks but Luchresi falls for Herringbone's wife and the pair have an affair. Herringbone gets his own back by luring Luchresi once again to his place for drinks, drugs him and walls him up in the cellar with his wife.

Its called The Black Cat because Herringbone's wife has a black cat which Herringbone dislikes. In the end the cat gives his murderous game away but to be honest the cat doesn't actually feature much in the tale so it seems rather moot. This is the one story that is presented in a light-hearted way with silly humour. Both Lorre and Price really have a good time hamming it up something chronic, the best example being the brilliant wine tasting competition between the pair. Again there are so many plot holes and conveniences like how on earth Herringbone manages to get anything done when he's so utterly drunk. This short tale isn't exactly scary but more of a parody or spoof really, its a fun one.

Lastly its 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar' with Basil Rathbone. Price's character of Valdemar is dying from a disease, Mr Carmichael (Rathbone) alleviates his pain through hypnosis. Carmichael does this as Valdemar passes away which traps his soul between the world of the living and the dead, in limbo as it were. Valdemar begs Carmichael to release him so he can pass over completely but Carmichael will not...for some reason. In the end Carmichael tries to force Valdemar's wife into marriage but she is rescued by the rotting corpse of Valdemar...somehow.

Again the plot makes little sense with no proper explanations, it all just happens. This is probably the eeriest tale with Rathbone on fine form as the dastardly villain although I'm not really sure what his goal is here. He keeps Valdemar's soul trapped in limbo but I dunno why, dunno what he's trying to achieve. I'm not entirely sure if the hypnosis was meant to ease Valdemar's death or prevent it because when he does die everyone acts as though something has gone wrong. No clue how Valdemar's soulless rotting shell of a corpse manages to spring to life and save his wife from Carmichael either but hey ho.

All in all I enjoyed this little anthology of horror, it wasn't scary or overly eerie but it was a barrel of high spirits. Some fantastic period set visuals with costumes and set details, some lovely old hokey special effects and hands-on practical makeup work and of course the three legendary movie icons. Probably one of the better anthologies I've seen mainly for visuals, its let down by the weak stories which other anthologies (Amicus) easily trump.