TALES OF TERROR
TALES OF TERROR is anthology film that adapts three separate Edgar Allen Poe tales for the screen. Writer Richard Matheson’s screenplay has taken some liberties with the Poe stories, but most of the changes have been made for cinematic reasons and to increase entertainment value. "Morella" features Vincent Price as Locke, an embittered, alcoholic recluse, who finds his solitary existence disturbed by the return of his estranged daughter Lenora (Maggie Pierce). At first, Locke wants nothing to do with his daughter because he still holds her responsible for the death of his beloved wife Morella (Leona Gage). However, after learning that his daughter has only a few months to live, Locke realizes that his hatred for his daughter has been an irrational response to the untimely death of his wife. Unfortunately, it turns out that the long dead Morella isn’t quite as understanding as her grieving husband. "The Black Cat" is my favorite segment in the film because of its combination of horror with black (and not so black) humor. In "The Black Cat" Peter Lorre portrays Montresor Herringbone, a neglectful husband who hasn’t worked for 17 years and spends all of the money that his wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson) earns on alcohol. One evening, while bereft of financial support, Montresor happens upon a wine tasting and challenges the abilities of world expert Fortunato Luchresi (Price). If nothing else, 17 years of hard drinking have made Montresor an expert wine taster in his own right. By the end of their competition, Montresor is quite inebriated and his new friend Fortunato helps him home. However, the new friendship proves to be short lived because soon after Fortunato meets Annabel the two begin having a love affair behind Montresor’s back. Even through his alcohol-induced haze, Montresor soon realizes what is happening and takes revenge against the two lovebirds. While he thinks he has committed the perfect crime, Montresor seems to have forgotten about Annabel’s pet black cat… In "The Case Of M. Valdemar" Vincent Price portrays the title character, an elderly man dying a very painful death. With traditional medical techniques unable to alleviate his pain, Valdemar turns to a mesmerist named Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), whose techniques prove effective. However, neither Vlademar’s wife Helene (Debra Paget) nor his physician Dr. James (David Frankham) trusts Carmichael’s motives. They soon find their fears completely justified, when Carmichael refuses to release Valdemar from his deathbed trance. With Valdemar trapped between life and death, Carmichael begins to make demands upon the beautiful widow until the dead man can stand it no more…
TWICE TOLD TALES
During the 1960’s TWICE TOLD TALES is one of the films that Price made outside of the A.I.P. Poe cycle, with his growing reputation in the horror genre being applied to stories penned by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first of the three TWICE TOLD TALES is Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, which tells of a long-standing friendship, the dead woman both men loved and the discovery of a potential fountain of youth. Price assumes the role of the elderly Alex Medbourne, who helps his friend Dr. Carl Heidigger (Sebastian Cabot) celebrate his 79th birthday. An unexpected series of events leads both men into tomb of the Heidigger’s long departed fiancée, where they discover a magical elixir that has preserved her body and offers both men a second chance at youth. Rappaccini's Daughter places Price in the role of a botanist, whose desire to protect his daughter from the sins of the outside world literally poisons her chances of ever finding love. Of course, the arrival of a potential suitor leads to tragic consequences. House Of The Seven Gables finds Price in the role of Gerald Pyncheon, who returns to his family’s ancestral home after a long absence. It seems that all male members of the Pyncheon family have died under a curse on their home. However Gerald’s need to find the hidden family fortune stirs up a vengeful spirit and the climax of the story plays like it was lifted from Price’s own HOUSE OF USHER. The cast of TWICE TOLD TALES also includes Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning, Mari Blanchard, Abraham Sofaer, Jacqueline deWit and Joyce Taylor.
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES introduces the film going public to the character of Dr. Anton Phibes (Price), who is both a theology scholar and a celebrated organist. As the film opens we discover that Phibes has begun murdering a number of noted surgeons, as retribution for their botched surgery, which ended the life of Phibes' beloved wife Victoria (Caroline Munro). Using the bible as inspiration, Phibes and his beautiful assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North) rein down the plagues of Egypt upon the heads of the guilty doctors, with each of their deaths being more gruesome than the last. Of course, these bizarre deaths do not go unnoticed by Scotland Yard; with Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) the first to realize that there a single person is behind the elaborate killings. Eventually, Trout pieces together the pattern of the deaths, which brings him to the door of Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton), the chief surgeon that the murdered doctors worked under. After reviewing his case files, Vesalius realizes that Victoria Phibes was the only common thread that tied that select group of surgeons together. While this would normally place the bereaved husband on the top of the list of suspects, by all accounts Dr. Phibes burned to death in an automobile accident while rushing to his wife’s side. Director Robert Fuest, who helmed many episodes of TV's THE AVENGERS applies just the right touch to THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, keeping the elements of horror and comedy in perfect balance. Fuest also shows a keen visual sense and makes the most of the art deco trappings of Phibes' lair, as well as the period cars and costumes of the 1930's setting. The cast of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES also features Terry-Thomas, Sean Bury, Susan Travers, David Hutcheson, Edward Burnham, Alex Scott, Peter Gilmore, Maurice Kaufmann, Derek Godfrey, John Cater and Hugh Griffith.
DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN
The success of the first film insured, at least cinematically, that DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN. In this sequel, we find the good doctor revived from suspended animation, with a plan to resurrect his beloved wife Victoria (Caroline Munro). Unfortunately, while Phibes slumbered in his underground lair, his home was destroyed and the map that would lead him and Victoria to the river of life in Egypt was stolen. With the map in the hands of the mysterious Biederbeck (Robert Quarry), Phibes finds himself with a worthy adversary, who is also vying to find the mystical waters of immortality. Once more aided by Vulnavia (Valli Kemp), Dr. Phibes begins another series of elaborate murders; eliminating everyone who stands between him and his ultimate goal. Of course, it isn't long before Scotland Yard's Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and Superintendent Waverley (John Cater) stumble upon Phibes' trail of murder and mayhem. DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN plays up the comedic aspects of the story more than the first film, however there are enough gory deaths to satiate horror fans. DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN is a worthy successor that provides a lot of entertainment value, but the movie isn't quite as stylized as the first outing. Although constrained by his character's inability to speak, Price manages another delightfully creepy performance. Additionally, Robert Quarry plays well off of Price making Biederbeck an intriguing screen nemesis for Phibes. The cast of DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN also includes Hugh Griffith, John Thaw, Keith Buckley, Lewis Fiander, Gerald Sim, Milton Reid and Fiona Lewis. Additionally, look for Peter Cushing, Beryl Reid and Terry-Thomas in great little cameos.
THEATER OF BLOOD
THEATER OF BLOOD is an absolute hoot of a gruesome black comedy and stands among my favorite Vincent Price movies. In the role of Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart, who is driven to homicidal madness by the theater critics who failed to recognize his talent, Price is allowed to mercilessly overact, and he is utterly brilliant as the murderous ham. The plot of THEATER OF BLOOD follows the events that occur two years after Lionheart committed suicide. It seems that Lionheart’s fiercest critics begin meeting with grisly demises, which are directly lifted from Shakespeare’s works. Look for Diana Rigg in the role of the actor’s daughter Edwina and Price’s future wife Coral Browne as one of the critics that meet their end at Lionheart’s hands. The utterly superb cast of THEATER OF BLOOD also features Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Milo O'Shea, Eric Sykes, Madeline Smith and Diana Dors.
MADHOUSE marked the last film that Price did for A.I.P. and really showed that his better films for the impendent production company were behind him. This isn’t to say that MADHOUSE is a bad little horror movie… just a predictable one. In the film’s favor, is the fact that Price finds himself teamed with Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry. The premise of MADHOUSE finds Price portraying horror movie actor Paul Toombes, whose career is notable for portraying the Dr. Death character in a series of movies. When Toombes fiancée turns up decapitated and he a suspect in her death, the actor has a breakdown, which results in him being taken away to the madhouse. Years later, Toombes is deemed cured and is offered an opportunity to resume his acting career by portraying Dr. Death on television. As expected, a number of murders follow… is Toombes a deranged killer? Or is someone setting him up?
Excessively violent for the day, WITCHFINDER GENERAL is one of the most controversial films to star Vincent Price. Although Price and director Michael Reeves did not get along during the production, the collaboration made for one of the actor’s most unforgettable performances as an unrepentant embodiment of evil. The plot of WITCHFINDER GENERAL places Price into the role of the opportunistic Matthew Hopkins, who takes supreme advantage of the ignorant age into which he was born. Hiding behind the title "Witchfinder General," Hopkins literally has a license to rape, torture and murder, while at the same time, lining his pockets- all thanks to the poor souls falsely accused of witchcraft. Originally released in the U.S. under the title THE CONQUEROR WORM, this release marks the first time that the film has been seen in its director intended version on this side of the pond. All the violent footage sheered for the film’s original American release has been reinstated, while the extra nudity inserted against the director’s wishes has been expunged. The cast of WITCHFINDER GENERAL also features Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Hilary Heath, Robert Russell and Patrick Wymark.
MGM Home Entertainment has made all seven films that comprise VINCENT PRICE: MGM SCREAM LEGENDS COLLECTION in their various widescreen aspect ratios. The presentations contained in this boxed set are something of a mixed bag, as most of these films are just repackagings of their previous DVD releases- some of which are NOT 16:9 enhanced. WITCHFINDER GENERAL being the only new to DVD release in the collection is presented at a 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 and looks utterly terrific. TALES OF TERROR is 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 and the fine looking transfer still holds up quite well. TWICE TOLD TALES is unenhanced 1.66:1, but boasts very nice looking colors and respectable image quality, although it could be improved by a new, enhanced transfer. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN both feature very nice looking 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 presentations that continue to please. THEATER OF BLOOD is unenhanced 1.66:1; the presentation is decent enough, but there is a lot of room for improvement. MADHOUSE is unenhanced 1.85:1 and it is adequate to the task, but this is another presentation that requires freshening up.
Aside from the stereo track on WITCHFINDER GENERAL, all of the films featured in VINCENT PRICE: MGM SCREAM LEGENDS COLLECTION come with Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. All of the soundtracks are solid and get the job done. Background hiss and surface noise has been cleaned up across the board, leaving all of the tracks free from any significant problems. Fidelity is limited by the era in which these films were produced, but the music and effects are good enough. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, THEATER OF BLOOD and MADHOUSE offer alternate French and Spanish language tracks. English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided across the board.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as assorted extras spread throughout the set. WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the only new release in the set, has the most specific supplements including a running Audio Commentary with producer Philip Waddilove, actor Ian Ogilvy and writer Steve Haberman, plus the twenty-five minute program Witchfinder General: Michael Reeves' Classic. Theatrical Trailers are sprinkled about the set, plus there is a bonus disc that offers Vincent Price: Renaissance Man, The Art Of Fear, Working With Vincent Price.
VINCENT PRICE: MGM SCREAM LEGENDS COLLECTION offers the horror icon’s fans a box load of scary fun. If you haven’t picked up any of these films in the past, this boxed set is certainly the way to go. Hopefully this boxed set will be followed by a Vincent Price/A.I.P./Poe collection that will include a remastered, 16:9 enhanced PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
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