TALES OF TERROR
I have always been a big fan of the AIP/Poe series of horror movies directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. These films were shown on television almost continuously during my childhood, however they have since then pretty much disappeared from broadcast. That is why I always been eager to own my own wide screen copies of these classic horror movies, first on Laserdisc and now on DVD.
Although it wasnít the first film to be produced in the AIP/Poe series, 1962ís TALES OF TERROR ($20) is the first to be released on DVD. TALES OF TERROR is anthology film that adapts three separate Edgar Allen Poe tales for the screen. Writer Richard Mathesonís 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 isnít 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 hasnít 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 Montresorís 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 Annabelís pet black catÖ
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 Vlademarís wife Helene (Debra Paget) nor his physician Dr. James (David Frankham) trusts Carmichaelís 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 moreÖ
MGM Home Entertainment has made TALES OF TERROR available on DVD in both full screen and wide screen versions. Since the full screen version crops away too much of the filmís 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it isnít really worth watching. However, the 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation proves to be quite beautiful for a film of low budget origins. The element utilized for the transfer displays a modest number of blemishes and a bit of noticeable film grain crops up from time to time. Floyd Crosbyís cinematography always sets the right mood, plus his careful lighting produces a clean and detailed image on the DVD. Colors are nicely saturated throughout and flesh tones appear very natural, except for a few shots in which they come up a bit pale. Blacks are pretty accurate looking, however shadow detail is limited by age and the caliber of the original negative stock, upon which the film was shot. The cleanly authored DVD doesnít show any visible signs of digital compression artifacts.
TALES OF TERROR has a clean sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that is free from distortion and perceivable background hiss. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and fully intelligible, however Les Baxterís score is a bit flat sounding. Subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD in French and Spanish. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.
MGMís fine wide screen presentation of TALES OF TERROR is something that horror fans will definitely want to add to their DVD collections. Letís hope that MGM follows through and produces more AIP/Poe DVDs. I know that I am looking forward to seeing THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE RAVEN, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and THE TOMB OF LIEGIA on DVD in 16:9 enhanced wide screen.
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