TALES OF TERROR (1962)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

TalesTerror poster

Directed by: Roger Corman

Written by: Richard Matheson

(based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe)

Starring: Vincent Price, Maggie Pierce, Leona Gage, Peter Lorre, Joyce Jameson, Basil Rathbone & Debra Paget

During the 1960’s it seemed like Roger Corman was filming every Edgar Allan Poe story he could get his hands on. His unfaithful, but mostly entertaining, Poe adaptations usually benefitted from classy horror veteran Vincent Price playing the lead role. With 1962’s TALES OF TERROR, it seemed like Corman was worried that he wouldn’t get to make feature films of every Poe story, so he just threw three into one movie. This anthology runs at under 90 minutes (leaving slightly over 20 minutes for each tale), so Corman doesn’t exactly have a ton of room to work with here. As a result, TALES OF TERROR isn’t quite as fun as Corman’s other Poe movies or most Vincent Price films of the time. That being said, there are merits to be found in this mixed bag anthology. Let’s get into the TALES themselves…

TalesTerror 1

MORELLA: Lenora Locke has traveled a great distance to meet her estranged father. What she didn’t expect was for her dear old daddy (played by Vincent Price) to be a drunk living in a decaying mansion. Cobwebs litter the dining room and a perfectly preserved corpse dwells in a room upstairs. Lenora’s return seems to have awakened a curse, much to her father’s dismay. This is the first and easily the worst tale of the three presented here. It seems like the story doesn’t even know what it wants to be or why. That being said, I don’t think Poe’s original version of this story was all that great either. Moody sets and costumes aside, there’s nothing remarkable about this dull opening story. D+

TalesTerror 2

THE BLACK CAT: Combining two of Poe’s stories (THE BLACK CAT and THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO), this second segment is the best of the bunch. Peter Lorre plays a drunk who is wasting away his wife’s funds at the local bar. He’s an abusive and intolerable man who happens to run across a dignified wine-taster (played to comedic perfection by Vincent Price). The wine-taster soon falls for the drunk’s wife and things take a deadly turn. All the while, a black cat occasionally pops up…because that’s the title of this story after all. This segment has a dark sense of humor that’s brought to life by Lorre’s wildly over-the-top performance and Price having a blast as the goofy wine-taster. Watching these two play off each other is a joy to behold. A nightmare sequence is also memorable, if only for one cheesy over-the-top special effect. Despite having a dark (true to the source material) ending, this tale balances the horror and humor quite well. B+

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THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR: The terminally ill M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) enlists the help of a hypnotist (Basil Rathbone) to ease his suffering. The hypnotism seems to be a smashing success, but Valdemar soon passes away with an unforeseen side effect of the hypnotist’s experiments. While Valdemar’s body lies dead, his soul becomes trapped between the world of the living and the afterlife. What results is a struggle between Valdemar’s wife and the evil hypnotist that leads up to a grisly (for the early 1960’s) conclusion. This story is by-the-numbers. Even if you haven’t read Poe’s original work, you can easily guess where this one’s heading. Though Price and Rathbone are fun to watch, I think this segment might have benefitted from a feature-length running time. This might have left room for a grander conflict as well as a bigger finale to cap it all off. In its current (short) state, it doesn’t leave too much of an impression. B-

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TALES OF TERROR isn’t exactly one of Corman’s best, nor is it a shining star in Vincent Price’s vast filmography. In spite of its faults, it still remains an entertaining anthology for fans of Poe and old-school horror films. MORELLA is easily the worst story of the three. M. VALDEMAR is a decent segment that’s fun while it lasts. THE BLACK CAT is the best of the bunch. TALES OF TERROR is worth recommending, if only to watch Vincent Price and Peter Lorre act opposite one another. Even if you’re not necessarily inclined to watch the whole anthology, I recommend checking out THE BLACK CAT on its own.

Grade: B-

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