Vincent Price: Tales of Terror/The Raven/The Pit and the Pendulum [DVD]
- SKU: 19475206
- Release Date: 08/11/2011
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Although Roger Corman narrowly managed to avoid self-mockery in his pulpy, flamboyant adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe tales, it appears that the director chose this opportunity to let loose with outright parody; the result is a wonderfully entertaining romp with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The first screen teaming of legendary horror stars Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre -- later billed as "The Triumvirate of Terror" -- this so-called "adaptation" uses Poe's most famous poem as a springboard for Grand Guignol comedy from scriptwriter Richard Matheson. Melancholy magician Erasmus Craven (Price), having recently relinquished his membership in the Brotherhood of Sorcerers after the apparent death of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court), is paid a visit by a foul-mouthed talking raven, claiming to be small-time wizard Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre). After some persuasion, Craven returns Bedlo to human form, reversing a spell placed by the evil Dr. Scarabus (Karloff), Craven's chief rival. After learning that a woman bearing a strong likeness to Lenore was seen in the Doctor's company, Craven accompanies Bedlo to Scarabus' castle, where the resulting battle of wills escalates into all-out magical warfare between the two embittered sorcerers. Corman and company relished the opportunity to poke fun at the staid Poe series, and the distinguished leads contribute to the spirit of fun by lampooning their own cinematic reputations. Fans of Jack Nicholson (who cut his acting teeth on this and other AIP productions) should enjoy his melodramatic performance here as Bedlo's straight-arrow son; Nicholson would later co-star with Karloff in Corman's The Terror, which was shot in two days using the same sets! ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi
Tales of Terror
Roger Corman's Tales of Terror stars Vincent Price in a trio of short stories, liberally adapted by Richard Matheson from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The film gets off to a rousing start with "Morella," in which Price's bitterness over the long-ago death of his wife results in tragedy for his estranged daughter Maggie Pierce. The last of the three terror-filled tales, "The Case of Mr. Valdemar," finds Price being put into a state of suspended animation by the diabolical Basil Rathbone; when Rathbone claims Price's bride Debra Paget for himself, Price briefly revives, only to melt before our eyes (this horrific image was reproduced on the film's advertising posters). The film's best story is its centerpiece, "The Black Cat," which weaves elements of "The Cask of Amontillado" into a mordantly funny revenge tale concerning Price, his bitter enemy Peter Lorre, and Lorre's two-timing wife Joyce Jameson. This is the one in which a besotted Lorre walls up Price and Jameson in his cellar, then endures a hellish hallucination of Vincent and Joyce playing a football game with his head! A mixed bag, to be sure, but Tales of Terror remains one of the best of Corman's Poe cycle (though it does lose a lot when not shown in its original Cinemascope form). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Pit and the Pendulum
American-International's standing "haunted castle" set is exhibited to peak advantage in Roger Corman's Pit & the Pendulum. Save for the climax, Richard Matheson's script bears but little resemblance to the Edgar Allen Poe original, though there are pronounced echoes throughout of Poe's The Premature Burial. Vincent Price stars as Nicholas Medina, the son of a notorious Spanish Inquisition torturer. Nicholas' wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) has died under mysterious circumstances, prompting Elizabeth's brother Francis (John Kerr) to arrive at the Medina castle to investigate. The tormented Medina believes that Elizabeth was buried alive, and is convinced that he can hear his wife's voice calling out to him. In truth, Elizabeth has faked her death, part of a plan concocted with her lover Dr. Leon (Anthony Carbone) to drive Medina mad. She succeeds in this goal (albeit to her own grief, as the film's very last shot reveals), pushing Medina over the brink. Convinced that he's his own father, Medina dons Inquisition robes, straps Francis to a table, and arranges for a huge steel-bladed pendulum to slowly, slooooowwly descend on his helpless victim. You'd never know that Pit & the Pendulum was shot on the budget and schedule of a B western; the film is consistently good to look at, with eerily evocative color camerawork (Floyd Crosby) and sumptuous art direction. Stock footage of the climactic torture sequence would later find its way into the 1966 spy spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which also starred Vincent Price. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Cast & Crew
- Vincent Price - Dr. Erasmus Craven
- Peter Lorre - Dr. Adolphus Bedlo
- Boris Karloff - Dr. Scarabus
- Hazel Court - Lenore Craven
- Olive Sturgess - Estelle Craven