Three stories adapted from the work of Edgar Allen Poe. A man and his daughter are reunited, but the blame for the death of his wife hangs over them, unresolved. A derelict challenges the local wine-tasting champion to a competition, but finds the man's attention to his wife worthy of more dramatic action. A man dying and in great pain agrees to be hypnotised at the moment of death, with unexpected consequences.
Vincent Price ... Fortunato / Valdemar / Locke
Maggie Pierce ... Lenora Locke (segment "Morella")
Leona Gage ... Morella Locke (segment "Morella")
Edmund Cobb ... Driver (segment "Morella")
Peter Lorre ... Montresor Herringbone (segment "The Black Cat")
Joyce Jameson ... Annabel Herringbone (segment "The Black Cat")
John Hackett ... Policeman (segment "The Black Cat")
Lennie Weinrib ... Policeman (segment "The Black Cat")
Wally Campo ... Barman Wilkins (segment "The Black Cat")
Alan DeWitt ... Chairman of Wine Society (segment "The Black Cat")
Basil Rathbone ... Carmichael (segment "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
Debra Paget ... Helene Valdemar (segment "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
David Frankham ... Dr. Elliot James (segment "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")
Another of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price films based VERY loosely on three Edgar Allan Poe tales.
The first is "Morella" where a dying girl comes to visit her father (Price) and find out why he abandoned her as a child. It has to do with her mother (Morella) and her death. Well-done but it doesn't make a lot of sense.
"The Black Cat" is about a man (Peter Lorre) finding out his wife is cheating on him with someone else (Price). It's pretty good but Lorre's acting turns it into a comedy more than a horror story.
"The Case of M. Valdemar" has an evil mesmerist (Basil Rathbone) keeping a man's spirit alive while his body wastes away. Well-done with a pretty gruesome ending.
Basically this a good anthology of horror stories. They're well-produced, well-acted and written. Just don't expect them to be anything like the Poe tales (especially "Morella"). GREAT liberties have been taken with the stories--they just use them as a starting point and build on it.
This film is a very loose adaptation of three Edgar Allan Poe tales, "Morella", "The Black Cat" and "The (Facts in the) Case of M. Valdemar", each roughly one half-hour in length. All three feature Vincent Price. The Black Cat also features Peter Lorre, and M. Valdemar also features Basil Rathbone. Morella concerns a daughter returning to the home of her father, who is estranged because of the mother's death. The Black Cat concerns an alcoholic who makes a crucial mistake in covering up a crime. And M. Valdemar concerns a doctor experimenting with hypnosis (or "mesmerism") on a terminally ill man.
Although fairly clunky and uneven compared to the other Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe collaborations (which tend to be excellent), and even compared to other similar collections of short films from the same era, such as Amicus' Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), this is still a good film, and earned an 8 out of 10 from me.
It is usually very difficult to try to adapt Poe stories to film--similar to the difficulty of attempting to adapt H.P. Lovecraft to film. Both authors write very dense, poetic, often abstract prose, and Poe, especially, is sometimes not very plot-oriented. Each segment in Tales of Terror succeeds in its own way, however.
Morella, as Poe writes it, is an exploration of what personal identity means, particularly as it applies to continuation through offspring. In director Corman and writer Richard Matheson's hands, Morella becomes an even more abstract depiction of the ideas of personal identity, turned into more of a supernatural ghost story. It's also implied in the film that a lot of the events perhaps occurred in Locke's (Price) mind, leading up to the tragic ending. This segment is particularly notable for the set design, which is the best in the film.
The Black Cat, which is Poe's most conventionally plotted tale out of the three presented here, is also probably the most changed. The changes in this case are surely due to the still lingering studio-imposed moral and content restrictions of the "Golden Era" of Hollywood. The changes are understandable, if still lamentable, in historical context. Corman and Matheson turn Poe's very dark and somewhat grisly story into more of a comedy for its first half, then more a tale of moral retribution in the second half. It's a joy to watch in any event, especially seeing Price's hammy comic performance. The ending of this section is as chilling as the beginning is humorous.
Except for the addition of a couple characters, The Case of M. Valdemar is probably the closest to its source in spirit. This is a tightly scripted, creepy story, and the Carmichael (Rathbone) character is actually an improvement on Poe, and it's great to see Rathbone play someone so evil. In a fairly literal way, this is a great zombie story, although the ending of the filmed version is a bit more vague in both plot and in explaining the horrific dilemma than Poe's version.
Despite its slight flaws--mainly that it's a bit too bright and colorful and the mood of the segments could have matched better--Tales of Terror is worth viewing, especially for any Poe, Corman, Price or Rathbone fans.
A portmanteau film comprising three Edgar Allen Poe stories adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson.
Morella: A woman (the Morella of the title) died shortly after giving birth to her baby daughter. The father blamed his daughter for his wife's death and shunned her. However, twenty-six years later the daughter returns home and makes up with her estranged father. However, the father has kept his wife's corpse mummified and the spirit of the dead woman seeks revenge by possessing the spirit of her daughter.
The Black Cat: A drunkard discovers that his wife is having an affair with his best friend, a local wine taster. He rebels by burying them behind a brick wall also burying with them his wife's black cat whom he could not stand.
The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar: An elderly man dying of an incurable illness agrees to let a shady mesmerist hypnotise him on his death bed in order to avoid the pain of his illness. However, when the mesmerist does this, he takes control of the man's spirit in order to command it to do as he pleases. When the spirit awakes it strangles the mesmerist and the corpse decomposes into slime.
Handsomely mounted entry in Roger Corman's Poe series. The special effects including the sequence in Morella where the spirit of the dead wife emerges through dark cobwebbed corridors in sinister shadow must have pushed the technological bounds of cinema to it's limits at the time. Another interesting sequence is in The Black Cat where the murderer in a drunken stupor has a nightmare in which his victims have beheaded him and are tossing it from one to the other and the man is still crying out give me back my head with the headless body chasing it and the face still alive with expressions. Grisly but technically astonishing even after forty-two years since it was released! The cast is exemplary with Price who features in all the stories shining best in The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar as the dying man. In this story Basil Rathbone (former Sherlock Holmes star) is outstanding as the evil hypnotist. Peter Loree is also fine as the old soak driven to murder in The Black Cat. Corman's direction is good and Floyd Crosby's camera-work is simply brilliant.
# For the story "A Cask of Amontillado" Vincent Price based his character of Fortunado on 'Ernie Kovacs' 's television character Percy Dovetonsils.
# A mixture of glue, glycerin, corn starch and make-up paint was heated and then poured over Vincent Price's head to give the impression of his face melting away. The substance was so hot, that Price could only stand it for a few seconds.