Archive for Vincent Price

House of Long Shadows (1983) Review

Posted in House of Long Shadows with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS

** Out of 5

Tagline- Room for Every Nightmare. A Nightmare in Every Room

Release Date- June 17th, 1983

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Michael Armstrong

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, John Carradine, Sheila Keith

Released in 1983 House of Long Shadows is a semi-forgotten film, but has retained some notoriety due to the cast, which includes iconic horror actors Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The cast also includes the wonderful Sheila Keith who sadly seems sort of forgotten. Lastly, House of Long Shadows was also the last film directed by Pete Walker best known for his genre classics House of Whipcord and Frightmare, which are my two favorite Pete Walker films. With such a great cast, perhaps the best casting for any horror picture and a great filmmaker in Pete Walker, House of Long Shadows should have been epic and the film was also produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, but instead the end result was simply an average film that was a nice attempt, but ultimately extremely lackluster.

House of Long Shadows is in many ways a throwback to the Universal horror films of the 30s and is often compared to the James Whale classic the Old Dark House, which was later remade by William Castle in the 60s and Castle was a filmmaker Vincent Price had plenty of success with. Unlike many of Pete Walker’s films of the 70s, which could be graphic at times and of course 80s horror were often quite gory, House of Long Shadows relies more on atmosphere just like the horror films of the 30s. As much as I love 80s horror I also adore horror films from the 30s as it was a much simpler time. I have zero problems with nudity and gore, but when it becomes a cheap gimmick to cover up subpar filmmaking I do have as issue so I appreciate what Pete Walker was attempting it just again was lackluster. Getting a copy of House of Long Shadows is quite difficult and pricy. I saw the film on Amazon Instant Video and it had to be from a VHS since at times its far too dark to make anything out and maybe in someways it also hindered my enjoyment. As I read reviews I see a lot of perfect scores or nearly perfect and while I understand we’re all gonna have a different opinion, but would you really rate this as highly as something as Dawn of the Dead? When a film is long OOP or a seldom seen film it seems to me as if reviews are often overly kind and I can’t help except think people rate films like this higher since they’re tough to come by and aren’t well known.

Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) a successful author makes a 20-grand bet with his publisher he can write a classic novel in only 24-hours. He heads off to a remote manor to get started, but upon arriving he finds the manor inhabited by a strange family harboring a dark secret.

House of Long Shadows is based off a novel from 1913 titled Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and is also based off a play by George M. Cohan of the same name as the novel. Since I never read the novel or saw the play I have no idea how true to the script sticks to the original material. The Old Dark House was also based off a novel from 1928 titled Benighted by J.B. Priestly. So I really couldn’t tell you if any of the novels are a like or if House of Long Shadows has more in common with one than the other. I love the idea behind the film, but the script by Michael Armstrong just isn’t as interesting as the plot. Characters are fairly decent, but also not interesting enough to carry the film despite having a truly terrific group of actors. I think many of the problems of the film boil down to the script. While not poorly written per se its just again never as interesting as the plot.

Director Pete Walker gained a cult following with his films in the 70s such as Schizo, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, the Confessional and the Comeback. House of Long Shadows was quite a departure from those films for two reasons. The first being all those films have a decent amount of violence however they aren’t body count films and Pete Walker really knows how to stage a great death scene and along with Dario Argento are my two favorites in that regard. Walker is also no stranger to controversy as such films as House of Whipcord, the Confessional and Home Before Midnight caused a bit of a stir and if released in modern times they would still be controversial in particular the last two films mentioned. House of Long Shadows however features very little violence and there’s no controversy either. Most of the deaths aren’t seen and the most graphic is a woman who has her face burnt, but we don’t actually see it happen we just see her face afterwards, but its nothing graphic and the PG rating is warranted unlike films such as Jaws and Grizzly, which are quite violent for PG rated films (of course those two as well as this came before PG-13 it wasn’t until 1984 with Red Dawn though Red Dawn was the 2nd film rated PG-13, but first to be released). As much as I like Pete Walker his films can at times have some pacing issues and I found the pace to House of Long Shadows quite slow and while there is some decent suspense at times this would easily rate at my least favorite film he’s made with this being the 6th film I’ve seen by him.

The cast as I mentioned was terrific and Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine like always are wonderful too bad they didn’t have better material. Sheila Keith at least to me is just as iconic in the horror genre as the other actors in the film and she deserves far more attention than she gets. Her performances in Pete Walker’s other films such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and the Comeback are amazing. Desi Arnaz, Jr is of course the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he’s gotten some negative reviews here, but I think they’re off base as he was actually quite good and it really isn’t fair to compare him to the other actors as they’re icons for a reason.

Overall I really wanted to like House of Long Shadows as a fan of the cast and director, but after a decent start I found the middle sections a little too slow before getting better in the final act, but by this time the film lost me. Perhaps on another viewing I’ll warm up to it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I mentioned this was the final film made by Pete Walker.

Comedy of Terrors (1964) Review

Posted in Comedy of Terrors with tags , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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COMEDY OF TERRORS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Your Favorite Creeps Are Together Again!

Release Date- January 22nd, 1964

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Richard Matheson

Director- Jacques Tourneur

Starring- Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson and Basil Rathbone

The Comedy of Terrors apparently had a showing in 1963 before getting a theatrical release in 1964. The Comedy of Terrors mixes horror and comedy and features quite a legendary cast with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. I really can’t think of a horror film with a better cast as all these actors are icons and it doesn’t end there as the script was by Richard Matheson and directed by Jacques Tourneur. Comedy of Terrors has amazing talent involved and it doesn’t really disappoint either, but with such talent involved the stakes are raised. While I enjoy horror and comedy there aren’t many though that would make my top list and slapstick, which this film often goes for can be hit or miss even within the same film for me.

With his business failing Waldo Trumbull (Price) does what any good owner of a funeral parlor would do and that’s murder people to drum up business.

Richard Matheson is perhaps best known for his novel I Am Legend and a year after this movie he’d co-write an adaption of it titled the Last Man on Earth, which starred Vincent Price. As a screenwriter Matheson’s most notable films are probably the Edgar Alan Poe adaptions directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price with such films as House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror. Richard Matheson also wrote a number of episodes of the Twilight Zone, while continuing to be a critically acclaimed author. The script for Comedy of Terrors has a simple plot, but the writing is quite sharp and often funny. Characters are terrific, which is a mixture of the writing and the actors involved. Comedy of Terrors is a well written spoof and while it can get a little too silly in spots it always remains funny.

Director Jacques Tourneur is quite an iconic horror filmmaker and its s shame he isn’t talked about more. Curse of the Demon is seen as a classic of the genre and his work with Val Lewton with Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and the Leopard Man are some of the most influential genre films of their time. Jacques Tourneur delivers a well made and well paced film and stages some terrific comedy. The film high on camp is a joy from opening to start and for me the best moments are the ones that border slapstick, but are held back just a notch. The more over the top gags are also quite funny, but for me after a bit slapstick can get a little tiresome and while here I always found it funny I did prefer the scenes where Tourneur held back just a bit.

As mention the cast is legendary are is hands down one of my favorite casts of any genre. Vincent Price is hysterical as Waldo Trumbull and it was clear he enjoyed playing the role. Price was one of those actors that was so gifted he could even make a subpar film just a little better. My personal favorite Vincent Price film and performance was the Witchfinder General. Price’s performance with Comedy of Terrors is no doubt one of my very favorites as well. He’s simply a joy to watch here and his work with Peter Lorre is a riot. Boris Karloff is one of my all time favorite actors and his performance in the 1931 version of Frankenstein despite having no dialogue is in my opinion amongst the greatest performances ever. At this stage in his career, Karloff was making a bit of a comeback thanks to Roger Corman, but his health was starting to decline and originally Karloff was cast as Mr. Black, but due to his arthritis he wasn’t able to play the demanding role and Basil Rathbone took over the part and Karloff took the role of Amos Hinchley. Karloff’s comedic timing is excellent and I’ve seen many Karloff films and this could very well make my top 5 Karloff performances. Basil Rathbone is best known for his performances as Sherlock Holmes, but he’s no stranger to the horror genre and one of his most notable horror roles came in Son of Frankenstein, which also happened to be the last time Boris Karloff played the Monster. Rathbone is simply outstanding in a wild performance as John Black. Like a true pro Rathbone and the rest of the cast aren’t afraid to ham it up.

Overall the Comedy of Terrors is a terrific film that’s quite funny throughout and while the comedy can be a little too over the top for me at times I never lost interest. As mentioned when you have the talent of the highest level involved the stakes are raised so I can see how some might be letdown, but with strong writing and directing a cast that is clearly having fun working with each other the Comedy of Terrors delivers the goods.

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Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Review

Posted in Abominable Dr. Phibes with tags , on November 18, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly

Release Date- May 21st, 1971

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- James Whiton & William Goldstein

Director- Robert Fuest

Starring- Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Peter Jeffrey

Released in 1971 the Abominable Dr. Phibes was in many ways the start of an end of an era for Vincent Price. Starting around the mid 60s and becoming more apparent in the 70s with the emergence of such filmmakers as Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, George Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento and even John Carpenter the film industry started to change with these rebel filmmakers. Of course there are many more filmmakers, but I don’t wanna veer too far off subject. Vincent Price was highly successful in the 50s, which continued in the 60s and a good portion of Price’s most noted films were with William Castle and Roger Corman. But by 1971 things were really starting to change and over the next couple of years the film industry would change even more and the films of Vincent Price’s past and what would come while popular didn’t exactly have the same impact they once did. The change could even be seen in Witchfinder General from 1968, which was quite a departure from what Vincent Price starred in prior. Abominable Dr. Phibes kind of continued that trend and like Witchfinder General this really stands out for the bulk of Price’s films. While not exactly gory, but it does feature more make-up F/X than the classic Vincent Price era.

Over the years I’ve seen bits and pieces of Abominable Dr. Phibes, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t think it was bad or anything, but the film just couldn’t grab my interest, but after picking up the blu-ray set of the Vincent Price Collection, which this is one of the 6-films included and this time around for whatever reasons I was able to watch it and become hooked instantly. Picking my favorite Vincent Price film would be quite difficult, but odds are I would go with Witchfinder General, but Dr. Phibes is a close 2nd.

Anton Phibes (Price) seeks revenge on the doctors he holds responsible for the death of his wife.

The screenplay by James Whiton & William Goldstein is terrific. Well plotted with terrific characters and the script is also quite funny at times. The 70s were my favorite time in cinema and not just horror, but pretty much all genres. The script is just well written it doesn’t try to be anything except entertaining and it very much succeeds as the scripts excellently blends horror and comedy.

Director Robert Fuest crafts an excellent and well paced film that’s often fun and exciting as well as suspenseful. The death scenes are quite fun and creative and while not exactly gory do feature some F/X. Abominable Dr. Phibes is truly a terrific film it gets off to a great start and never lets up. Like how the script perfectly balances comedy and horror, Fuest very much does the same with the direction.

Like I said when Abominable Dr. Phibes was released film was really changing and that started in the 60s and very much continued in the 70s. With such films has Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left the films Price starred in prior while still wonderful films probably didn’t make the same impact on viewers as they once did. Vincent Price would continue to have a successful career all the way up to his death in 1993 and with Witchfinder General and Dr. Phibes perhaps Vincent Price was aware he needed to do something different as an actor to keep up with the times. Now don’t take that wrong as Vincent Price was not only a great actor, but his films with William Castle and Roger Corman are classic horror films and have stood the test of time (in particular his work with Corman), but I think the change in direction was the absolute correct choice.

The wife of Dr. Phibes who appears very briefly on screen at the end and is mostly seen in photos is actually Caroline Munro best known to horror fans for her roles in Maniac, Don’t Open Till Christmas and Slaughter High.

Abominable Dr. Phibes was released on blu-ray by Scream Factory in October of 2013 along with 5 other films. The HD presentation is terrific as the print looks wonderful with strong colors. Of all 6 films I felt this was the best transfer. Audio is also excellent and Scream Factory delivers a great product.

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Haunted Palace (1963) Review

Posted in Haunted Palace with tags , , , , on November 17, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE HAUNTED PALACE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- What Was the Terrifying Thing in the Pit That Wanted Women

Release Date- August 28th, 1963

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Charles Beaumont (Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft)

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell, Leo Gordon and Lon Chaney as Simon

When it comes to the career of Roger Corman he’s quite legendary in B-cinema and while he has plenty of directing credits its as producer that he’s most prolific. To most Corman is just some guy that produces B-films, but I don’t think people realize the impact that Roger Corman made not just in B-cinema, but film as a whole. It was Corman who launched the careers of many Hollywood superstars and resurrected the career of Boris Karloff. When you produce as many low budget films as Roger Corman has you’re bound to have a whole lot of poor films and since the Hollywood monster grew and grew in the mid 90s the good portion of Corman’s films have been poor (though some are fun in a silly way, but not like those in his prime). While Roger Corman produced some very popular cult films (though not always credited) such as The Big Bird Cage and Women in Cages. While not the first WIP (Women in Prison) films they were the ones that paved the way for what followed. Even in slasher films Corman made an impact with films such as Slumber Party Massacre and of course monster films with films like Humanoids from the Deep. Nobody will mistake Corman’s work for Oscar worthy caliber films, but he is an icon in the film industry even if your average person doesn’t realize it. As I stated he launched the careers of many big players such as Jack Nicholson and Francis Ford Coppola. Back in the 60s when Roger Corman was an active director he actually made some very solid films and not silly B-Movies, which while a lot of fun don’t showcase fully how talented he is. However regardless if the film is good or a so bad its good film there is good reason why Roger Corman’s career has spanned as long as it has. And as I mentioned not making Oscar caliber films, Corman has an Oscar for his achievements in film and while some may disagree, but I think it was very warranted.

The Haunted Palace is actually based off the work of H.P. Lovecraft rather than Poe, but there was more marketing in Poe’s name and this was very common in the 60s to have all these films based off the work of Poe, but the film had little or nothing to do with his work. Actually not only the 60s, but even in the 30s with some of the Karloff and Lugosi films based off Edgar Allan Poe stories had nothing to do with them. It’s sort of like the based on a true story, which in reality has very little of the true story its inspired by. Regardless of the fact, The Haunted Palace is an excellent film in the careers of Vincent Price and Roger Corman and while I can’t say for sure its my favorite Price/Corman film it is easily a contender.

Joseph Curwen (Price) was an evil warlock that was burned at the stake by villagers, but just before he puts a curse on future generations of the villagers. Now 110-years later Charles Dexter (Price in a dual role) inherits the palace. Curwen possesses the body of Charles and seeks revenge on the ancestors of those who killed him while also trying to bring his dead wife back.

The screenplay by Charles Beaumont is generally well written with solid characters and for the most part the Haunted Palace is well plotted, but certain things just sort of happen with no real explanation, but with that said it never hurts the film. Outside of some minor flaws Beaumont’s script is quite well done.

As director Roger Corman shows here he’s more than just campy films. The Haunted Palace is well made with a great an eerie gothic look. Corman delivers a well paced film with plenty of suspense and again eerie atmosphere. As I mentioned Corman is more prolific as a producer and he’s produced some excellent films with many being silly and campy fun, but a lot of his directorial efforts weren’t silly nor campy and he deserves far more credit as a director than he gets. While he may not be on the level of say John Carpenter, Roger Corman in my opinion is still one of the great horror filmmakers.

The Haunted Palace is a great showcase for the talents of Vincent Price as he’s equally great as both the villain and good guy. Price was such a terrific actor and is one of the horror genre greats and in many ways reminds me of Boris Karloff as each brought a touch of class to their films regardless on quality of the film and both could play the good guy and villain and be great in each role. It’s always great to see Lon Chaney who was far better than given credit for and while Chaney is seen as a horror icon he was always in the shadow of his father and than later Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I always preferred Chaney, Jr over Sr and I like Lon Chaney, Jr as much as Lugosi (Karloff will always be the king of the genre for me). This film was released when Chaney’s best roles were behind him and this was probably the best film he’s made in years and possibly his last great role.

Overall The Haunted Palace is a terrific gothic horror film that has quite a creepy feel with a terrific performance by Vincent Price and Lon Chaney. It’s films like Haunted Palace that really showcase the talents of Roger Corman.

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House on Haunted Hill (1959) Review

Posted in House on Haunted Hill (1959) with tags , , on November 13, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The 13 Greatest Shocks of All Time.

Release Date- February 17th, 1959

Running Time- 74-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Robb White

Director- William Castle

Starring- Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook

When it comes to the career of William Castle he’s probably better known for his gimmicks rather than the films he made. While his films are seen as cult classics and when originally released many of them turned a profit, but his detractors think it was the gimmicks that sold these films, which is true to some degree, but seeing as his films are seen as cult films I think there was more to William Castle than just that, as these gimmicks are lost on home video. The House on Haunted Hill was released in 1959 and stars the legendary Vincent Price who had two major horror hits with House of Wax and the Fly and he added yet another hit here and was now a bankable horror star.

Millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) offers 10 grand to 5 people willing to spend the night in an old spooky house that’s supposed to be haunted.

The screenplay was written by Robb White who was a regular for William Castle as besides this he also wrote Macabre, the Tingler, 13 Ghosts and Homicidal all directed by Castle. The screenplay is actually decently plotted with some nice plot twists. The setup is you classic haunted house film and the characters while kind of lack are also entertaining. Robb White doesn’t write a great film it’s simply B-movie fun, but effective.

William Castle was truly great at promotion and he did a great job at marketing his films with fun gimmicks such as the fright meter in Homicidal, the screen going dark in the Tingler and Vincent Price telling everyone in the theater to be calm. Here apparently a skeleton at some point would hover over the crowd during the suspense scenes. If William Castle was as good a director as he was at promotion he’d be the best. However with that said William Castle was more than just a gimmick filmmaker and was very much a competent filmmaker as there’s a reason why he’s become a cult figure and such films as I Saw What You Did, Strait-Jacket and the Old Dark House remake showcase his skills as a director and even the House on Haunted Hill. From the very start, Castle establishes a fun tone, which he’s able to mainly maintain throughout the picture. There are some pace issues in the middle, but running at only 74-minutes it doesn’t take long for the film to get back on track. For a modern audience the suspense probably won’t play out well, but there is some legit suspense at times and even if it doesn’t work as well now it does retain its fun factor.

The cast is solid, but its Vincent Price that really makes this film. I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Price is the kind of actor that was so gifted with such a great screen presence that he could make even a subpar film watchable. Outside of his work with Roger Corman, Price is most associated with William Castle and without Vincent Price the House on Haunted Hill would have still been fun, but not nearly as enjoyable.

Overall the House on Haunted Hill is a fun movie that has that B-movie charm. It isn’t a great film by any means, but the pure fun factor elevates it.

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Last Man on Earth (1964) Review

Posted in Last Man on Earth with tags , , , on November 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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LAST MAN ON EARTH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Do You Dare to Imagine What It Would Be Like to Be the Last Man on Earth or the Last Woman?

Release Date- March 8th, 1964

Running Time- 86-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- William F. Leicester & Logan Swanson

Director- Ubaldo B. Ragona & Sidney Salkow

Starring- Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi

Released in 1964 the Last Man on Earth while a cult favorite also draws some mixed reviews with some thinking Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role, which probably stems from Richard Matheson stating that in an interview. The Last Man on Earth is based off the classic novel I Am Legend, which was written by Richard Matheson and its also had two other adaptions. There was the Omega Man with Charlton Heston and lastly I Am Legend with Will Smith. In my opinion Last Man on Earth was the best adaption followed by the Omega Man. As for the casting while all three actors did well in their role I thought Vincent Price was the best of the three. While the idea for the novel by Richard Matheson was terrific and there’s a reason the novel is seen as a classic, but its a very difficult novel to adapt since most of the dialogue are the thoughts of the main character (Robert Neville in the book). The Last Man on Earth is quite a low budget film, which is quite obvious and while it can hinder the film a tiny bit I also think the low budget helps elevate the film.

After a deadly plague wipes out mankind leaving only vampire/zombie hybrids, Robert Morgan (Price) is the last survivor.

The screenplay was written by William F. Leicester & Logan Swanson and Logan Swanson is actually Richard Matheson who wasn’t overly fond of the final product and decided to use an alias. As mentioned I Am Legend is quite difficult to adapt, but I felt Leicester and Matheson actually do a fairly decent job. For most of the first act its filled with voice overs and though it mainly worked there’s a reason most films avoid using voice overs. Characters are decent with the strongest being Robert Morgan, which probably has more to do with Vincent Price. While sure the script has some issues it’s still a good script and solid adaption of the novel.

I’m not sure exactly who directed the film since certain prints credit Ubaldo B. Ragona and others Sidney Salkow. The one thing this film very much gets right is the look. The deserted streets outside of a few corpses is quite a chilling site and Ragona & Salkow deliver some eerie atmosphere. The pace of the film isn’t the most exciting, but the film mainly works due to the bleak tone. Despite the short running time perhaps a few minutes could have been lost, but while the pace is a bit slow in spots its made up for in the bleak tone established. The final act is where the action really kicks in and while it plays out well the low budget might hinder how they were staged. Last Man on Earth isn’t exactly filmmaking at its very best, but Ragona & Salkow craft an eerie film that makes up for the shortcomings.

In my opinion Vincent Price was absolutely the perfect choice for the lead. For a good portion of the film Price goes at it solo and you can really feel the loneliness and isolation Morgan feels. Vincent Price was an actor that could even make subpar films at the very least watchable and when given great material he’s as good as an actor as anyone else. Here the material isn’t perhaps the best he’s had to work with, but its strong enough to allow Price to showcase his talents and quite honestly I’d rate this in perhaps my top 5 Vincent Price performances.

Overall the Last Man on Earth has its flaws and again the novel really isn’t easy to adapt. The pace may not be the most exciting, but its made up for in atmosphere and the acting by Price. Just soak up the atmosphere and it help makes up for the flaws to some degree. While the Omega Man and I Am Legend might be the more exciting films this one in my opinion is the best. The interesting thing about the film is the infected are a vampire/zombie hybrid and there are certain scenes you can easily see the influence on such films as Night of the Living Dead and countless other zombie movies.

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Tales of Terror (1962) Review

Posted in Tales of Terror with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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TALES OF TERROR

** Out of 5

Tagline- A Trilogy of Shock and Horror

Release Date- July 4th, 1962

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Richard Matheson

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Maggie Pierce with Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone

After the success of House of Usher in 1960, Roger Corman directed several films based off the work of Edgar Allan Poe and many of these films starred Vincent Price with a few written by Richard Matheson and all three are together again in the 1962 release of Tales of Terror an anthology based off the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Besides having the talents of Corman, Matheson and Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone also star however despite the amount of talent involved I quite honestly found Tales of Terror rather dire and I’d probably rate it as the worst of the Roger Corman films based off the work of Poe. However Tales of Terror also gets a lot of positive reviews, but for me it just wasn’t working and I found it a bit of a chore to get through. In 1993 Dario Argento and George A. Romero would team up for Two Evil Eyes, which was meant to be a TV series based off the work of Poe and in Two Evil Eyes, both filmmakers would direct a segment. Argento had the Black Cat and Romero the Strange Case of Mr. Valdemar and both those stories were also used in Tales of Terror. Two Evil Eyes never became a series, but regardless I found it far better than Tales of Terror.

All three segments were written by Richard Matheson who was an excellent novelist and screenwriter, but in my opinion this wasn’t one of his best scripts. The first story is Morella and after not seeing his daughter since she was a child Lenora (Pierce) returns to see her father Locke (Price). A few months after Lenora was born her mother died and she blamed Lenora as does Locke. While the story itself was interesting I’m not sure if it was interesting enough for a segment and this is something better off as a short story. While the ending was solid everything else just felt like filler. The 2nd segment the Black Cat has Montresor (Lorre) after Fortunato Luchresi (Price) for an affairs with his wife. This segment is silly and campy, but the problem is everything feels too forced and in my opinion this was the worst of the anthology. The last segment the Case of M. Valdemar has Carmichael (Rathbone) a hypnotist trying to prolong the pending death of Ernest Valdemar (Price). The last segment was the strongest in terms of writing, but it also kind of lacks. By this point the film kinda lost me, but the Case of M. Valdemar was overall the strongest.

Roger Corman was an excellent director and people tend to forget how good he was, but Tales of Terror isn’t the film to showcase that. Pacing is sluggish and the films just lacks the excitement. Morella just sort of lacks any sense of direction and Black Cat was a total camp fest, but like how the writing felt forced so did the direction. With a better script, Corman gets things on track in the final segment, but by this point I really didn’t care as I zoned out, but pacing was generally stronger.

The saving grace were the performances, which were excellent. Vincent Price like always is terrific and while I strongly disliked the Black Cat the only redeeming factor was the performances by Price and Peter Lorre who worked wonderfully together. Basil Rathbone also gives a great performance and if only everything else was better this could have been something special.

Overall Tales of Terror in my opinion was rather poor and more often than not I was quite bored throughout. Tales of Terror would probably rate as my least favorite film Corman made based off Edgar Alan Poe. As I mentioned a lot of people tend to like this one, but for me it was a total waste.

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