Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tales of Terror (1962)


Tales of Terror

Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Roger Corman

This is the beat of a human heart.  Sit very still and listen.  Is your heart beating in this same rhythm?  You are experiencing the heartbeat of a dying man, and it is with death and dying that we concern ourselves.  What happens at the point of death?  What happens...afterward?

It is with this priceless narration that Vincent Price introduces the trilogy of fear that is to follow, each one of the short stories based on a tale by the goth-before-there-was-goth Edgar Allan Poe, and each one starring the ever-lovin' blue eyed Price.

First up, we have "Morella", in which a woman visits her father at his mansion after nearly three decades of being away.  She finds the home to be overrun with cobwebs and debris, and he in drunken, solitary shambles.  There's bad blood between these two--have no doubt about that--stemming from the fact that he blames her for the death of her mother, and he blames himself for not having the sack to commit infanticide!  After a too-brief-to-be-realistic period of time, forgiveness is granted and all is right with the world.  Too bad the deceased mama is still a little pissed...

Next off is "The Black Cat", in which a drunken buffoon directs all of his hatred toward the household pet, steals all of the food money for liquor, and drives his wife into the arms of a rather pretentious wine connoisseur.  The husband deals with both of them in the only way you would expect in a Poe story--by interring them alive in the basement wall.  But what's that sound?  No, it's not the tell-tale heart.  It's something else, and it's coming from within that wall!

And, finally, we have "The Case of M. Valdemar," in which a dying eccentric is hypnotized (although, back in the day, it was called mesmerized) at the exact moment of his death.  This results in the slow decay of his body while his mind stays totally alert.  So what do you see beyond the veil, Mr. Valdemar?

Blah blah blah.

I'm sure there's an audience out there for this film, but I'm certainly not a part of it.  I couldn't even enjoy it on a so-bad-it's-good level--that's how bored I was throughout the whole thing.  I understand that it's a period piece, which I've never been into, but seriously, this must have seemed dated the day it hit theaters.  It's overly melodramatic, and relies too much on hokey camera tricks and gaudy special effects, and not enough time concentrating on telling an interesting story.  There were way too many times in each short that I was compelled to hit the FF button, as the scripts seemed to be stretched beyond the breaking point--which is pretty bad, considering its format!  It did have a great cast though--Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, and Peter Lorre?--as well as a handful of campy and laughable moments, but not even that could save this sinking ship.

Modern horror audiences probably won't find much to enjoy here, unless of course it's from a nostalgic standpoint.  I never saw this as a child, so I didn't have any rose colored glasses to wear.  It may, however, be good as a children's introduction to the literary works of Edgar Allan Poe.

If, that is, you don't ever want them to read his books.

View the trailer below!

89 Minutes
United States

Tales of Terror is currently ranked #26,688 in DVDs at  Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!

"Pardon me, ladies, but could you spare a coin for a moral cripple? "

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

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