Tales of Terror (1962)

Tales of Terror (1962)

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

A trio of vignettes tell Poe-inspired tales: in “Morella”, a grieving widower (Vincent Price) blames his grown daughter (Leona Gage) for the death of his long-dead wife (Maggie Pierce); in “The Black Cat”, an abusive drunkard (Peter Lorre) seeks bitter revenge on his wife (Joyce Jameson) and her lover (Vincent Price); and in “The Case of M. Valdemar”, a sickly man (Vincent Price) allows a shady hypnotist (Basil Rathbone) to keep him hypnotized as he’s dying, much to the distress of his wife (Debra Paget) and doctor (David Frankham).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Basil Rathbone Films
  • Debra Paget Films
  • Episodic Films
  • Horror Films
  • Mind Control and Hypnosis
  • Peter Lorre Films
  • Revenge
  • Roger Corman Films
  • Vincent Price Films

Between 1959 and 1964, low-budget producer Roger Corman released what is perhaps his most famous “cycle” of films — eight movies inspired by the literature of Edgar Allen Poe (all but one of which are listed in Peary’s GFTFF). According to TCM’s article on this fourth entry in the series, Corman admitted he “was getting a bit tired of the Poe films by this time” — and his fatigue is somewhat in evidence, given that none of the segments (all scripted by Richard Matheson) are particularly noteworthy, and taken together, they leave one feeling decidedly unsatisfied. The most interesting segment — though only marginally so — is the middle one, inspired in part by Poe’s classic tale “The Cask of Amontillado”; Lorre does an eerily fine job playing a perennially drunk, mean-spirited bastard who fully deserves his comeuppance, and there’s some clever dialogue sprinkled throughout. Meanwhile, it’s nice to see Price — who plays a critical role in each of the three stories — showing some range in his diverse characterizations. However, this one is primarily recommended for diehard followers of Corman’s AIP/Poe flicks, who may be itching for a dose of their signature style (which is here in spades); other film fanatics can feel free to skip it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fun performances by Price and Lorre
  • Richard Matheson’s clever, Poe-inspired dialogue:

    Montresor (Lorre): “Haven’t I convinced you of my sincerity yet? I’m genuinely dedicated to your destruction.”

Must See?
No; this one is strictly for fans of the franchise.


One thought on “Tales of Terror (1962)

  1. First viewing. Agreed, not a must – one could easily skip it.

    All of the Corman elements are in place but, overall, this is a dull affair. Even if the third segment has the most interesting storyline, it’s only compelling in comparison to what precedes it.

    Humorous sequence, at least: Price and Lorre as ‘dueling connoisseurs’.

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