Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 5th, 2015
BluRay released: March 9th, 2015
Approximate running times: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £13.99 (UK)
Tales of Terror stands out from the rest of Corman’s Poe adaptions as the one and only time he made an anthology film from the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe. And when compared to his seven other Poe films which all stretch its source to fit the rigid confines of a feature length film. In regards to presenting the fiction of Poe in an analogy format verse as a feature film for each story. This proves to be better suited way to transcribe the Poe fiction and it is surprising that Corman would not return to the anthology format before leaving world of Poe behind.
Morella: A young woman tries to reconnect with her estranged father, who had her sent away shortly after her birth. With the source of his animosity towards his daughter linked to her mother’s death, while giving birth to her. Will he ever be able to let go of his anger or will it finally lead to his demise?
The Black Cat: An alcoholic husband discovers that his wife is having an affair with a wine coinsure. So the husband concocts a devious plan to rid himself of his cheating wife and her lover. Unfortunately for him a pesky black cat inadvertently threatens to unravel his devious plan.
The Case of M. Valdemar: Not wanting his last moments to be overwhelmed by pain, a man named Valdemar enlists the help of a hypnotist who assists him in reducing his pain through hypnotism. And in return for doing this Valdemar has agreed to let the hypnotists that right to hypnotize him at the moment he is about to pass and thus keep him in a state of limbo. Will the hypnotist keep his end of the bargain or does he have grander plans in regards to what he wants from Valdemar?
Tales of Terror was directed by Roger Corman who would go onto direct seven more films that were adapted from the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Well technically six more, since The Haunted Place is a Poe adaption in name only and story has been adapted from a story written by H. P. Lovecraft.
Key collaborators on Tales of Terror include screenwriter Richard Matheson (‘The Twilight Zone’, I am Legend), Composer Les Baxter (Black Sabbath, Baron Blood) and cinematographer Floyd Crosby a frequent collaborator of Roger Corman’s.
Visually all three stories look great and have a tremendous amount of atmosphere. Set designs is also top notch as Corman continues to recycle sets from previous Poe films and has a firmer grasp of what he is trying to achieve artistically. And as mentioned before the anthology format works very well with Poe’s fiction and pacing wise there is never an issue as stories are no longer pushed beyond their potency.
When it comes to tanking these three tales. If I had to choose one as my favorite that one would be the first tale ‘Morella’ which offers a different side of Price then what is seen in the other Poe adaptions and another one of its strengths is its intimacy. These scenes between Price and Maggie Pierce are easily the one that leave the strongest lasting impression.
Not far behind ‘Morella’, is the second tale ‘The Black Cat’, which also happens to be one of Poe’s most adapted stories. And though this one takes a brief moment before it finds its footing. Its iconic ending and Peter Lorre’s (M, Mad Love) sublime performance.
The third and final tale ‘The Case of M. Valdemar’ is by default the weakest of the three. And though the performances are entertaining. The end result is a methodical exercise in crafting terror that is devoid of the engaging characters that populate the other two stories.
Tales of Terror comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The sources used for this transfer is in great shape. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels look very good. Details look crisp, grain look natural, there are no issues with DNR or compression. Overall another solid transfer from Arrow Video that is on par with their transfer for their other Vincent Price releases.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. The audio sounds clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too. Rang wise things sound good considering limitations of the mono source and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. This releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release is removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a stills & poster gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 22 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a featurette with author / film critic Anne Billson titled ‘Cats in Horror Films’ (9minutes 12 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a short film titled ‘The Black Cat’ directed by Rob Green (18 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a featurette titled ‘Kim Newman on Edgar Allen Poe’ (29 minutes 33 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and career retrospective documentary for Roger Corman (58 minutes 32 seconds – 1080 Progressive).
The featurette with Anne Billson gives a well-rounded overview of cats and there place in horror cinema. Topics discussed in ‘Kim Newman on Edgar Allen Poe’ include, how Poe’s stories since the early days of cinema have been a staple in the horror genre, bio pictures about Poe’s life, Roger Corman’s Poe films and how AIP continued to make them without Corman, how Poe’s real life often worked its way into his stories, how Poe’s only novel length story ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket’ has yet to be adapted into a film, Poe’s influence on Horror cinema, Spirits of the Dead and Poe’s legacy as an author.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and content pertaining to Tales of Terror in the limited edition 200-page collector’s book includes, original archive stills, cast & crew info, an essay titled ‘Three Down Five To Go’ written by Roger Clarke, an excerpt written by Vincent Price from the chapter ‘Ghoul Days’ from the book ‘Vincent Price, His Movies, His Plays, His Life’, David De Valle’s text based interview with Roger Corman titled ‘Roger Corman: Better to be on the Set Than in the Office’, information about the transfer, information about the short film The Black Cat and a comic book adaptation for Tales of Terror.
Tales of Terror is also part of a box set entitled Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales which also includes the following films, The Fall of House of Usher, The Pit and The Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia. Contents of this box set also include a limited edition 200-page collector’s book containing new writing on all films, an interview with Roger Corman, extracts from Vincent Price’s autobiography and full reproductions of tie-in comic books for Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia originally published in the sixties. Overall Tales of Terror gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: Tales of Terror is currently only available via Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales and a stand-alone Blu-Ray on March 9th, 2015.