Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twice Told Tales

This 1963 filmmization of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice Told Tales", despite its very promising premise is in reality a bit of a mixed bag for horror lovers. For all fans of "terror" stories it has the always wonderful Vincent Price starring in each of the three individual stories which have a similar feel to them to the highly successful Edgar Allen Poe films that Price was filming in collaboration with director/producer Roger Corman around this time. However as pieces of suspense cinema they lack a certain bite to them that makes for ok entertainment but not really memorable horror viewing. On the plus side however along with Price's presence in all the stories, they have a plush look and feel to them with gorgeous colour photography, lavish sets and strong period feel.  The film is in three parts, each a different tale.

Story One is "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", and has life long friends Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price), and Dr. Carl Heidegger (Sabastian Cabot), celebrating the latter's birthday and reflecting on their long life together. Carl is living in a world of constant mourning for his fiancee Sylvia (Mari Blancard) who died just prior to their marriage 38 years previously. A thunderstorm disturbs Sylvia's near by tomb and when the men investigate the damage they discover a strange liquid substance that has preserved Sylvia's body and might just be the much sort after fountain of youth. Both men try the liquid themselves and amazingly revert to their youthful selves. Carl gets the desperate idea of possibly reviving his long dead but perfectly preserved fiancee with the substance as well however while the miracle liquid succeeds in bringing her back to life it also unleashes the dark secret that Alex and Sylvia shared all those years ago which brings tragic results for all three of them.   This is the by far my favorite of the three.

Story Two is "Rappaccini's Daughter", and has a highly possessive man called Rappaccini (Vincent Price), taking parental protection too far when he injects his only daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor), with a strange substance that kills anyone who touches her. Supposedly designed to stop his daughter from being subjected to the evils and bad treatment that his former wife suffered it has the opposite effect on Beatrice who hates her father for what he has done to her in particular when she forms an attraction towards student Giovanni Guasconti (Brett Halsey), who lives next door. After futile attempts to form a relationship with the obviously in love but distant Beatrice, Giovanni manages to extract from her the real reason why she wishes him to go away. Rappaccini in an misguided effort to win his daughter's love drugs Giovanni and injects the same elements into him making him the only person now who can touch Beatrice without dying a horrid acidic death. Giovanni however seeks a cure for the both of them so that they are able to go away together however when he drinks the supposed antidote created by his College Professor Professor Baglioni (Abraham Sofaer), it instead poisons him and not wanting a life without him Beatrice also drinks it leaving a distraught Rappaccini to comtemplate the cruel irony of what he has done just before he ends his own life. This segment is a little slow and plodding at times, but still worth watching.  Reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, with the forbidden love aspect to it.

The 3rd story is "The House of the Seven Gables", and finds Gerald Pyncheon (Price), returning to his ancestral home with new bride Alice (Beverly Garland). All is not well at the Pyncheon estate as a centuries old curse rests on the property cast by Mathew Maulle the man who's land was stolen by the Pyncheons, and the house itself is presided over by Gerald's cold and ambitious sister Hannah (Jacqueline DeWit) who hates Gerald and wants him gone. Alice begins to have strange feelings of a presense around her and she is able to recall indiduals and features of the house she could not possibly know. Gerald has returned to the house with the sole purpose of finding a hidden fortune however he finds much more than he bargained for when Jonathan Maulle (Richard Denning), a descendant of Mathew's arrives and discovers a long lost connection with Alice which results in the raising of the vengeful ghost of his ancestor Mathew. This story is the most interesting of the three, but something doesn't quite work here.  The bleeding portrait and the chair with bright red blood on it were somewhat laughable, and the scene where the skeleton hand comes out to choke Vincent Price is unintentionally hilarious!  This is definitely the weakest of the three segments.  

The costumes, the color, the music and the mood makes it a entertaining film.  It is not the best, but certainly worth watching.

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