Release Date(s)1962 (April 14, 2015)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/20th Century Fox/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
A rare portmanteau in the Corman/Price/Poe series, Tales of Terror features not just one, but three stories from the horror maestro, all hosted by and starring Vincent Price himself (as well as fellow horror icons Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone). Released in 1962 and written by Richard Matheson (a Corman regular at this point), the film wasn’t as much of a success as Corman’s other films, but still further solidified his and Vincent Price’s movie personas.
The film’s first tale, Morella, is about a young woman who after being estranged from her father for many years, ventures to the countryside to be him, whereupon he reveals to her that her mother blamed her for her death and that her spirit is still haunting him. In The Black Cat, a low life drunkard discovers that his wife is being unfaithful to him and has her and her lover walled up alive, all while his wife’s cat watches in the wings. In The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, a scientist hypnotizes a dying man just moments before his death, causing his spirit to roam free and haunt the scientist after he attempts to bring harm to his daughter.
For this fourth film in the Poe series, instead of making a full-length story, Roger Corman chose instead to tackle three of the shorter Poe tales. This allowed the director more flexibility both on set and in the editing room. The stories themselves weren’t straightforward horror tales either. Each had a touch of dark humor behind them, but were treated with dignity. The Black Cat also worked in elements from another Poe story The Cask of Amontillado. It was released by American International Pictures on a double bill with Panic in the Year Zero!, but seemed to fail to capture the same atmosphere and sophistication that other Corman/Poe/Price productions usually managed to attain.
Despite its lack of apparent success, Tales of Terror is still held up today as a very important horror film because of the people who put it together. As far as I’m concerned, the more horror films starring Vincent Price, the better. Tales of Terror is a wonderful film, and despite pacing issues within the stories as they relate to a complete piece, it’s still (and it should be no surprise) an eminently watchable film.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of Tales of Terror features a transfer extremely similar to that of Arrow Video’s previous Region B Blu-ray release of the film. The only discernable difference is the contrast and brightness levels, which are slightly higher on the Kino Lorber release. Otherwise, both look very much the same. Grain levels are handled quite well, revealing the film’s very organic appearance. Transitions obviously have less detail in the image, but detail is quite strong elsewhere, including in the shadows. Blacks are quite deep and the color palette is quite lush, with skin tones appearing ever so slightly pale. There’s some very minor black speckling left behind, but there are no signs of excessive digital tinkery or augmentation. The only audio track available is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track. Dialogue is mostly clear; at times a little muddy, and perhaps a bit thin as well. However, it’s never unintelligible. Sound effects and score also exhibit the same kind of behavior, but come through on the mix with good dynamics. It’s a very solid soundtrack, overall. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles included.
For the supplemental section, there’s a nice selection of material to look through, much more than most of Kino Lorber’s usual catalogue releases. There’s a new on-camera interview with Roger Corman; an audio commentary with film critic and historian Tim Lucas; an audio commentary with Vincent Price historian David Del Valle and actor David Frankham; the Trailers From Hell version of the movie’s original theatrical trailer with Roger Corman; and the trailer itself. Arrow Video’s release of the film features an entirely different set of extras with only the trailer in common between the two. It includes an episode of The Directors: Roger Corman; Kim Newman on Edgar Allan Poe; Cats in Horror Films, an interview with critic and novelist Anne Billson; a 1993 short film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat; the aforementioned theatrical trailer; and an insert booklet with an essay on the film by Roger Clark and Rob Green. Personally, I feel that the Kino Lorber release has more satisfactory extras, but you be the judge.
Far and wide, Corman and Price’s Poe films always have something to offer, and Tales of Terror is no exception. It may not be the strongest entry in the series, but it’s definitely an intriguing one. Arrow Video’s release of the film may have some different extras to offer, but from my point of view, the extras for the Kino Lorber release are more reflective of the film itself. So for me, Kino Lorber wins this one, and it’s a definitely a title you’ll want on your shelf if you’re a horror fan, or just a big Vincent Price fan (like myself).
- Tim Salmons