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  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Tales of Terror (1962) Blu-ray Review

    Tales of Terror (1962)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Loree, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget & Joyce Jameson

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing his cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman (X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes) would combine three short stories from the master of gothic horror in Tales of Terror.  All starring the great Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill) with appearances from screen legends Peter Loree (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood), this triple threat of frights delivers shriek-inducing scares and hilariously dark comedy in one fiendishly entertaining feature.

    Once again re-teaming with Screenwriter Richard Matheson (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum), Producer/Director Roger Corman would rummage through the noted works of Edgar Allan Poe to continue his long-running series of successful adaptations.  Choosing shorter subjects, some of which mere pages in length, Corman and Matheson were concerned with not repeating themselves, opting to deliver an anthology of sorts and introducing humor to the gothic festivities.  In Morella, Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce, My Mother the Car), estranged from her father (Price), returns home to make amends in her ailing state.  A depressed drunk, the elder Locke is insistent she’s responsible for the death of his wife Morella (Leona Gage, Scream of the Butterfly) as he houses her decomposing corpse in his mansion.  Feeling sympathy after learning of his daughter’s short lifeline, Locke allows Lenora to stay as Morella’s spirit rises again to extract revenge on her child.  Recycling sets and footage from House of Usher for a climatic inferno sequence, Morella breathes the tried and true gothic atmosphere from previous Poe adaptations with an intriguing story but, rushes itself to a fast-paced conclusion for a scare.  Although, the opening tale could have benefitted from extended suspense, Price and company are in top form setting the stage for a most enjoyable anthology.

    In the film’s finest short, The Black Cat finds hopeless drunk Montresor Herringbone (Peter Loree) as he challenges noted wine tester Fortunato Luchresi (Price) to a tasting competition.  Pushing a noticeably more comedic tone, The Black Cat offers a memorable sequence as Price and Loree go drink for drink, utilizing their own unique tasting techniques leaving viewers in stitches.  Before long, Fortunato meets Montresor’s unappreciated wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson, The Comedy of Terrors) and the two engage in a secret love affair, eventually discovered by Montresor.  Filled with jealously and consistently drinking, Montresor begins hallucinating venomous snakes and tarantulas as he hatches a devious plan to get rid of the happy couple.  Hilarious and haunting, The Black Cat benefits from its use of comedy with the chemistry between Price, Loree and Jameson selling it beautifully.  Corman’s satisfaction with the intentional tongue in cheek tone directly influenced repeating the formula with Price and Loree in The Raven.

    Finally, The Case of M. Valdemar once again stars Price as M. Valdemar.  Slowly dying from a dreadful disease, Valdemar enlists the help of hypnotist Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone) to ease his suffering.  Agreeing to be hypnotized in his final waking moments, Carmichael places Valdemar’s subconscious in between the worlds of life and death as his body passes on.  Fully in control, Carmichael attempts to force Valdemar’s widow Helene (Debra Paget, The Haunted Palace) into marriage until, unexpectedly Valdemar emerges from his deathly state.  Incorporating dreamlike imagery and an icky decomposing sequence, The Case of M. Valdemar greatly entertains with old friends Price and the elderly Rathbone playing off each to much delight.  In addition, David Frankham (Return of the Fly) makes a welcome appearance as the young hero that stands tall next to the likes of his fellow legendary co-stars.  

    Shot over the course of three quick weeks, Tales of Terror is an excellent addition in the memorable Corman/Poe series that dared to be different with its anthology storytelling and inclusion of comedy.  Unsurprisingly, Price, surrounded by respected thespians Loree and Rathbone, charm the viewer and chew up the scenery while, Cinematographer Floyd Crosby (Hand of Death, Premature Burial) captures the film’s gloriously gothic atmosphere.  With only minor grievances regarding Morella, Tales of Terror pushes its episodes of murder, resurrection and mind control with endless entertainment and wicked humor sure to cast a spell on its viewer.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Tales of Terror with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying naturally pleasing skin tones with sharp detail in facial features and its gothic backgrounds, Corman’s anthology stuns.  Mild but expected instances of flakes are on display but, are outweighed by crisp black levels and popping colors during the trance sequences in The Case of M. Valdemar.  Preserving its exceptional atmosphere with a vibrant filmic appearance, Tales of Terror has never looked better!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Tales of Terror registers respectable dialogue levels with nothing lost in delivery.  Composer Les Baxter’s (Black Sabbath) impressive score and haunting sounds of ambiance serve the mix nicely and highlight more climatic moments appropriately.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle & Actor David Frankham and an Interview with Producer/Director Roger Corman (10:43) with Corman sharing fond memories of the shoot, his love for the comedic elements in The Black Cat and his enjoyable experience working with Rathbone whom he would also cast in The Comedy of Terrors with Price and Loree.  In addition, Trailers From Hell with Roger Corman (2:32), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:22) and a reversible cover art round out the generous and informative spread of supplements.

    Serving as the fourth installment in Corman’s much beloved Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Tales of Terror would be the only anthology of the series but, one that successfully attempted to stray from its formula at the risk of becoming too stale for its audiences.  Beautifully shot with leading man Price sharing the screen with Loree and Rathbone, Tales of Terror’s experiment paid off with three vastly entertaining episodes that play in Poe’s gothic realm while delivering well achieved laughs and scares alike.  Looking and sounding better than ever, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman classic with the utmost respect, delivering a definitive presentation for dedicated fans.  Accompanied with enlightening special features, Tales of Terror is an essential slice of 60s gothic horror that delivers three times the frights.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 14th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Tales of Terror can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.