Thursday, February 4, 2010

Twice Told Tales (1963)

Title: Twice Told Tales (1963)

Director: Sidney Salkow

Stars: Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Beverly Garland


American International Pictures made many anthology movies in the 60s, some of which I have reviewed on this blog already. They were phenomenal successes during those days because they captured that feeling you got from reading one of those old EC comics that were so popular during the 50s and 60s. But this anthology film thing wasn’t an idea exclusive to the folks at American International. United Artist decided they would take a stab at this whole anthology thing business, since it was making so much money at the box office. But they couldn’t do movies based on Poe, because Roger Corman was already doing that. So they decided to go with Nathaniel Hawthorne and adapt some of his stories for the silver screen. How was United Artist’s attempt at making a Roger Corman style anthology flick?

As is expected in an anthology film, it is divided into various tales. On this particular film we have three different stories. I will be reviewing each story separately, since I guess it is a more appropriate manner of reviewing an anthology film.

The first of the stories is entitled Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment and it’s about a man named Sebastian who is celebrating his 79th birthday. So he invites his old friend Alex (Vincent Price) to reminisce about the good old days when they were strapping young lads. At one point Sebastian begins to talk about his fiancé, the one who died the day before they were to be married. You see, Sebastian is a man who never remarried, because the love he had for his fiancé was so strong. His love for her is so strong, that he has her buried in a mausoleum right next to his house! On this particularly stormy night, a lightning bolt has just struck the mausoleum! The door is opened! Could something be amiss? They both decide to visit the old crypt and find Sebastian’s fiancé’s body is completely untouched by the ravages of time! She has not decomposed a bit! Together, Sebastian and Alex are about to discover the mysteries to eternal life! Or are they?

Out of the three stories in this film, this is the one that better captures that feeling from Corman’s Poe films. It takes place in an old mansion next to the sea, there’s a fierce lightning storm outside, and the mansion is filled with old paintings of people who are long gone. There’s an old crypt, a corpse and a morbid tale ensues. Out of the three, I definitely think this is the best one. Too bad the first one is the best one; because that only means that the film goes a bit downhill after this one is through. They kind of like made this first story the spookiest, the coolest, so they can grab you and give you a quick jolt of spooky satisfaction before forcing upon you the two other lackluster stories. But Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment is a fun ride, actually, I think this story might have been the one that inspired Robert Zemecki’s to make Death Becomes Her (1988). The similarities between Death Becomes Her and this little story are astounding! An Elixir of life! A love triangle! Lover’s coming back to life! The Elixir has its downside! I think you will agree with me once you see it.

The second story is entitled Rapaccini’s Daughter and it’s about this old man named Giacomo Rapaccini (Vincent Price). He is a fervent Christian who doesn’t want his daughter to fall into “sin”, so what does he do? He creates a special potion that turns her skin deadly to human touch! In this way, no one will dare touch her and in this way Rapaccini ensures that his daughter doesn’t fall into the shameful sin of fornication or whatever. This becomes a problem for Rapaccini’s Daughter because she cannot kiss or hug anyone! It becomes an even bigger problem when this young guy constantly tries to win her affections, and she falls for him. Will she ever get to be with her loved one? Will her afflicted state ever change or will she remain untouched by human hands for ever?

This story is the least horror oriented of the three. It has some sci-fi elements though. The whole thing with Rapaccini coming up with this concoction that renders his daughters skin untouchable. Things get kind of funny because whenever the girl touches anything, it turns purple and dies! The special potion comes from this weird purple plant that Rapaccini has in his garden, and if anyone touches the plant, they turn purple and die as well! There’s this funny scene where a gerbil turns purple. This story plays out more like Romeo and Juliet than Tales from the Crypt.

Finally, we have House of the Seven Gables, which isn’t actually based on a short story but on a novel of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s. Story is about a family that lives in a haunted house. You see, many years ago, this home use to belong to the Moll family, but they lost the house in a bad deal to the Pyncheon family. Now, the ghost wants revenge!

The film was translated on to comic book form by DELL comics

This story is a ghost story, but it’s delivered in such a cheesy fashion. I really didn’t like this story either. But basically, these two families are fighting over this ancient house, and the rightful owner, who is dead, is pissed off about it. The story does try to end things in a big way by having a scene where the house is literally ripping itself apart and blood is coming out of the walls, the cracks and the ceiling. And a huge earthquake rips the whole house apart. I guess they must have gone through a lot to get that done back in those days, but its still doesn’t save the story from being so-so. On top of that, the ending is so cheesy! A flying skeleton hand flies out and tries to kill Vincent Price! What a rip off! Is this your big finale? A cheap looking skeleton hand? I was so disappointed by this, and was even more surprised to see that this big let down of a sequence actually appears on the films poster. Argh!

In conclusion, this was United Artist’s attempt to do what American International Films was doing so well, but sadly, they failed miserably. I’m sorry to say that Twice Told Tales was a huge let down. I guess that just proves that it’s who’s behind the cameras that matters. And neither Roger Corman nor Mario Bava where involved here. Twice Told Tales was just a badly made imitation of something that AIP was doing right. What did United Artist and director Sidney Salkow think, that just because they borrowed Vincent Price that would automatically make everything alright? Guess what? It didn’t. This isn’t a horrible film, theres some fun to be had here, thanks to Vincent Price. But with the exception of the first story, this one is a step down from what Corman was offering us with his Poe Cycle of films.

Rating: 2 out of 5


Mr. Fiendish said...

I'm sadly going to have to agree with you, this isn't a very good movie. But I liked the first story, simply because I liked the chemistry between Vincent Price and Sebastian Cabot. Other than that, meh

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, they should have done something more along the lines of the first story, maintain that spooky horror movie vibe. Unfortunately, most of the stories end up turning into love stories, which really eats away the horror element the film is supposed to have.

You can have love in a horror movie, but you cant let your movie turn into a romantic romeo and juliet sort of thing, the horror element should be the one that dominates the film.

A perfect example of this would be Bram Stokers Dracula, the horror element was always there even though the film was really a love story. The love scenes always had that horror vibe to them, not like on Twice Told Tales.

Franco Macabro said...

By the way, I agree with what you said about the chemistry between Price and Cabot, but I couldn't help and think how much cooler the scenes could have been had Peter Lorre played the role of Sebastian.

James Gracey said...

Even though you weren't particularly blown away by this, for me you still said the magic words - American International Pictures AND Vincent Price. I haven't seen this one, but you can bet your DVD collection I will check it out soon.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, but if you read correctly, on the review I state that Twice Told Tales wasn't made by American International Pictures, this one was made by United Artists trying to imitate American International and Roger Cormans Poe films. Sadly, the experiment didn't work out all that well in my opinion.

Still, if you are a fan of Price, its worth a watch.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I didnt hate this one, I felt the second story was far weaker than the other two, but considering the tiny scale and budget churning this sucker out I felt the first and last stories pulled together some decent set work and atmosphere. Price is over the top as always, I went with a solid C on this one.

Franco Macabro said...

I agree Carl, I always admire how much these guys did with so little money. The Corman flicks were done sometimes for less then a million dollars. Sometimes with less then 300 thousand!


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