Monday, February 26, 2024

Tale Tale

I recorded several horror movies off of TCM last October; needless to say this includes a couple starring Vincent Price. One that I hadn't seen before was the horror anthology Twice-Told Tales.

I recognized the title, because that is actually the title of a collection of short stories by 19th century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. This movie adaption has three stories from Hawthorne, although only one of them is actually from Hawthorne's original. The other connection is that Vincent Price is the star in all three of the stories, obviously not playing the same character.

The first story is Dr. Heidegger's Experiment. Heidegger, first name Carl, is actually played by Sebastian Cabot; Price plays Heidegger's best friend Alex. The two are elderly best friends, who have stood by each other for decades, Alex helping Carl try to get over the death of his fiancée many years prior. When a storm knocks the top off of the fiancée's crypt, the two men are shocked to discover an exceedingly well-preserved corpse, with some sort of water dripping onto the crypt from a crack above. Heidegger extracts some of the water, and finds that it has remarkable restorative properties, making a withered rose bloom again. In a bit of science that wouldn't be much tried today, he decides to experiment on himself, and he too becomes young again! It also works for Alex, at which point Heidgger gets the thought of injecting it into the fiancée's corps to see if she can come back to life. It turns out there's more going on, of course....

Next up is Rappaccini's Daughter. Price plays Rappaccini, a former professor at a university in Italy who has become a recluse since his wife left him. He lives with his adult daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor) in an apartment that opens out to a walled courtyard. In a second-story apartment overlooking that courtyard is Giovanni (Brett Halsey). He sees Beatrice and immediately falls in love with her, but she's dangerous, in that her blood is toxic such that if anybody touches her they'll die. Giovanni doesn't want to believe this at first, and continues to try to get close to Beatrice, which enrages Dad, with nasty consequences.

Finally is The House of the Seven Gables, which is based on a full-length book by Hawthorn and which has been turned on its own into a feature-length film. Price plays Gerald Pyncheon, who returns to the titular house after 17 years. It turns out that the house is cursed for all Pyncheon men, the curse having been proclaimed 150 years earlier as a result of the Salem witch trial. But Gerald is convinced that there's buried treasure somewhere on the grounds, and he's going to find it. His sister, and a descendant of the man who put the curse on the house, both try to stop him. But Gerald is so greedy that he might even kill his own sister and wife to try to get at that treasure.

Twice-Told Tales is a well-done movie, thanks to presence of Vincent Price, good original stories by Hawthorne, and atmospheric saturated color. Being an anthology film, it has the added plus that if you don't like one of the stories, you don't have to wait too overly long for the next one to start: each segment is in the 35-40 minute range. It's definitely worth watching if you get the chance.

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