Santo vs. Las Mujeras Vampiro (1962) review

santo_vs_vampire_women_poster_01It’s a wrestling movie! It’s a vampire movie! It’s two movies randomly cut together!

Some movies defy expectations, good or bad, in a way that makes them surprising enough to be interesting.  SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO (1962, dubbed into English as SAMSON VS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN) certainly qualifies. Half masked wrestler movie, half vampire movie, this Mexican import is such a jumble of conflicting elements that the absurdity becomes quite entertaining. Which is not to say the entertainment value is entirely camp in nature; one surprise in store for interested viewers is that SANTO VS LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO is, at times, an effective horror film. Though it will never be regarded as a classic, the film’s recent availability on Hulu, in its original, Spanish-language form, offers a welcome opportunity for a new appraisal.
If you are reading this, you probably know that Santo (actual name: Rodolfo Guzman Huerta) was a real-life Mexican wrestler whose gimmick was that he never appeared in public without his signature silver mask. In the 1950s the character became a superhero in a series of comic books, which eventually lead to several films, such as SANTO VS THE ZOMBIES (1961).
With that history, you might expect SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO to be a second-rate hack job designed to showcase its star at the expense of everything else. However, much as with the recent GODZILLA (2014), Santo remains somewhat in the background of this film, which focuses instead on the Vampire Women and their plan to kidnap a young woman, Diana Orlof (Maria Duval) to replace their Vampire Queen, Thorina (Lorena Velazquez).
Consequently, for the first half-hour or so SANTO VS. LAS MUERAS VAMPIRO plays like a traditional, old-fashioned horror film, hokey but atmospheric, with lovely black-and-white photography showcasing the sinister sets. There is little innovative here – the film is clearly aping the classic Universal Pictures horror films of the 1930s and 1940s – but there is enough local Mexican flavor to spice the proceedings up a bit.

The Vampire Priestess in hag form, from the film's atmospheric opening.
The Vampire Priestess in hag form, from the film's atmospheric opening.

In particular, the opening sequence, mostly silent, with the camera wandering through an old mansion, is wonderfully evocative, revealing the Vampire Women emerging from their coffins as old hags, before transforming into supernatural seductresses. The slow and stately pace may lay the atmosphere on a bit thick, but the imagery is almost good enough to stand beside the best Italian horror films of the period. One might even call it “Bava-esque” – though not quite on par with BLACK SUNDAY, nor does it fall embarrassingly short, instead standing on its own as enjoyably spooky horror, served up straight, without the camp.
After that, the plot kicks in, and things get weird, which is definitely fun but also quite a bit goofier than what the opening would lead you to expect.

THE PLOT

First off, the Vampire Women have not only a Queen but also a Priestess, Tandra (Ofelia Montesco). Why there should be two leaders is a question the screenwriters really do not bother to answer; instead, we get to see lots of shots of the two vixens standing around in curvaceous white gowns, slit to the hip, while we have time to ponder which is the more alluring of the two (answer: the Queen!).

Queen Thorina (Lorena Velazquez, seated) presides over the Vampire Women, including Priestess Tandra (Ofelia Montesco, with chalice).
Queen Thorina (Lorena Velazquez, seated) presides over the Vampire Women, including Priestess Tandra (Ofelia Montesco, with chalice).

The convoluted premise is that after a 200 year hibernation, the Vampire Women are rising from their coffins to find a replacement for Thorina, so that she can descend into Hell to join her betrothed, the Devil himself (who makes a cameo appearance or two – a horned shadow cast on the wall).  The last time the vampires tried this, they were thwarted by a masked hero (presumably an ancestor of Santo); apparently, frustration over their failure sent them into a two-century slumber. Or perhaps we are to assume that the vampire life cycle consists of resurrecting every 200 years to find a new Queen and then immediately returning to their coffins for another 200 years? Whatever…
Professor Orloff, Diana’s father (played by Augusto Benedico) is an academic who has deciphered just enough ancient hieroglyphics to know that his daughter is to be targeted on her 21st birthday, which is rapidly approaching. Although he manages to enlist the aid of the police, but troubled by their skepticism about the nature of the threat (they don’t believe in vampires), he also seeks help from Santo for help. I guess Orloff doesn’t believe in keeping all his eggs in one basket. In a delightfully absurd conceit, Orloff has an electronic gizmo in his study that acts as a direct-line videophone to Santo’s lair – his equivalent of the bat cave – which we briefly glimpse when Orloff calls for assistance. Unfortunately, Santo is not home – a recurring them of the movie.
Meanwhile, the Vampire Women are seeking blood, and making moves on tracking down Dianna. In this, they are aided by a trio of vampire henchmen, portrayed by bare-chested wrestlers wearing capes (because any vampire worthy of the term wore a cape back in these days). Fashion sense aside, the henchmen come across more like conventional thugs than supernatural threats from beyond the grave, but they get the job done, more or less.
We finally get to see Santo in an extended wrestling sequence, and by extended, I mean one that will have you reaching for the fast-forward button like Han Solo pressing the warp speed drive button to outrun the Empire. The gratuitous and obligatory nature of the scene is exceeded only by the baffling notion that Santo, a superhero capable of battling the undead with relative ease, has a rather hard time dispatching a mortal opponent in the ring.
Eventually, Santo puts his wrestling career on hold long enough to engage with the plot of the film in which he is allegedly starring, and the action moves along well enough from there, though it sometimes plays more like a conventional crime movie: in the grand tradition of movie villainy, Priest Tandra repeatedly tries and fails to kidnap Diana; Queen Thorina berates her but gives her one more chance; and eventually, Tandra succeeds.
Amusingly, part of the reason for Tandra’s eventual success is that Santo is back in the ring: during an ill-conceived attempt to use Diana as bait (which ultimately results in her being kidnapped), police chief recalls casually notes that Santo is busy wrestling; he seems not the least nonplussed that the superhero prioritizes his fight career over guarding an innocent victim from blood-drinking hell-spawn. Fortunately for Santo, he does end up confronting the vampires, who seems to consider him a threat despite his frequently being AWOL: one of the vampire henchmen sneaks into the arena before the match, kills Santo’s opponent in the opponent’s dressing room, and puts on his mask, then fights Santo in the ring. (Why not skip a step and try to kill Santo in his dressing room? Don’t ask.)
Santo vs the Vampire Women: werewolf wrestlerI’m not sure this second wrestling match is any more exciting than the previous one, but at least it merges the two elements that the film has so far kept isolated from each other: vampires and wrestling. Santo has a pretty rough time of it (though not particularly rougher than when he was fighting humans), eventually unmasking his opponent to reveal…a werewolf!
WTF? The briefly scene, face-only makeup is the only hint that this henchmen is anything other than a vampire; the revelation is completely pointless except as a visual shock – and almost immediately forgotten. As Santo and the police swarm over the “werewolf,” they find themselves gripping empty air; the culprit escapes in the form of a bat, flapping away to safety.
Or not so much. Santo pursue in his sports car (it’s not the Batmobile, but it does have an invisible camera mounted on the hood – or at least we have to believe so, because Professor Orloff is able to view and speak with Santo via his videophone contraption). The vampire muscleman runs down the street, grasping his cape like wings, as if he cannot quite achieve liftoff in bat from, and comes up short when he finds himself face to face with a large cross, which reduces him to ashes.
This scene underlines another odd point about SANTO VS LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO: Santo does not do much to dispatch the vampires, who instead fall prey to their own miscalculations. More of this will follow in the climax.
Anyway, Professor Orloff finally deciphers more ancient writings and learns where the Vampire Woman have taken his daughter: to a miniature castle on the outskirts of the city. (It’s actually a mansion rather than a castle, but it has a dungeon, so there. And it’s not such a bad miniature really, but it looked better when it was partially hidden beneath the opening credits.) Santo races over and is immediately captured. Tandra begins the ritual to vampirize Diana into the new queen, but the rising sun peeks through a window and ignites the vampire priestess.
That’s right: Santo doesn’t save the day; the sun does. Giving our masked hero the benefit of the doubt, we can perhaps credit his intrusion for delaying Tandra and distracting her from the approaching dawn (she wastes time ordering her henchmen to unmask Santo instead of completing the ritual to turn Diana into the new vampire queen), but this is being overly charitable. Santo does manage to break free of some chains and fight the two remaining vampire thugs, but all he does is knock them down. Like Tandra, they burst into flames as if touched by the sun – thought the lighting of the scene is a bit sketchy about showing exactly which parts of the dungeon set are illuminated by sunbeams.
Santo vs Las Mujeras Vampiro 1962 burning coffinsThe remaining Vampire Women relapse into their hag-like appearance and retreat to their coffins, where Santo finally does something tangible, igniting their undead bodies with a torch (like George Romero’s ghouls a six years later in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, they “go up pretty good”). Curiously, the women seem so helpless at this point that Santo’s action seems more appalling than heroic.
And that’s about it. The police and Professor Orloff arrive too late to lend assistance. Santo delivers Diana to her father (not to her ineffectual fiance, who has been standing on the sidelines the whole movie) and drives off like the Lone Ranger, while the professor delivers a heartfelt paean of admiration to the masked hero.

COMMENTS

SANTA VS LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO cannot be taken seriously, but it is fun. Although the vampire henchmen are goofy at best, their female overlords cut a striking figure, particularly the regal queen. Pitting seductive female blood-suckers against the uber-macho Santo represents conservative gender politics taken to their nth degree, but it’s amusing to see that the wily women are almost a match for the masked wrestler.
Along the way, there are some interesting variations on vampire lore. For example, these vampires do cast reflections, but the mirror reveals their true countenances – ancient hags hiding beneath the illusion of young flesh.

Santo searches for the Vampire Women
Santo searches for the Vampire Women

Santo himself is an odd superhero, to say the least. He’s strong, but he doesn’t have any particular superpowers. He can survive vicious beatings delivered by the undead, yet he is unable to easily overwhelm human opponents in the wrestling ring. He’s also rather stocky and beefy – a far cry from the muscled physique of an archetypal Frank Frazetta protagonist. Presumably he has a secret identify, but the film never reveals it, nor even address it; we simply assume he runs around in that silver mask all day, alternating between wrestling and crime-fighting. And as mentioned above, he has a real problem with prioritizing these two activities.
The production is a bit hit-and-miss. The sets and photography establish atmosphere worthy of a classic film, and some of the special effects work well enough (such as the simple lap dissolves to transform vampires into flaming heaps), but the flying bats are typical for the time – obvious props swung on wires. Also, the editing makes occasional missteps, such as having different scenes reuse the same closeup of Tandra eyeing her target from outside a window (you don’t even need to be an anal-retentive DVD-rewinder to notice this one).
Whatever its flaws, SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO is seldom boring (except for the wrestling scenes). Fans of Mexican horror and/or wrestling consider this one of Santo’s best on-screen efforts, and even more general old-school monster movie aficionados should have a good time.

HOW TO WATCH

Priestess Tandra awakens her muscle-bound vampire-henchmen.
Priestess Tandra awakens her muscle-bound vampire-henchmen.

Long available in the U.S. only in a badly dubbed English-language version, SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO can now be seen in its original Spanish-language version on Hulu Plus. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles (this is part of the new Hulu Latino programming, intended for Spanish-speaking audiences); fortunately, you can probably follow most of the plot if you took high-school Spanish. If your language skills are not up to par, do what I did: run the Hulu version in synch with one of the English-language versions on YouTube. There are no editorial differences between the two, so the run times are virtually the same.
Why not just watch the English-language version? Because the picture quality of the Spanish-language version is pristine, highlighting the atmospheric detail that is the film’s main strength. Also, as weird as it may seem, hearing the original Spanish voices in the background helps distract from poor quality of the English dubbing, for which the voice actors seemed most concerned with spitting the dialogue out in time with the the lip movements, not with giving a dramatic performance.
If you do not subscribe to Hulu Plus, you will not be able to view SANTO VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN through your Roku box on your widescreen high-def television. Fortunately, the film is also available for free viewing on your computer through Hulu.com, and it is on YouTube as well. Picture quality is not bad as long as you watch in small size on your computer; nevertheless, HuluPlus is the preferred method.
The sound-booth quality of the English dub, along with the faded, pockmarked picture quality, renders SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN in terms that make it almost impossible to regard as anything more than a piece of junk, a campy artifact of a bygone age, worthy only of derision. Though the original Spanish cast were never going to win any awards, their dialogue delivery at least sounds appropriate and in-character; the superior soundtrack and image raise SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO to a level of watchability that allows viewers to enjoy the strengths without being overwhelmed by the absurdities (which are enjoyable in their own way).
If you would rather watch the English-language SAMSON VS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN, you might as well check out the version that appeared on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, which is also available, free, on YouTube.
Santo Vs. Las Mujeras Vampiro (1962) poster
SANTO VS LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO (“Santo vs the Vampire Women,” 1962). Alternate titles: SANTO CONTRA LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO, SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN. 89 minutes. Unrated. Black and white. Directed by Alfonso Corona Blake. Produced by Alberto Lopez. Written by Rafael Garcia Travesi; story by Antonio Orellana & Fernando Oses and Rafael Garcia Travesi; screenplay consultant, Alfonso Coronoa Blake. Cast: Santo, Lorena Velazquez, Maria Duval, Jaime Fernandez, Augusto Benedico, Xavier Loya, Ofelia Montesco, Fernando Oses, Guillermo Hernandez, Nathaneal Leon. Caernario Galindo, Ray Mendoza, Alejandro Cruz, Bobby Bonales.
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Tales of Terror (1962) trailer

Motion Pictures Greatest Terror Personalities: Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre – Together for the first time!

This trailer from TALES OF TERROR provides an interesting glimpse into how movies were sold to audiences back in 1962. Curiously, the omnibus film’s three episodes are presented in reverse order from their actual appearance in the film. Also noteworthy: the tongue-in-cheek middle episode is acknowledged as being “sardonically humorous” – a tactic that distributor American International Pictures would avoid when releasing the comical THE RAVEN a year later, presenting it as a straight horror thriller.
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Tales of Terror (1962): a 50th Anniversary Pictorial Retrospective

Foreign poster for TALES OF TERROR (1962)As part of Cinefantastique’s 50th anniversary tribute to TALES OF TERROR (1962), we recently posted a podcast discussing producer-director Roger Corman’s three-part omnibus of horror inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. As scintillating as the podcast conversation might be, it cannot capture the aesthetic achievements of the film, which features impressive production design (by Daniel Haller) and lovely cinematography (by Floyd Crosby). Therefore, we present this pictorial retrospective, showcasing horror stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbon, in the episodes MORELLA, THE BLACK CAT, and THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR.
Cast photo from TALES OF TERROR (1962) with Basic Rathbone, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Leona Gage, Maggie Pierce, on the set from the deleted limbo scene Posed publicity still of a scene not in the film. The putrifying M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) frightens wife, played by Debra Paget. Maggie Pierce as Vincent Price's late wife Lenora in MORELLA, the first episode from TALES OF TERROR (1962) Basic Rathbone hypnotizes Vincent Price in THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, the third episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Vincent Price poses with a mock head of Peter Lorre, used in the BLACK CAT episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Vincent Price and Peter Lorre in THE BLACK CAT, the comical change-of-pace in TALES OF TERROR (1962) A news paper photograph from November 27, 1961, of the casting call for the title role in THE BLACK CAT, the second episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) M. Valdemar awakens from his hypnotic trance at the conclusion of the final episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962)A gorgeious matte painting depicts the archetypal ancestral mansion from MORELLA, the opening episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Basil Rathbone and David Frankham in THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, the final episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) In a bit of action more reminiscent of THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO,  Peter Lorre walls up VIncent Price in THE BLACK CAT episode of TALES OF TERRROR (1962) Peter Lorre in the wine-taste sequence from THE BLACK CAT, the middle episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Vincent Price as the mesmerized Valdemar in THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, the final episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Peter Lorre wrestles with THE BLACK CAT, in the second episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Tongue-in-cheek promo art of the hallcuinatory headless sequence from THE BLACK CAT, the comical episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Debra Paget and Vincent Price in THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, episdoe three of TALES OF TERROR (1962) Locke (Vincent Price) is shocked to find that his daughter Morella has morphed into his late wife Lenora (Maggie Pierce) Peter Lorre challenges VIncent Price to a wine-tasting contest in THE BLACK CAT, the tongue-in-cheek episode of TALES OF TERROR (1962) "And there was an oozing liquid putrescence - all that remained of Mr. Valdemar" Basil Rathbone can barely be seen beneath the gooey dummy in this scene glimpsed only briefly at the conclusion of TALES OF TERROR (1962)
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Tales of Terror (1962) – A Retrospective

TALES OF TERROR 1962 vertical posterProducer-director Roger Corman’s fourth Poe film (the third starring Vincent Price) benefits greatly from the anthology format, which allows Edgar Allan’s Poe’s stories to reach the screen with relatively less embellishment; consequently, the strengths of the previous films (atmospheric camerawork and production design) are retained, while the weaknesses (limited settings and padded stories) are overshadowed. Price is given three distinct characterizations to show off his range, including one that showcases his comedic talents; the script by Richard Matheson (who previously dramatized HOUSE OF USHER and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM) introduces a touch of comic relief, an element that would emerge more fully in the follow-up THE RAVEN. Also, the success of the previous Poe films led to a budget increase that allowed for a stronger supporting cast, which included horror veterans Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone. Overall, the film is a lavish-looking, stylish piece of work that can still hold an audience’s attention. The fear factor, however, is decidedly mild, mostly taking the form of a general sense of dread and decay; the two major shock sequences (Morella’s attack on Locke and Valdemar’s attack on the hypnotist) are not bad, but neither one is a match for the pendulum sequence in PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
Three half-hour episodes are linked together with brief snippets of narration from Price: “Morella,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Case of M. Valdemar.” The first segment plays out like a condensed version of the previous version of Matheson’s first two Poe scripts, with Price as Locke (his name in the credits, which is not heard on screen), yet another obsessive agoraphobic (a la Roderick Usher), locked in an old house visited by an unwelcome guest, in this case an adult daughter whose birth caused his wife’s death decades ago. Locke’s late wife returns to possess her daughter and take revenge on her husband—a variation on a plot element from Poe’s “Ligeia”—before the ancient manor inevitably burns down (using stock shots from HOUSE OF USHER).

Vincent Price as Locke with Leona Gage as Morella
Vincent Price as Locke with Leona Gage as Morella

The episode exemplifies both the strengths and weaknesses of Corman’s previous Poe adaptations: nifty tracking shots, good sets (by Daniel Haller), atmospheric photography (by Floyd Crosby), and Price’s performance; counterbalanced by the weakness of the supporting players. Maggie Pierce, who plays Locke’s daughter, is adequate, and Leona Gage is stunningly beautiful as Morella, but she is unable to register a convincing level of menace on screen (where, oh where, is Barbara Steele when you need her?).
“The Black Cat,” which incorporates elements from “The Cask of Amontiallado,” was an intentional effort by Matheson to inject humor as a change of pace in the middle of the three-part film. Peter Lorre (the title character in Fritz Lang’s M) plays an inebriate whose search for wine leads him into a tasting contest with Fortunato Lucresi (Price). Forced to bring the drunken Montresor Herringbone home, Fortunato begins an affair with his wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson). Realizing what has happened, Montressore kills Annabel and walls her up, along with Fortunato who is still alive. Unfortunately for him, he also walls up the titular feline, whose screeches reveal the hidden bodies to the police. Price and Lorre, along with co-star Joyce Jameson, do a good job of playing the script for laughs. The tasting contest, in particular is a highlight, thanks to Price’s outrageous facial contortions as he savors each mouthful of wine, which contrast with Lorre’s off-handed throwaway lines (e.g., “from the better slopes of the vineyards”).
Of working with Lorre, Roger Corman recalled, “It was great! I must say Peter Lorre was one of the funniest people you would ever meet. And highly intelligent and very well educated. So you’re talking with a man who could come up with great ideas for full-out farce, and at the same time justify it intellectually and thematically in terms of Poe. It was immensely stimulating. Peter Lorre’s background was different from Vincent’s. Vincent had gone to the Yale School of Drama; he was very much trained as a classical actor. Peter came out of Germany, had worked with Bertol Brecht, and was very much into the German version of the Stanislavsky method, which was very close to the American. Their styles were distinctly different, but they were both intelligent and very sensitive actors, and they were able to work together very well, particularly in the wine-tasting sequence. In that scene, I said, ‘Peter, it is totally improvisational; you’re off the wall. Vincent, you’re totally classical.’ When the film first came out, that scene got a great reaction from the audience. I said to the semi-expert [wine taster], whoever he may have been—I don’t even remember—‘Talk to Vincent; stay away from Peter.’”
Peter Lorre and Joyce Jameson with the titular black cat
Peter Lorre and Joyce Jameson with the titular black cat

Price, on the other hand, recalled his co-star as “a sad little man,” adding. “He wasn’t very happy: he’d put on too much weight; he was not well. He never really learned the script; he felt he could improvise and make it better, and in many cases he did. He had been an actor once, but by this point he had become a caricature: he’d do his own imitation by holding his nose. He’d become this character, ‘Peter Lorre,” and he figured that’s what the audience wanted to see, so that’s what he would give them.”
The final episode, “The Case of Mr. Valdemar,” features Basil Rathbone (famous as Sherlock Holmes in films and on radio) as a mesmerist who hypnotizes Price’s character on his deathbed, thus prolonging the actual moment of death. The script adds a twist, with the mesmerist using his influence over his patient to try to gain control of Valdemar’s wife (the beautiful and desirable Debra Paget). Fortunately, Valdemar comes out of his trance and manages to throttle the evil mesmerist before melting into a “liquid mass of loathsome…detastable putrescence.” Despite decades as a horror star, this appearance as a living corpse represents Price’s first supernatural monster character. The eerie sense of death delayed but not averted is effectively conveyed, and the resurrection scene is reasonably well done, with some blurry lap-dissolves preventing the camera from viewing the makeup too closely; the scene feels slightly truncated, however, and therefore anti-climactic (the camera cuts away before Valdemar actually gets his hands on the hypnotist). The script shows some evident Matheson touches (Valdemar thanks his wife for sharing “the sweat measure of her soul” with him—a line Matheson would paraphrase in his novel WHAT DREAMS MAY COME), and David Frankham and Paget provide solid support in the acting department, making this a reasonably powerful climax to the three-part film.
Vincent Price and Basicl Rathbone in THE CASEOF M. VALDEMAR, the final epiode of TALES OF TERROR (1962)
Vincent Price explains the dangers of mesmerism to Basil Rathbone.

Price recalled that his co-star Rathbone had changed over the decades (Price and co-starred with Rathbone and Boris Karloff in 1939’s THE TOWER OF LONDON). Rathbone, like many aging actors from Hollywood’s Golden Era, found it difficult to keep working in an industry now looking to appeal to the drive-in youth market.
“I think he was very disillusioned, very bitter, because he really had been a great star. People forget that, because they think of him as Sherlock Holmes, or they think of him as a villain. But he had been a great Shakespearian actor, a great star in the theatre and in movies. And he suddenly found himself—as we all did when Jimmy Dean and Marlon Brando and those people came out, and there was a kind of speaking in the vernacular, and all of us spoke with trained accents and trained English—if you wanted to stay in the business, you bloody well went into costume pictures. And Basil rather resented that.”
Roger Corman had this to say about working with Rathbone: “Basil would be immensely well prepared, with a fully developed performance and would play the script to the letter, so that just a small amount of discussion [was needed]. A very meticulous and a very consistent actor—from take to take it did not vary.”
The deleted limbo sequence from THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, the final sequence of TALES OF TERROR (1962)Also shot, but never shown, was a brief sequence of Valdemar’s soul trapped in Limbo. “It didn’t work,” Corman has said. “I shot it, put it together, and for whatever reason I made the decision to take it out. It was a short sequence, and I was dissatisfied with it, and I don’t even remember why. It may have been for this reason: these pictures really were rather low-budget films. We tried to make them look more expensive than they were, but they really were quite low-budget. I think when I looked at the Hades sequence, for five minutes, it really didn’t look right.”
Corman added, “We used certain colored gels and filters. The work we did, we thought was good for the 1960s; it pales by comparison to what can be done with the press of a button with computer graphics today. There were two reasons for the Hades sequence: one was to illustrate what Valdemar was going through. Also—and this was a problem with all of the Poe pictures—they were very much interior; they were shot in one or two rooms, and I was always worried about a claustrophobic feeling, that you were almost having a stage play photographed. I would take any possible way I could to break out of the confines of those rooms. That is the reason for some of the [dream/hallucination] sequences and one of the reasons for the ‘Hades’ sequence.”
Although successful, the profits did not match those of previous films. “TALES OF TERROR did well, but not as well as the others, and we felt it was because we had gone to the trilogy format,” Corman recalled. “We did a little research and found that in general the multi-part films had not been a successful genre. In the age of television, the audience maybe—I don’t know—thought they were seeing three half-hour television shows.”

TRIVIA

Price, Lorre, Rathbone, and Jameson would reteam, along with Boris Karloff, in the 1963 film COMEDY OF TERRORS, also written by Matheson.

The two-part Poe anthology TWO EVIL EYES, from Dario Argento (SUSPIRIA) and George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) is virtually a two-thirds remake of TALES OF TERROR, featuring episodes based on “The Case of M. Valdemar” and “The Black Cat” (although done in contemporary, not period, settings).

DVD & HOME VIDEO DETAILS

Click to purchase.
Click to purchase.

TALES OF TERROR has never been released on Blu-ray. Fortunately, the film is available as a stand-alone DVD and also as one of MGM’s Midnight Movie Double Bill DVDs, paired with TWICE TOLD TALES (an obvious imitation, with Price starring in three episodes based on stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne). The disc offers TALES OF TERROR in a good widescreen (2.35 aspect ratio) transfer. The soundtrack is monophonic with English dialogue, with options for Spanish, French, and German subtitles. The only bonus features are coming attractions trailers for both films. TALES OF TERROR is also available on Netflix Instant View.
TALES OF TERROR (AIP, 1962). Produced and directed by Roger Corman. Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Debra Paget, David Frankham, Leona Gage, Maggie Pierce, Wally Campo. Allen DeWitt.
NOTE: This article copyright 2005 by Steve Biodrowski. Some of the material herein is derived and adapted from the cover story on Vincent Price that Steve Biodrowski co-authored with David Del Valle and Lawrence French for the January 1989 issue of Cinefantastique magazine.
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