“DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”I remember, when I was 13 years old, a very large fire at Los Angeles' Griffith Park near both Travel Town and the Zoo, but because of great fire fighting. The blaze never reached the Griffith Park Observatory, but even today there are areas around the Zoo that were never rebuilt even after 58 years.
What does this have to do with producer/director Roger Corman and Edgar Allan Poe?
At the time of that brush fire. Production was on for what would become Roger Corman's first Poe feature "THE HOUSE OF USHER". Corman was awaken by a phone call from his location manager telling him about the fire and that some areas were still smoldering. His quick brain went to work and Corman instructed the man to get actor Mark Damon out to the park. Call American International Pictures Wardrobe Department and get Damon's costume to the scene, rent a horse from the Pickwick riding stables in Burbank. Located with five minutes of the park and have someone with a camera sent there, Then just film Mark Damon on the horse riding through the burnt areas.
Edgar Allan Poe's works had been filmed multiple times, before Roger Corman decided to do Poe. Actually the very first film, based upon a work by the author, was an American silent in 1908 entitled "Sherlock Holmes and the Great Murder Mystery". Somehow "Sherlock Holmes" became Poe's French Detective "C. Auguste Dupin" in what was really a short version of the "Murders in the Rue Morgue".
Some of the best Poe films and even moodier then Corman's. Came from Europe starting in 1928 and for those of my readers interested in "Edgar Allan Poe Through the Eyes of European Film Makers". You can read my blog article at:
HOUSE OF USHER aka: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER aka: THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE OF USHER (JUNE 18, 1960)
The above U.K. poster for the film has a "CERT X" on it. This meant the film was unacceptable for viewers under the age of 16 at the time of release. In the United States there was no age restrictions.
Leave it to Roger Corman to make the best out of nothing. The movie that he released prior to "House of Usher" was the World War 2 "Battle of Bloody Beach" filmed in Puerto Rico. In which he was seen at the end as an American soldier. Actually the money he put up, $31,129.31 and an additional $14,000 from Stan Bickman and the director Joel Rapp. Paid for that feature and "Last Women on Earth" shot at the same time "Last Women on Earth" was part of a Corman double bill released immediately after "Usher" with "Little Shop of Horrors".
Rodger Corman, still in Puerto Rico, discovered right after editing his World War 2 and End of the World features. That there was left over footage and still some money. So he was able to film "The Creature from the Haunted Sea", not released until 1961, also.
As Corman said in his book with Jim Jerome: "How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime":
I had discovered that tax incentives were available if you 'manufactured' in Puerto Rico. That included making movies.I use the above to illustrate the budget difference between those three films and 1960's "House of Usher" which was $300,000. Horror movies were in decline by 1960. However, American International Pictures not only took a gamble on Corman, but had the picture shot in Eastman Color and CinemaScope. For the screenplay Roger Corman hired Richard Matheson.
Matheson had written an extremely intelligent Science Fiction 1956 novel "The Shrinking Man". In 1957 Universal Studios hired the author to write the screenplay for the movie version "The Incredible Shrinking Man". The hiring of Richard Matheson, who in 1954 wrote the short story "I Am Legend", would prove beneficial to both Corman and AIP. "The House of Usher" on its initial release made Two Million Dollars in the United States alone.
My article on Richard Matheson may be read at:
The next item for Roget Corman was to find a cast.
When his boy hood friend and the tale's narrator first sees "Roderick Usher". Edgar Allan Poe describes him this way:
Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality - of the constrained effort of the ennuyé ; man of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect sincerity. We sat down ; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher ! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion ; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison ; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve ; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations ; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity ; these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity.
In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an incoherence - an inconsistency ; and I soon found this to arise from a series of feeble and futile struggles to overcome an habitual trepidancy - an excessive nervous agitation.
So where does Roger Corman find an actor who can portray the head of the "House of Usher"?
The answer of course was Vincent Price.
Starting in 1953 with "The House of Wax", the 3-D remake of the 1933 "Mystery of the Wax Museum". Price was picking up a Horror film following.This actually solidified with five motion pictures in 1958 and 1959. They were "The Fly", "House on Haunted Hill", "The Tingler" "Return of the Fly" and the murder mystery "The Bat".
The supporting cast of three actors came first from a young method actor appearing on televisions since 1954 Mark Damon. Damon would stop acting and become a producer for such productions as the directors cut of the German "Das Boot", the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again", John Huston's "Prizzi's Honor", Sergio Leone's American gangster epic "Once Upon a Time in America" and the interesting Science Fiction "The Final Countdown" starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.
Mark Damon portrayed the visitor to the "House of Usher" "Philip Wintrop".
The reason "Wintrop" comes to the lonely and possibly diabolical house is "Madeline Usher". The sister of "Roderick" portrayed by Myrna Fahley. Fahley had been a television actress since 1954 playing "Good Girl" roles. She was in an episode of "The Adventures of Superman", four consecutive episodes of Walt Disney's "Zorro" and an episode of the James Garner series "Maverick: Duel at Sundown" with an unknown Clint Eastwood as a "Trigger Happy" villain.
Portraying, :Bristol", the butler/servant of the Usher family for decades was character actor Harry Ellerbe. Ellerbe was mainly a television character actor since 1950.
The basic plot is true to Poe in many ways. "Wintrop" rides through the dead forest that leads to the "Usher's" home to find out what happened to the women he loves and was engaged too.
The opening is a combination of the footage shot of Griffith Park, matte and models to set a very dark and moody tone. Upon arriving "Roderick Usher" is opposed to the marriage and tells the young "Philip Wintrop" that the family has had a cursed blood line for centuries.
He takes the young man on a tour of the house which appears to be coming apart from age and the weather of the area. "Roderick" tell him the house's decay is really part of the "Usher Curse". The paintings Corman had created for mood. Are of the actors in make-up that appear in a dream sequence and reflect pure evil in their appearance.
There is a secret about the beautiful "Madeline" that "Roderick" reveals. The family has a history of "catalepsy" a disease that gives the appearance of death. The siblings have a heated argument and the pressure of what has been happening since "Philip" arrived ads to "Madeline's" stress and she dies.
As "Philip" starts to leave the "House of Usher". It is he butler "Bristol". Who ells him that he believes "Madeline" is still alive. "Wintrop" confronts "Roderick" with the possibility that "Madeline" had a cataleptic attack and was "buried alive".
Her coffin is found empty with bloody hand prints. The now insane "Madeline" is roaming the house.
"Madeline" murders "Roderick", "Bristol" dies in the fire she has started. While "Philip Wintrop" escapes the end of the "House of Usher" as the decayed mansion is seen sinking into the ground it was built upon.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (AUGUST 12, 1961)
I almost fear to tell the world of what they did to me. But tell I must, if only to warn others. You must hear of the Inquisition, of the trial, and of the torture -- these monstrosities that nearly destroyed me. I shall tell you the story; but though I may tell you how it happened, I shall never be able to tell you why.
Richard Matheson was brought back to create the story for the picture. As the original Edgar Allan Poe short story is a narrative by a prisoner in the pit as the pendulum comes closer and closer to his body.
In the section of Poe's original story I have quoted above. There is mention of the Inquisition being the source of the victim's torment. For those of my readers who don't know the length of what was officially called the "Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition". The time period may surprise you as it ran from November 1, 1478 through July 15, 1834. Making it easy for Richard Matheson to create his screenplay.
Set in the 16th Century a young Englishman named "Francis Barnard" has come to a foreboding Spanish castle on a cliff by the sea. He has come to find out what happened to his sister the wife of the master of the castle.
"Barnard" was portrayed by actor John Kerr in what was considered his last major lead in a motion picture. Kerr had won the Tony for the play "Tea and Sympathy" in 1955 and recreated the role on film in 1956 opposite Deborah Kerr, no relation, and co-starred in the 1958 motion picture version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific".
At the castle he meets "Catherine Medina", portrayed by Luana Anders. The two will fall in love over the course of the story. Anders appeared in Curtis Harrington's 1961 "Night Tide" with Dennis Hopper. A must for my readers. She gets killed in Roger Corman's "Dementia 13" directed by the unknown Francis Ford Coppola in 1963. Anders was also seen with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Corman's 1967 "The Trip" written by Jack Nicholson and with all three in 1969's "Easy Rider".
The role of "Dr. Leon" was portrayed by an oft used Roger Corman actor Anthony Carbone. His work for Corman included 1959's "A Bucket of Blood", 1960's "Last Women on Earth" and 1961's "Creature from the Haunted Sea". Carbone portrayed many a television gangster and had several appearances on "The Untouchables".
Of course I have left out two roles at this point. Returning in a juicy double role as both "Nicholas Medina" and his father "Sebastian", a one time "Grand Inquistioner", was Vincent Price in the second of six Corman Poe films in would appear in out of all seven.
Some critics thought Price was too hammy as "Nicholas", but I thought he was just right. To continue with the plot. "Nicholas" is tormented by the death of his wife "Elizabeth". There is a secret, of course, that only his sister knows about her brother.
It is revealed when "Catherine" tells "Francis" about the death of their mother "Isabella"."Nicholas" had followed his father down to the castle's torture chamber and observed his mother cowering in a corner. He follows her eyes and sees "Sebastian" beating his uncle "Bartolome" with a red hot poker and calling out adulterer. This scene affects the mind of the boy. "Catherine" believes that her brother also observed his father torture their mother to death/
Later, "Dr. Leon" reveals to "Catherine" and "Francis" that "Don Sebastian" didn't torture "Isabella" to death, BUT walled her up alive.
This is all brought on as "Nicholas" claims he's seeing "Elizabeth" walking the halls and in his room. "Dr. Leon" is concerned about his health, but these visions (?) keep playing on "Nicholas". The thought that they buried "Elizabeth" alive and she escaped her coffin now is planted in "Catherine's" brother's mind.
There is only one way to prove this isn't true and that would be to open "Elizabeth's" coffin.
The tomb's wall is broken open and then everyone goes to the coffin.
It is opened and---
"Don Nicholas'" mind snaps at seeing the body of "Elizabeth" proving he buried her alive. Now the truth of the tale comes out. The body is not "Elizabeth", but as with "Isabella" and "Bartolome". It is "Elizabeth" and "Dr. Leon" who are the adulterers. Further it was their plan to drive "Nicholas" mad and then have him either kill himself, or be committed. Leaving the two lovers with the castle.
"Elizabeth" was portrayed by British actress Barbara Steele. Who had just made a world wide hit with her previous motion picture. That Italian film would start Steele on the road to becoming Europe's number one female Horror actress. The now classic picture was director Mario Bava's "La maschera del demonio (The Mask of Satan)" aka: "Black Sunday". Released August 11, 1960 with Steele portraying the vampire/witch "Princess Asa Vajda" and her look alike descendant "Katia Vajda".
My article on Italian Horror Masters Dario Argento and Mario Bava can be found at:
The plan works too well as "Nioholas" now believes he is his father and "Elizabeth" is "Isabella". While seeing "Francis" as his brother "Bartolome". However, he first thinks "Dr. Leon" is
"Bartolome" and murders him. Then he goes after his wife and "Francis" and finally the title objects are in full view for the audience. Below the lovely Barbara Steele.
Yes it is ironical, but your husband is now "Sebastian" in his mind and you are "Isabella". However, instead of a wall you get a lovely room in the Iron Maiden with your mouth taped shut.
As for "Francis" it is "The Pit and the Pendulum". Some matte shots and models and again an effective sequence.
"Catherine" with a servant breaks into the torture chamber. There is a brief struggle with the servant and "Nicholas" falls to his death. At the last minute "Francis" is saved and as "Catherine", "Francis" and the servant leave the torture chamber. She vows to seal it for good. None of them notice, or know about "Elizabeth".
The fade out seen is classic of Barbara Steele in the Iron Maiden.
In 1989 interview for "Cinefantastque" Magazine, Barbara Steele is quoted as saying the following about Vincent Price:
Our major confrontation where he strangles me was done in one take…He really went at me and I had the bruises on my throat to prove it. Afterward, he was so concerned he had hurt me—a perfect gentleman—a truly kind figure in spite of his image.Barbara Steele had a thick English accent that did not fit the character and after filming was completed. Roger Corman had her lines dubbed.
THE PREMATURE BURIAL (MARCH 7, 1962)
To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? We know that there are diseases in which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions, properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the incomprehensible mechanism. A certain period elapses, and some unseen mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the wizard wheels. The silver cord was not for ever loosed, nor the golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meantime, was the soul? Apart, however, from the inevitable conclusion, a priori that such causes must produce such effects- that the well-known occurrence of such cases of suspended animation must naturally give rise, now and then, to premature interments- apart from this consideration, we have the direct testimony of medical and ordinary experience to prove that a vast number of such interments have actually taken place.
Roger Corman decided to make a film based upon an Edgar Allan Poe short story for his own company and not American International Pictures as his first two features had been. A change Vincent Price was nowhere to be seen, but instead the excellent Ray Milland
Between 1937 and 1954 Milland was an major International leading man. He appeared in such pictures as 1939's "Beau Geste" with Gary Cooper and Robert Preston as the three "Geste" Brothers. 1942 saw him opposite John Wayne and Paulette Goddard in Cecil B. DeMille's "Reap the Wild Wind", 1944 Milland and Ruth Hussey were in the classic ghost story "The Uninvited". 1945 he won the Oscar for Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" and in 1954 he attempted to murder his wife, played by Grace Kelly, in Alfred Hitchcock's only 3-D motion picture "Dial M for Murder". Then Ray Milland decided to go into directing as his acting career was taking a down turn.
The actor would follow this film in one he was the star and director released in July 1962. This was the under appreciated Atomic War survival picture "Panic in the Year Zero" co-staring popular Frankie Avalon. Then in 1963 he was Rodger Corman's "X-the Man with the X-Ray Eyes".
I will stop right now to clarify two points, Because Roger Corman was making a film as an Independent Producer. He was not able to obtain the services of Vincent Price whom he wanted, because Price had an exclusive contract with American International Pictures and they will not let him be in this picture. However, to make things a little more confusing. When it came to distributing Corman's "Premature Burial". The distributor was American International Pictures who had refused Roger Corman the use of Vincent Price.
Another change was Richard Matheson did not create the story, but the writing team of Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell, Beaumont wrote 22 episodes of the original "Twilight Zone", his screenplays included 1958's "Queen of Outer Space", he co-wrote both George Pal's 1962 "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and 1964' "7 Faces of Dr. Lao". Beaumont would also co-write Corman 1963's "The Haunted Palace" and in 1964 "The Mask of the Red Death".
While Ray Russell co-wrote William Castle's 1961 "Mr. Sardonicus" and 1962' s "Zotz". For Roger Corman, Russell co-wrote "X-the Man with the X-Ray Eyes" besides this film.
Beaumont and Russell, as with Matheson on "The Pit and the Pendulum", had to create a screenplay out of a single person narrative. Ray Milland became "Guy Carrell" who has an unnatural fear of being buried alive, because like his father he suffers from catalepsy. Sounds like the "Ushers", or what "Nicholas Medina" thought he had done to his wife "Elizabeth". In short all three motion pictures in Rodger Corman's "Poe Cycle" seem tied together in plots with slight variations.
To prevent being accidentally buried alive. "Guy" has constructed a tomb with many escape features and this includes his coffin. He demonstrates it to his sister, his wife and her father. Along with a medical student named "Miles Archer".
Portraying "Guy's" sister "Kate" was Heather Angel. Angel had been acting since 1931 and was seen in 1935 in both "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" starring Claude Rains and John Ford's "The Informer" starring Victor McLaglen. In 1942 Heather Angel portrayed "Helga Hammond" in 20th Century Fox's werewolf feature "The Undying Monster" and two years later appeared as one of the passengers in Alfred Hitchcock's 1944 "Lifeboat".
"The Undying Monster" is mentioned in my article on 67 years of Werewolf movies from 1913 through 1980 at:
Portraying "Emily Gault" the women "Guy" wants to marry was British actress Hazel Court. In 1954 Court was one of the guests at an inn on the Scottish Moor that meets "The Devil Girl From Mars", but her role as "Elizabeth" in Hammer Film's "The Curse of Frankenstein" started to associate the actress with quality Horror films. Court would be in two other Rodger Corman "Poe" features. My article on Hazel Court may be found at:
The role of "Emily's" father "Dr. Gideon Gault" was portrayed by Alan Napier. Napier had been acting since 1930, but even with roles in many motion pictures. The character the actor would be remembered as was "Alfred Pennyworth" on the television camp, cult classic from 1966 "Batman" starring Adam West and Bruce Ward.
The plot is very simple. After the wedding of "Emily" and "Guy" everything seems perfect. Then "Guy" starts to get depressed, starts to think of being buried alive and builds his tomb. His depression seems to be triggered when "Emily" on the piano plays the Irish folk song "Molly Malone". Suddenly he passes out.
To lighten his mood "Guy" and "Emily" go out for a walk and as he passes a grave digger the man starts whistling "Molly Malone", "Guy" passes out once more. He has a nightmare in which he is buried alive and not one of his safeguards work. When "Guy" awakens "Emily" tells him there was no grave digger and no "Molly Malone".
"Emily" is getting frustrated with "Guy's" behavior and tells him. He either stops his morbid thinking about death, or she will leave him. Wanting to keep her "Guy" destroys the fault and safeguards he has created, but the moods return.
"Guy" asks his friend Medical Student "Miles Archer" for suggestions. The source of "Guy's" obsession with death comes from a fear his father was buried alive. Sound familiar?. "Miles" suggests that perhaps looking into the grave of his father might prove he wasn't buried alive. "Guy" takes up the suggestion, but upon looking into the grave they find---
"Guy" passes out at the sight and "Emily's" father pronounces him dead of a heart attack.
"Guy" is buried, but he is not dead, but in a cataleptic state. We now discover that "Emily" and her father planned for this to happen. So that she could inherit "Guy's" wealth as in reality their broke.
The now insane "Guy" escapes aftter two grave robbers dig him up. He murders "Dr. Gault" and takes "Emily". His sister "Kate" and "Miles" go after him. Meanwhile "Guy" takes revenge on the scheming "Emily" by burying her alive.
TALES OF TERROR (JULY 4, 1962)
The following is Poe's ending to his "The Black Cat". Which is the basis for one of a trilogy of tales from Roger Corman.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb.
Vincent Price was back for this Roger Corman endeavor. So what were the major productions that American International Pictures allowed Price to appear in, but prevented Roger Corman from using for "The Premature Burial"?
There were three feature films. The first two movies were made in Italy. In September 1961 was "Nefertite, regina del Nilo". The movie wouldn't be released, dubbed, in the United States until 1964 as "Queen of the Nile". The second picture was "Gordon, il pirata nero" in December of 1961. The dubbed movie came to the United States as "Rage of the Buccaneers" in August 1963. Then in June 1962 Allied Artists released "Confessions of an Opium Eater" loosely based upon a autobiography from 1821,
As the above poster indicates, "Tales of Terror", also had two other old pro's named Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre. 1962 was a good year for veteran actor Basil Rathbone. In February Rathbone was the Jewish High Priest "Calaphas" in the Italian epic "Ponzio Pilato". The film wouldn't reach the United States in a dubbed version until 1967. While April saw Rathbone in Bert I. Gordon's "The Magic Sword" as the evil magician "Lodoc". Who likes feeding Princesses to his two headed dragon. Peter Lorre the previous year co-starred in the Irwin Allen motion picture "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". My article on some overlooked roles by Lorre may be read at:
"Tales of Terror" had three short visions of Edgar Allen Poe's work under the screenwriting talent of Richard Matheson.. Vincent Price was in all three tales and Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone in one each.
The first was "MORELLA"
Vincent Price portrays "Locke" whose daughter comes to visit him. The daughter is "Lenora" portrayed by Maggie Pierce.
Pierce appeared in three episodes of the Television series "The Many Loves of Dobbie Gillis" that starring Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver. She appeared in another television series in all 30 episodes of "My Mother the Car".
What should be a happy home coming for a a daughter, who has traveled from Boston, to be with her father is not/ As Price's "Locke" blames "Lenora" for the death, in childbirth, of his wife her mother "Morella". However, "Locke" softens his attitude toward his daughter as she reveals she is dying from a terminal illness.
There is a room in the house "Lenora" is told not to enter, but her curiosity takes over. She will discover her mother's decomposed corpse on the bed. One evil night the spirit of "Morella" returns and kills her daughter and their bodies change places. "Morella" becoming beautiful and "Lenora" a corpse.
"Morella" is played by Mary Leona Gage. Her life may be better than this movie. In 1957 Gage represented the State of Maryland in the "Miss U.S.A." pageant and won. She was the first winner the state ever had, but a scandal broke out. A few days after the pageant end. Mary Leona Gage admitted being 18 and not the required 21. Adding she had been married twice and had two children. The crown was taken away from Gage and Maryland.
In November 1965 she was found unconscious from a drug overdose in an attempted suicide. Then spent three weeks in Southern California's "Camarillo State Mental Hospital". The actress would be married for a total of six times and have another child. She sang and danced in burlesque clubs and went back to acting obtaining this role. Below is Mary Leona Gage as the reborn "Morella" before killing her husband with her dead body lying across him.
A fire was started, but before it consumes the house. "Morella's" spirit returns to her corpse and instead of the mother. The daughter is now seen lying over the dead body of her father.
THE BLACK CAT
This is Peter Lorre's entry and he plays "Montresor Herringbone". He hates his wife "Annabelle" and her Black Cat.
Joyce Jameson portrayed "Annabelle" in this film and would be in 1964's "The Comedy of Terrors" directed by Jacques Tourneur featuring Price, Lorre, Rathbone and Boris Karloff. In 1966 Jameson was in the Elvis Presley film "Frankie and Johnny" and in 1975 was featured in Roger Corman's classic "Death Race 2000" starring David Carradine.
"Herringbone" challenges the world's foremost wine taster to a duel of wines. Vincent Price steals the entire picture as"Fortunado Lunchresi". Who now takes the drunk Lorre to his home. There he sees "Annabelle" and the two become lovers. "Herringbone" comes up with a plan to get them to his wine cellar. Where he drugs both and walls the two up.
"Herringbone" makes one mistake, but of course that is revealed when he escorts the police down into the wine cellar. He has walled "Annabelle's" Black Cat up with his two victims/
THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR
This is Rathbone's entry and he portrays "Mr. Carmichael" a hypnotist. He is called to the home of a man dying from a painful disease "Mr. M. Valdemar", Price. "Carmichael" puts "Valdemar" in different trances and finally in one that he is trapped between the world of the living and the dead, but without pain.
This all goes against "Valdemar's" own physician played by David Frankham seen in the above photo. Frankham was seen with Vincent Price in 1959;s "The Return of the Fly". As the man who places the fly in the matter transporter with Brett Halsey. Prior to this film he was in the Vincent Price/Charles Bronson version of Jules Verne's "Master of the World".
Also in the above picture is Debra Paget as "Valdemar's" wife "Helene".In 1950 she played the Native American girl James Stewart was in love with and marries in "Broken Arrow", Paget was the Hebrew slave "Lilia" in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 "The Ten Commandments", the women married to Elvis Presley in 1956's "Love Me Tender" and in 1961 Debra Paget appeared in Roger Corman's "The Haunted Palace" also starring Vincent Price.
"Helene" is horrified to find out that "Mr. Carmichael" wants to marry her/ The he plans to leave "Valdemar" in his trance state forever, if she doesn't.
"M. Valdemar's" body starts to dissolve under the trance over time, but when he hears what "Carmichael" wants to do. Still apparently in his trance state he leaves his bed and kills the hypnotist. All that remains of "Valdemar" is a pile of goo covering the other man's body.
THE RAVEN (JANUARY 23, 1963)
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
Edgar Allan Poe described "The Raven" this way:
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,While Roger Corman, after reading Richard Matheson screenplay, cast Peter Lorre as the title bird.It's hard to see in the following still, but Lorre is wearing a Raven suit after Vincent Price goofs on turning him back to human.
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Lawrence French in his 2012 "The Making of the Raven" relates the following quote from Matheson:
After I heard they wanted to make a movie out of a poem, I felt that was an utter joke, so comedy was really the only way to go with it,and Corman turned loose his three stars loose. Lorre started ad-libbing and Price reluctantly went with it, but Karloff didn't like going off script too much.
The picture starts with Sorcerer "Dr. Erasmus Craven", Vincent Price, still morning the death of his wife "Lenore". As Poe wrote:
vainly I had sought to borrowInto his room fly's a Raven. Who starts to speak in Peter Lorre's voice.
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
The Raven explains it is actually another Sorcerer "Dr. Adolphus Bedio", Lorre. He has been changed into the bird by the evil Sorcerer "Dr. Scarabus", Boris Karloff. "Bedio" asks "Erasmus"for help changing him back to a human. His size and head return, but his body is still that of a Raven.
The two redo the formula and Lorre is back to his own self and reveals that "Lenore", Hazel Court, was not dead, but alive with her lover "Dr. Scarabus".
Enter "Dr. Bedop's" son "Rexford Bedio". The role is portrayed by 36 year old Jack Nicholson. Nicholson had been doing small roles on television since 1956 with the exception of the Dental Patient "Wilbur Force" in Corman's 1960 "Little Shop of Horrors". In this film he was Abbott to three Costello's. In short "Rexford" is the "Straight Man" for Lorre, Price and Karloff.
In the above still Jack Nicholson is standing with his love interest "Estelle Craven", the daughter of "Dr Erasmus Craven", played by Olive Sturgess. Between 1954 into 1974 Sturgess was a television actress. Her only two motion picture appearances were "The Raven" and 1956's "The Kettle's in the Ozarks". She portrayed one of "Ma and Pa Kettle's" daughters from the popular radio series turned film series.
The four, "Erasmus", "Adolphus", "Rexford" and "Estelle" set off for the castle of "Dr. Scarabus" to defeat him.
Except for "Straight Man" Nicholson. The two ladies, Court and Sturgess, are just set pieces for the story to progress. Once in the home of "Dr. Scarabus". The film turns to a magical duel first between Lorre and Karloff. Then the main battle with the seemingly befuddled Price.
In the end the castle of "Dr. Scarabus" is destroyed and he gets "STUCK" with "Lenore". Who after the defeat of "Scarabus" says she wants to return to "Erasmus", but is told to stay with the other Sorcerer.
The budget for "The Raven" was $350,000 and the United States/Canadian Box Office was $1,499,275. The movie is great fun.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (JUNE 24, 1964)
THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal -- the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
Charles Beaumont is back as a co-screenplay writer on the Sixth film of Roger Corman's "Poe Cycle". His co-writer was Robert Wright Campbell. Prior to this screenplay Campbell was the main writer on Universal Studio's 1957 biography of Lon Chaney "The Man of a Thousand Faces" starring James Cagney and Dorothy Malone. He switched to American International Pictures for Charles Bronson's "Machine Gun Kelly" and Robert Vaughn's "Teenage Caveman". Both films were directed by Roger Corman.
This story starts as an old women is approached by a man in a Red Robe.
The audience does not see his face and the robed figure gives the old women a white rose. The rose immediately turns red and starts to bleed. The "RED DEATH" has come to Italy.
"Prince Prospero", Vincent Price, arrives in a village and is confronted by two angry villagers over his rule and the villages like of food. They are "Gino" portrayed by David Weston and "Ludovico" portrayed by Nigel Green. "Prospero: immediately sentences the two to death, but "Ludovico's" daughter "Francesca", portrayed by Jane Asher, begs to let them go. As "Prospero" eyes the young girl he see the old women from the film's opening.
David Westen is an English author, actor and director, To American audiences at the time of this picture. He had appeared in the Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris 1965 "The Heroes of Telemark". Weston would also appear in Roger Corman's 1971 "Von Richthofen and Brown".
Nigel Green had been seen in many motion pictures. Among them were 1958's "Corridors of Blood" starring Boris Karloff, and 1961's "Gorgo". Green was "Hercules" in Ray Harryhausen's 1963 "Jason and the Argonauts" and the "Color Sergeant" in the excellent "Zulu" starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine, Then there was 1965's "The Ipcress File" with Caine as "Harry Palmer", "The Face of Fu Manchu" starring Christopher Lee in the title role and with Lee and Peter Cushing in "The Skull".
Jane Asher was first seen in the United States in Hammer Film's 1955 "The Quatermass X-perient" aka: "The Creeping Unknown" as a little girl. Asher had appeared in many major British television productions, but on April 18, 1963 the 17 year old interviewed Paul McCartney for a magazine. The Beatles were performing at Royal Albert Hall. The result of the interview was more than expected as she began a five year relationship with McCartney.
The story continues as "Satanist Prince Prospero" realizes the old women is infected with the RED DEATH and has the three villagers brought to his castle. Where he plans to wait out the plague,
At the Prince's castle we meet his mistress "Juliana" portrayed once again by Hazel Court. The now jealous mistress is told to instruct "Francesca" on the court's proper etiquette. In this case pure devil worship and orgies.
The film has had many negative comments and ran afoul of the British censors. In a 2007 retrospect of the film author Steve Biodrowski quoted Roger Corman on one of Hazel Court's scenes that had to be removed.
From the standpoint of nudity, there was nothing. I think she was nude under a diaphanous gown. She played the consummation with the Devil, but it was essentially on her face; it was a pure acting exercise. Hazel fully clothed, all by herself, purely by acting, incurred the wrath of the censor. It was a different age; they probably felt that was showing too much. Today, you could show that on six o’clock television and nobody would worry.Hazel Court's death scene comes earlier than one might expect. She goes to an alter to sacrifice herself to Satan.
She drinks a potion and then has what is a trademark of Roger Corman in this series. A hallucination dream sequence more like an LSD Trip than anything else. After returning to the real world she is attacked and killed by a falcon. Perhaps she was too weird even for Satan.
"The Masque of the RED Death" is the least successful of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series and Executive Producer Samuel Arkoff possibly found the problem. As Corman said in a 2013 interview with Lawrence French. Sam thought the picture was:
too arty fartyCorman's response to French was:
I think that is a legitimate statement. The fault may have been mine. I was becoming more interested in the Poe films as expressions of the unconscious mind, rather than as pure horror films.Both Arkoff's comment and Corman's response come together in the climatic scene between "Prince Prospero" and the Red Robed Figure. Who has entered the castle. "Prince Prospero" believes the figure to be an ambassador of Satan. When asked to reveal his face the figure replies:
There is no face of Death until the moment of your own death.
"Prospero" asks that "Francesca" be permitted to leave the castle and this is granted. He does not know that the Red Death had already told "Gino" she would be free to leave and that they would be the only survivors of the plague.
Then "Prospero" sees the hidden face and it is his own. Like his guests "Prince Prospero" will die.
I come to the seventh and final Poe entry by Roger Corman.
THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (DECEMBER 6, 1964)
I Cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I
first became acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have since
elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or, perhaps,
I cannot now bring these points to mind, because, in truth, the
character of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placid
cast of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her
low musical language, made their way into my heart by paces so
steadily and stealthily progressive that they have been unnoticed and
The final entry in Roger Corman's "Poe Cycle", filmed in the U.K., was also the sixth appearance of Vincent Price, BUT he was not the director's or writer's choice for "Verden Fell". The character was suppose to be between 25 and 30 years of age. Price was 53. Roger Corman had wanted Richard Chamberlain who was 30 at the time. However, American International Pictures thought Chamberlain was not bankable and demanded Price.
At the time Chamberlain was starring in the popular television series "Dr. Kildare" and was a recognized personality. He had been in the role since 1961 and the series would continue for another two years beyond this feature's release. During the lead up to this film Chamberlain had appeared in two successful motion pictures. They were 1961's cavalry picture "A Thunder of Drums" with Richard Boone and George Hamilton and 1963's "Twilight of Honor". A very well received courtroom drama with Claude Rains and Nick Adams.
In a July 8, 2014 interview with Joe Dante. Corman explained what having to tell screenplay writer Robert Towne, who specifically did not want Vincent Price, was like. While attempting to make a joke about the forced decision:
Don’t worry, Bob, I’ve got Marlene Dietrich's make-up man!Below Vincent Price as 30 year old "Verden Fell".
Among Robert Towne's work after this film were 1967's "Bonnie and Clyde", 1968 "Villa's Ride" with Sam Peckenpah, 1972's "The Godfather", 1974's "Chinatown" and 1976 "Marathon Man".
This motion picture was Towne's co-screen writer Paul Mayersberg's first picture, but he went on to write screenplays for 1976's "The Man Who Fell to Earth" starring David Bowie and another Bowie picture 1983's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence".
Price's co-star was Elizabeth Shepherd as both "Rowena Trevanion and Ligeia". At the time of this film she was 28 years old. Shepherd was a major actress on British television. She was the original choice to play "Emma Peel" on the BBC series "The Avengers", but after playing the role for a couple of episodes left and was replaced by Diana Rigg. Shepherd was also seen in "Damien: Omen 3" in 1978 and the 2009 Hilary Swank biography of Amelia Earhart "Amelia".
Above "Ligeia" and below "Rowena",
John Westbrook portrays the third main character "Christopher Gough". Should you be a lover of Ralph Bakshi's 1978 "The Lord of the Rings" as I am. Westbrook provided the voices for both "Treebeard" and "Lord Celeborn", Westbrook was also in Roger Corman's "The Masque of the Red Death", but you never saw his face. Until Vincent Price is seen in the Red Robe. It was Westbrook wearing it for the majority of the picture.
"Verden Fell" while mourning the death of his wife "Ligeia" is also very frightened that her spirit has not died.
"Ligeia" was an atheist and made many anti-God comments. "Fell" has a vision problem forcing him to wear dark glasses out of door during daylight.
One day he meets, by accident, the head strong "Rowena". She is engaged to his friend "Christopher", but events quickly occur and "Rowena" and "Verden: marry.
"Fell's" house is an old Abby and this adds to the mood of "Ligeia" still haunting the structure.
"Verden" starts to disappear for hours at night, "Rowena" is having nightmarish visions about "Ligeia" and there is a Black Cat which may contain "Ligeia's" spirit.
At the film's climax "Verden Fell" faces the spirit of "Ligeia" in the form of that cat.
New York Times critic Howard Thompson wrote in May 1965 about "The Tomb of Ligeia":
Mr Corman at least cares about putting Mr Poe — or at least some of the master's original ideas — on the screen. If they are frankly made to be screamed at, they are not to be sneezed at. Mr Price still hams it up, front and center, but these low-budget shockers generally evoke a compelling sense of heady atmosphere and coiled doom in their excellent Gothic settings, arresting color schemes and camera mobility ... Mr Corman has made stunning, ambient use of his authentic setting, an ancient abbey in Norfolk, England, and the lovely countryside. The picture is not nearly as finished as Masque of the Red Death... But the Corman climate of evil is as unhealthy and contagious as ever.
Depending on whose list you read. "The Tomb of Ligeia" is either the seventh, eighth or even ninth Edgar Allan Poe feature made by director Roger Corman. I go with my list as the seventh feature film.
The two pictures that are used to change the positions of "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Tomb of Ligeia" were released after "The Raven". One before and one after "The Man with the X-Ray Eyes". Use both films and we have nine Poe films, but use only the second, as most lists seem to add, and we have eight Poe films made by Roger Corman.
The first film released on June 17, 1963 was "The Terror" starring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Sandra Knight. Knight had appeared in the Robert Mitchum classic "Thunder Road" in 1958, the same years "Frankenstein Daughter" and the Roger Corman, Vincent Price movie 1962's "Tower of London". Which was a remake of 1939's "Tower of London" that starred Basil Rathbone in the Price role. Vincent Price had also been in that original film.
The tag line on the American International Picture's poster for "The Terror" and the tone of the Leo Gordon and Jack Hill's screenplay give the film a Poe like quality. The film is about a lost Napoleonic Officer, a Baron haunted by the ghost of his dead wife "Lisa" and a girl who resembles her named "Helene". Which can easily be made to sound like the movies I mentioned above.
The second of these features was released on August 28, 1963 for a special run in Cincinnati, Ohio. The full release date was January 29, 1994. This picture was "The Haunted Palace" starring Vincent Price, Debra Paget and Lon Chaney.
The only way to tie this film to Edgar Allan Poe, is that the film's title was a Poe poem. The motion picture was really a bait and switch by American International Pictures,
Roger Corman wanted to do something other than a Poe story and with screenplay writer Charles Beaumont choose H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". However, American International Pictures wanted an Edgar Allan Poe tale. Against Corman's wishes they had the title changed, added Poe's name to the film and instructed Beaumont to have Price read the poem. As a result the actor read the last four lines of Poe's six stanza poem:
And travelers now within that valley though the red-litten windows see vast forms that move fantastically to a discordant melody..While, like a ghastly rapid river, through the pale door, a hideous throng rush out forever and laugh - But smile no more.Should my reader be into books. There actually is a way to tie both Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft together. Also Jules Verne and here is the proper reading order to create a perfect story arch.
Starting with H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness". Next read, Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" and end with Jules Verne's "An Antarctic Mystery" aka: "The Sphinx of the Ice Fields".
Believe it, or not. You will be reading a continuous story and part of H.P. Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythology". By following that specific order of reading.