Tales of Terror (1962)

Tales of Terror (1962), produced and directed by Roger Corman.

Three tales loosely adapted from Poe.

Morella. A trial run for The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). A long-absent daughter returns to the decaying family manse to find her drunken, dressing-gowned father unhealthily obsessed with his dead wife. Add red candles, do some ghostly body-swapping and finish with a burning house and you've got a Corman/Poe picture.

The first 15 minutes is talky but then it turns creepy with cheap ghost effects, just a superimposed negative. One of the commentary tracks calls this a "Bert I. Gordon" effect, not a compliment, but I found it strangely effective.

A cast note: Mary Leona Gage...

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... who plays the living/dead Morella, had a tragic life. She was Miss USA in 1957 and made it to the Miss Universe pageant as a finalist. She lost the title when it was discovered that she had been married and had a child at age 14. She became a showgirl, stripper, sometime actress and hairdresser. She attempted suicide at age 26 and was married six times.

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The Black Cat. A comedy segment, although Peter Laurie's lurking violence is disconcerting. A professional drunkard suspects his wife is entertaining the town wine snob (hilarious Vincent Price) and bricks both up in a wall. With that damned cat.

A warm up for the comic The Raven (1963) and The Comedy of Terrors (1963). As with those films I'm not very happy with Les Baxter's silly music, although he's fine in the other segments.

Joyce Jameson...

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... is another sad case. A well-endowed blonde, she got only certain types of roles. She lived with Robert Vaughn for many years; he said she suffered from depression. When she got fat and couldn't reduce she committed suicide. On the commentary track a film scholar who knew her well said he told her to turn to comedy, that she didn't need to be thin for that. When young she did hilarious impressions of Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, etc. But no. I remember her fondly from many TV shows, The Comedy of Terrors (1963), Death Race 2000 (1975) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).

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The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. A hypnotist keeps a dying man suspended at the moment of death for months, with ghastly results.

Basil Rathbone joins the crew this time. Debra Paget...

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... will return for The Haunted Palace (1963); these are her last two films. She married an oil millionaire and retired.

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Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Two commentary tracks with an abundance of wild stories. No subtitles.