Directed by Roger Corman
Starring: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown
Arrow UK Blu-ray release: Feb 13th 2017.
MOTHER ENGLAND MEETS FATHER TERROR!
Having made their mark on American horror cinema with three colourful adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe – THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960), PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) and TALES OF TERROR (1962) – Vincent Price and director Roger Corman enjoyed a brief hiatus from the macabre author with TOWER OF LONDON. Shot in black and white, the film was loosely based on the 1939 Universal horror picture of the same name as well as two Shakespeare plays: a dash of Macbeth and a dollop of Richard III.
Corman and Price would return to the Poe cycle with THE RAVEN (1963), THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963, the tile was from Poe, the story by HP Lovecraft), THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964).
Price plays Richard of Gloucester, brother to a dying king and eager to take his place on the throne. When he is overlooked in favour of their sibling, the Duke of Clarence, things take a murderous turn. Richard goes on a murderous rage, only for the ghosts of those he has slain to return from the grave and haunt him…
Less well-known than the Poe movies, I had initially thought that Arrow were releasing the 1939 film starring Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, so this came as a great surprise. TOWER OF LONDON is no slouch. Price relishes the opportunity to flex his Shakespearean muscles, portraying the monobrowed and twisted (mentally as well as physically) Richard III. It almost seems like a practise run for the fantastically macabre THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973). The extremely prolific Roger Corman works wonders, as usual, with his low budget.
It is interesting to note that this film was shot in black and white in contrast to his colourful Poe adaptations before and after. It seems that this was a budget decision made by United Artists and not Corman himself – who would liked to have shot the film in colour. This was a shrewd move by UA as it enabled them to reuse the battle scenes from the 1939 film instead of shooting new ones. The sharp-eyed viewer might also recognise the torture chamber from PIT AND THE PENDULUM. For me this release is an essential missing part of my own Corman/Price collection, neither one of this great duo disappoint. If you’ve ever wondered what a drive-in Shakespeare film would look like, you’re in the right place!
Special Edition Contents:
Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new audio commentary by Vincent Price’s biographer David Del Valle and Tara Gordon, daughter of actor-screenwriter Leo Gordon
Interview with director Roger Corman
Producing Tower of London, an archive interview with producer Gene Corman
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
First pressing only: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Julian Upton
Duration: 80 mins
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: 1.0 mono
Black and white