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A remake of the 1939 feature of the same name, Tower of London (1962) was an attempt by director Roger Corman to do a more horrific portrayal of Richard III, the infamous Duke of Gloucester, who was nicknamed "Crookback" due to his misshapen anatomy. A potential heir to the throne of England, Richard (Vincent Price) proceeds to remove any obstacle in his path to the monarchy through murderous acts; one victim is locked into an iron mask with a live rat, another is drowned in a vat of wine. Madness eventually clouds the duke's judgment and brings about his demise.
In Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers by Tom Weaver, Gene Corman, the producer of Tower of London and the brother of director Roger Corman, recalled the inspiration for the film: " (Screenwriter) Leo Gordon and I were trying to come up with a variation on that genre - not to do Edgar Allan Poe, because it seemed to me that Vincent Price had done enough of those. We were looking to find another venue; we talked about Nathaniel Hawthorne, and three or four other ideas. Then I said to Leo, 'Why don't we go to Shakespeare, and see where that takes us?' MacBeth didn't serve us, but the story of Richard III did. So that was how that came about - we were exploring the same genre, but a different author."
It all started promisingly enough according to the director in Ed Naha's book The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget: "My brother knew an independent producer named Eddie Small. Eddie liked the Poe films and wanted to bankroll a similar picture....I had a fifteen-day shooting schedule and my old crew, so I thought that everything would run smoothly." Then came the bad news. "To my great surprise," Corman said, "I found out that I was supposed to shoot the picture in black and white. Somehow, nobody had bothered to tell me that! I was flabbergasted. This was 1963. I shot the movie, but I think it suffered from the lack of color."
Though Tower of London is no masterpiece, it's still an enjoyable Grand Guignol, thanks to Vincent Price's flamboyantly villainous performance and the atmospheric cinematography which favors dank corridors and secret passageways lined with cobwebs. Most interesting is the fact that Price also appeared in the 1939 version of Tower of London but as a victim - the ill-fated Duke of Clarence. Another fun trivia tidbit: Price had originally committed to starring in an adaptation of Poe's The Gold Bug but began work instead on Tower of London when the former project died in "development hell." It was also directly after starring in Tower of London that Price began his long and successful partnership with the Sears Roebuck and Company chain, buying inexpensive European art for their American stores.
Producer: Gene Corman
Director: Roger Corman
Screenplay: Leo Gordon, F. Amos Powell, Robert E. Kent
Art Direction: Daniel Haller
Cinematography: Archie R. Dalzell
Costume Design: Marjorie Corso
Dialogue Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Vincent Price (Richard of Gloucester), Michael Pate (Sir Ratcliffe), Robert Brown (Sir Justin), Charles Macaulay (Clarence), Joan Freeman (Lady Margaret), Bruce Gordon (Earl of Buckingham), Joan Camden (Anne).
by Jeff Stafford