Tower of London


1h 19m 1962
Tower of London

Brief Synopsis

A hunchback murders his way to the British throne.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Historical
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
Washington, D. C., opening: 24 Oct 1962
Production Company
Admiral Pictures
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

As King Edward IV of England lies dying, his hunchbacked brother, Richard of Gloucester, plots to do away with all who stand between him and the throne. To protect his two young sons until they are old enough to replace him, Edward appoints his other brother, Clarence, as Protector of the Realm, but Richard murders Clarence with a knife bearing the queen's crest. Now suspicious of his wife, Edward appoints Richard to Clarence's former position, and Richard, with the aid of his henchman Sir Ratcliffe, tries to get the royal nursemaid Mistress Shore to cast doubt on the boys' legitimacy; she prefers dying on the rack, however, to defaming the queen. Meanwhile, the queen has gathered her supporters and been assured by Margaret, her lady-in-waiting, that Scottish armies led by the latter's father, Lord Stanley, will offer military aid against Richard. When Richard sees the bloodied apparition of Mistress Shore, he becomes deranged and murders his wife, Anne. Maddened with fear and haunted by visions, Richard holds Margaret hostage to prevent her father from moving against him, suffocates the two young princes in the Tower of London, and proclaims himself king. Through a ruse, Margaret is released, forcing Richard into battle against Lord Stanley. The Earl of Richmond's army arrives from France to join in combat against Richard at Bosworth, where the ghosts of Richard's victims rise against him; he is thrown by a horse and lands on the battle-ax of a dead soldier, fulfilling prophecies of his violent death.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Historical
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
Washington, D. C., opening: 24 Oct 1962
Production Company
Admiral Pictures
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

Tower of London (1962)


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).
BW-80m.

by Jeff Stafford
Tower Of London (1962)

Tower of London (1962)

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). BW-80m. by Jeff Stafford

Vincent Price on DVD


The newest batch of MGM's Midnite Movies series focuses on several Vincent Price films (the one anomaly is the Ingrid Pitt double-feature Countess Dracula /Vampire Lovers). Like previous releases in the series, the new discs feature quality transfers, letterboxing where appropriate and a few extras all at a budget price. Releasing Vincent Price films is a smart idea since he still has a broad appeal despite the decades since his heyday. Price had the talent and at times execution of a great actor but never had a project that could have tested such potential. It's undeniable, though, that his dedication, intelligence and wit enlivened nearly all his films, so much that some of them would have been nearly unwatchable without him.

Most definitely watchable and probably the pick of the Vincent Price releases is The Haunted Palace/Tower of London, both directed by Roger Corman. 1963's The Haunted Palace is loosely based on stories by H.P. Lovecraft, at the time known primarily to horror fans but today considered something of a minor American master. Corman says in an interview on the disc that they wanted to move away a bit from the popular Poe films though they kept a title from Poe just so they weren't too far away. The Haunted Palace has a somewhat familiar story about a man who inherits a castle and after moving there with his wife discovers that the inhabitants of the local town aren't too thrilled about this and neither, more unfortunately, are the long-dead former inhabitants of the castle. But the story isn't entirely the point. With an energetic and sometimes subtle performance by Price and the genuinely spooky atmosphere created by Corman, the film remains memorable.

1962's Tower of London is a somewhat threadbare account of Richard III's machinations but its sprightly pace and historical feel keep it continually interesting. Despite claims on the box and in an interview on the disc with producer Gene Corman (Roger's brother), there's nothing of Shakespeare's play here: none of the dialogue, none of the plot (excepting a small bit in the final scene) and even few of the characters. The film is more a remake of the 1938 film of the same title which also had one of Price's very first film appearances and from which this later film lifts some battle footage in a no-budget touch worthy of Orson Welles or Ed Wood. Tower of London is also not close to the actual facts of Richard III's life (but then neither exactly was Shakespeare) with several years of events compressed into a few days and important events missing altogether. But really that doesn't much matter and isn't far removed from what actor/writer Colley Cibber did in a version published in 1700 where he compressed Shakespeare's play and drastically increased the violence. Corman and his screenwriters similarly approach Richard as the center of more or less a horror story throwing in more ghosts, curses, witches and torture than many of what are actually marketed as horror films. Such elements along with the political intrigue and convincing portrayal of Richard's disintegrating mental state keep Tower of London fresher than it has any right to be.

The second Price disc has The Tomb of Ligeia (1965) and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970). Again, Corman directed the Poe film The Tomb of Ligeia from a script by future Oscar-winner Robert Towne (Chinatown), adding "Tomb of" to Poe's title "Ligeia" so that nobody would think this some artsy European import. For most of the film it's a fairly sedate psychological thriller about a man obssessed with his dead wife and a younger woman who falls in love with him. Corman brings an attention to detail among some quite impressive sets, at least until the final half hour which kicks into Gothic overdrive full of lightning, fire, a damsel in a nightgown, dark corridors and a chain-reaction of surprises. The disc includes two commentaries, one by Corman and one by star Elizabeth Shepherd. An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe is something of an oddity. Running barely 53 minutes, it was originally made for TV broadcast and is little more than Vincent Price performing four Poe short stories as monologues. The box claims Price thought this his best Poe work and it's easy to see why, not necessarily because it is his best but because it allowed Price a range of acting. Each segment is performed on an appropriate set and the stories have been trimmed and slightly rewritten so they will work better in this context. Price is lively and convincing even for something like "The Tell-Tale Heart" which could very easily have fallen flat. He's perfectly at ease with Poe's style, keeping the dialogue from sounding artificial. Unfortunately, the production lets Price down at times. The graininess of the video image isn't too big a distraction but the haphazard framing is. Even worse is intrusive music however sparse it might be and somebody's bright idea to make the words more literal with tricks like turning the screen blue when Price says "blue" or rhythmic zooms in time to a supposedly beating heart. Still, Poe and Price overcome such obstacles, leaving An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe a fascinating effort.

Another mixed bag is a disc with The Comedy of Terrors and The Raven, both written by Richard Matheson. The Comedy of Terrors, one of director Jacques Tourneur's final films, came out in 1964 and like other films of that year such as Advance to the Rear, Kiss Me Stupid and Dr. Strangelove aims at a kind of aggressive, freewheeling satire. Alas, like all but one of those films (you can guess the exception) The Comedy of Terrors simply comes out overwrought and frequently tedious. Price plays the scheming, misanthropic owner of a failing funeral home with Peter Lorre as his not-too-bright assistant, Boris Karloff a senile father-in-law and Joyce Jameson his shrill wife. Despite a promising opening, there's almost nothing else worth seeing except maybe Price delivering convoluted dialogue that would have defeated lesser mortals ("emissions of a laryngitic crow"?). The film wastes Karloff who almost literally sleeps through most of it and proves that whatever Lorre's talents, physical comedy was not one of them. Far better is 1963's The Raven, a Corman project that Matheson "adapted" from Poe's poem. In other words, Price reads about half the poem at the opening and the rest has nothing to do with Poe. Instead, The Raven is a light and mild-mannered comedy about three wizards fighting and scheming among themselves. Lorre in particular is a delight with his muttered asides and swings from a Keaton-ish poker face to Daffy Duck-style annoyance. Price's overly-civilized warlock and Karloff's hospitable "villain" work well together. The Raven also has one of Jack Nicholson's earliest screen appearances as Lorre's son of all things though you'd never suspect the career ahead of him from this performance. The disc has two relatively inconsequential interviews with Matheson (a much better novelist than screenwriter) and a more revealing one with Corman for The Raven.

The final Price disc only has one of his films (Cry of the Banshee) though the other is a Poe adapation (Murders in the Rue Morgue), both directed by the undistinguished Gordon Hessler. Unlike the other Price films, 1970's Cry of the Banshee is rated R and has enough explicit violence and nudity to keep it away from the kiddies. Unfortunately, the rest of us won't care much either. Price plays a mean-spirited local judge obsessed with wiping out witches, more or less repeating his role from the far superior The Conqueror Worm (1968). But amongst the witch hunting there's fighting among Price's children, townsfolk attacked by a wild dog (or is it?), a sky-clad occult ritual and a now-grown foundling who can more or less talk to the animals. All of which makes the film sound more interesting than it is though there is a Terry Gilliam credits sequence made around the time of Monty Python's first season. Oh, and the film inexplicably doesn't have a banshee, not even a Scooby-Doo fake one. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) is a bit more successful, running Jason Robards and Herbert Lom through one of the first detective stories though with horror elements liberally added. It's routine and obvious though the DVD has the original version of the film, restoring around eleven minutes.

by Lang Thompson

Vincent Price on DVD

The newest batch of MGM's Midnite Movies series focuses on several Vincent Price films (the one anomaly is the Ingrid Pitt double-feature Countess Dracula /Vampire Lovers). Like previous releases in the series, the new discs feature quality transfers, letterboxing where appropriate and a few extras all at a budget price. Releasing Vincent Price films is a smart idea since he still has a broad appeal despite the decades since his heyday. Price had the talent and at times execution of a great actor but never had a project that could have tested such potential. It's undeniable, though, that his dedication, intelligence and wit enlivened nearly all his films, so much that some of them would have been nearly unwatchable without him. Most definitely watchable and probably the pick of the Vincent Price releases is The Haunted Palace/Tower of London, both directed by Roger Corman. 1963's The Haunted Palace is loosely based on stories by H.P. Lovecraft, at the time known primarily to horror fans but today considered something of a minor American master. Corman says in an interview on the disc that they wanted to move away a bit from the popular Poe films though they kept a title from Poe just so they weren't too far away. The Haunted Palace has a somewhat familiar story about a man who inherits a castle and after moving there with his wife discovers that the inhabitants of the local town aren't too thrilled about this and neither, more unfortunately, are the long-dead former inhabitants of the castle. But the story isn't entirely the point. With an energetic and sometimes subtle performance by Price and the genuinely spooky atmosphere created by Corman, the film remains memorable. 1962's Tower of London is a somewhat threadbare account of Richard III's machinations but its sprightly pace and historical feel keep it continually interesting. Despite claims on the box and in an interview on the disc with producer Gene Corman (Roger's brother), there's nothing of Shakespeare's play here: none of the dialogue, none of the plot (excepting a small bit in the final scene) and even few of the characters. The film is more a remake of the 1938 film of the same title which also had one of Price's very first film appearances and from which this later film lifts some battle footage in a no-budget touch worthy of Orson Welles or Ed Wood. Tower of London is also not close to the actual facts of Richard III's life (but then neither exactly was Shakespeare) with several years of events compressed into a few days and important events missing altogether. But really that doesn't much matter and isn't far removed from what actor/writer Colley Cibber did in a version published in 1700 where he compressed Shakespeare's play and drastically increased the violence. Corman and his screenwriters similarly approach Richard as the center of more or less a horror story throwing in more ghosts, curses, witches and torture than many of what are actually marketed as horror films. Such elements along with the political intrigue and convincing portrayal of Richard's disintegrating mental state keep Tower of London fresher than it has any right to be. The second Price disc has The Tomb of Ligeia (1965) and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970). Again, Corman directed the Poe film The Tomb of Ligeia from a script by future Oscar-winner Robert Towne (Chinatown), adding "Tomb of" to Poe's title "Ligeia" so that nobody would think this some artsy European import. For most of the film it's a fairly sedate psychological thriller about a man obssessed with his dead wife and a younger woman who falls in love with him. Corman brings an attention to detail among some quite impressive sets, at least until the final half hour which kicks into Gothic overdrive full of lightning, fire, a damsel in a nightgown, dark corridors and a chain-reaction of surprises. The disc includes two commentaries, one by Corman and one by star Elizabeth Shepherd. An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe is something of an oddity. Running barely 53 minutes, it was originally made for TV broadcast and is little more than Vincent Price performing four Poe short stories as monologues. The box claims Price thought this his best Poe work and it's easy to see why, not necessarily because it is his best but because it allowed Price a range of acting. Each segment is performed on an appropriate set and the stories have been trimmed and slightly rewritten so they will work better in this context. Price is lively and convincing even for something like "The Tell-Tale Heart" which could very easily have fallen flat. He's perfectly at ease with Poe's style, keeping the dialogue from sounding artificial. Unfortunately, the production lets Price down at times. The graininess of the video image isn't too big a distraction but the haphazard framing is. Even worse is intrusive music however sparse it might be and somebody's bright idea to make the words more literal with tricks like turning the screen blue when Price says "blue" or rhythmic zooms in time to a supposedly beating heart. Still, Poe and Price overcome such obstacles, leaving An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe a fascinating effort. Another mixed bag is a disc with The Comedy of Terrors and The Raven, both written by Richard Matheson. The Comedy of Terrors, one of director Jacques Tourneur's final films, came out in 1964 and like other films of that year such as Advance to the Rear, Kiss Me Stupid and Dr. Strangelove aims at a kind of aggressive, freewheeling satire. Alas, like all but one of those films (you can guess the exception) The Comedy of Terrors simply comes out overwrought and frequently tedious. Price plays the scheming, misanthropic owner of a failing funeral home with Peter Lorre as his not-too-bright assistant, Boris Karloff a senile father-in-law and Joyce Jameson his shrill wife. Despite a promising opening, there's almost nothing else worth seeing except maybe Price delivering convoluted dialogue that would have defeated lesser mortals ("emissions of a laryngitic crow"?). The film wastes Karloff who almost literally sleeps through most of it and proves that whatever Lorre's talents, physical comedy was not one of them. Far better is 1963's The Raven, a Corman project that Matheson "adapted" from Poe's poem. In other words, Price reads about half the poem at the opening and the rest has nothing to do with Poe. Instead, The Raven is a light and mild-mannered comedy about three wizards fighting and scheming among themselves. Lorre in particular is a delight with his muttered asides and swings from a Keaton-ish poker face to Daffy Duck-style annoyance. Price's overly-civilized warlock and Karloff's hospitable "villain" work well together. The Raven also has one of Jack Nicholson's earliest screen appearances as Lorre's son of all things though you'd never suspect the career ahead of him from this performance. The disc has two relatively inconsequential interviews with Matheson (a much better novelist than screenwriter) and a more revealing one with Corman for The Raven. The final Price disc only has one of his films (Cry of the Banshee) though the other is a Poe adapation (Murders in the Rue Morgue), both directed by the undistinguished Gordon Hessler. Unlike the other Price films, 1970's Cry of the Banshee is rated R and has enough explicit violence and nudity to keep it away from the kiddies. Unfortunately, the rest of us won't care much either. Price plays a mean-spirited local judge obsessed with wiping out witches, more or less repeating his role from the far superior The Conqueror Worm (1968). But amongst the witch hunting there's fighting among Price's children, townsfolk attacked by a wild dog (or is it?), a sky-clad occult ritual and a now-grown foundling who can more or less talk to the animals. All of which makes the film sound more interesting than it is though there is a Terry Gilliam credits sequence made around the time of Monty Python's first season. Oh, and the film inexplicably doesn't have a banshee, not even a Scooby-Doo fake one. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) is a bit more successful, running Jason Robards and Herbert Lom through one of the first detective stories though with horror elements liberally added. It's routine and obvious though the DVD has the original version of the film, restoring around eleven minutes. by Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

The Battle of Bosworth is made up of stock footage from the original Universal version of Tower of London (1939).

This feature was planned for filming in color. On the Thursday before the Monday start of principle photography, uncredited executive producer Edward Small informed producer Gene Corman that it was going to be shot in black and white.

Notes

Previously filmed in 1939 by Universal Pictures.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 24, 1962

Remake of the 1939 film of the same name, directed by Rowland V Lee.

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Fall October 24, 1962