Cast & Crew
Jason Robards [jr.]
In turn-of-the-century Paris, after actors Cesar Charron and his wife Madeleine finish another successful performance of the play Murders in the Rue Morgue at the Grand Guignol theater, Eric, who played the part of an ape, is found dead in his dressing room, his face disfigured by acid, just before the performance. Police inspector Vidocq quickly deduces that since the murderer wore Eric's full-body ape costume and played the part flawlessly onstage, he must be a member of Cesar's theater company. Cesar, who is in love with Madeleine because of her resemblance to her mother, has purposefully kept the circumstances around Madeleine's mother's death a secret from his wife. Late that night, Madeleine awakens from her recurring nightmares in which someone cuts a rope, causing a man to fall from the theater's catwalk to his death. Meanwhile, Cesar meets with prostitute and former company member Genevre, who insists that Rene Marot, an actor in the troupe who committed suicide many years ago, has returned from the dead to seek revenge on all the company's actors. Cesar reassures Genevre that Marot is dead, has sex with her and leaves. Soon after, Marot, wearing a skin-colored mask and posing as a customer, pours acid on Genevre's face, killing her. The next day, Pierre Triboulet, a dwarf secretly assisting Marot, introduces himself to Madeleine as the admirer who has been leaving her orchids after performances, and offers to help her career, claiming that he has powerful friends. Meanwhile, when Cesar is asked to identify the body of another former employee, mutilated by acid, Vidocq warns him that the murderer will continue to kill members of his company in this established pattern. Cesar subsequently warns Luigi Orsini, a retired member of the company, but Luigi refuses to listen and continues with his "buried alive" act, in which he is put in a coffin and buried for three days. Late that night, Marot visits the Charron house to watch the sleeping Madeleine, who dreams that Triboulet drives her to a house which she vaguely recognizes where she sees her mother rising from her coffin. When Madeleine questions Cesar about her dream, he finally reveals that the house she describes was her childhood home and that her mother, who was interred at the house, was murdered by Marot. Her mother, also an actress in Cesar's company, was supposed to throw a prop beaker of acid on Marot during a scene, but someone had filled the beaker with vitriol, a real acid, which horribly disfigured Marot's face. Believing Madeleine's mother was responsible, an enraged Marot axed her to death and then committed suicide over killing Madeleine's mother, with whom he was in love. Days later, Luigi is unearthed alive, but Marot kills him with vitriol before Luigi can get out of the coffin, then eludes Vidocq and his men. That night, Madeleine's nightmarish hallucinations cause her to faint on stage, forcing Cesar to call an intermission, during which Vidocq tells Cesar that Marot is indeed alive. Vidocq explains that Marot, having used a shallow breathing technique to survive his burial, then dug himself out of the grave, but Vidocq is unable to prove his theory because the location of Marot's coffin is a mystery. After experiencing more nightmares that night, Madeleine takes her maid Gabrielle to her mother's house, where Gabrielle faints at the sight of Triboulet and Marot captures Madeleine. Meanwhile, Cesar, who knows that Marot's coffin was interred next to that of Madeleine's mother, goes to the house to inspect Marot's coffin and finds it empty. Triboulet suddenly appears, informs him that Marot has captured Madeleine, and then brandishes a knife at the end of his cane to fight Cesar, who wrests the weapon away and stabs him. Cesar finds Marot and Madeleine, who helps Cesar suffocate Marot with a pillow. They drag his body to the coffin and close the lid, unaware that Marot is once again faking his own death. Later, when Vidocq suggests that Madeleine's mother must have hated Marot to have thrown acid on him, Madeleine defends her mother by explaining that she could not have hated Marot because she had requested his body be interred at her home. When Vidocq insists on inspecting the coffin, Madeleine and Cesar are shocked to see a badly decomposed body inside. Late that night, Marot hypnotizes Madeleine, who subsequently gives Cesar a sleeping powder, allowing Marot to kidnap him. Soon after on the stage at Madeleine's mother's house, Marot accuses Cesar of putting the acid in the beaker and of killing Madeleine's mother. When Cesar finally confesses to the murder, Marot promptly beheads him, causing Madeleine to faint. Vidocq arrives immediately after but, unable to catch Marot, convinces Madeleine to play her stage role once more to lure Marot back to the theater. As expected, during the next performance, Marot puts on the ape costume to act the role, but Madeleine recognizes him onstage and screams. Vidocq and his men chase Marot but lose him in a bustling carnival crowd just outside. Back at the theater, Madeleine is in her dressing room with fellow actor John posted just outside her door for protection, when she hears a noise and finds John dead. Madeleine tries to escape but finds all the theater doors locked. Reaching the stage, she sees Marot on the catwalk above her and instantly chops with an axe the rope holding him, reliving her nightmare vision and finally killing Marot. That night, a restless Madeleine is awakened by the noise of someone approaching and watches as her doorknob turns, fully aware that she will be forever haunted by her past.
Jason Robards [jr.]
Xan Das Bolas
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Waldo De Los Rios
Jose Luis Galicia
Louis M. Heyward
James H. Nicholson
James H. Nicholson
Juan Carlos Lopez Rodero
Vincent Price on DVD
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
As I once begged for your kisses, now you will beg for your death.- Rene Marot
Yes, Madeleine. There stands the axe-man of your dreams.- Rene Marot
Goodbye, Madeleine. But remember, the will... the will... lives on... after death.- Rene Marot
I've come for you, Madeleine. I've had my revenge, but it's not enough. I need... I need love.- Rene Marot
Confess. Let me hear the truth, Cesar. Confess.- Rene Marot
Yes, I killed her. I killed her.- Cesar Charron
The opening title card reads: Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue. Several 1970 news items noted that the film was to be shot in Paris, London and Italy; however, Hollywood Reporter production charts only list location shooting in Madrid, Spain. Although a April 10, 1970 Variety news item adds Ralph Richardson to the cast, he was not in the film. Murders in the Rue Morgue marked the feature film debut of actress Brooke Adams.
When the film opens, a fictional play based on Poe's short story Murders in the Rue Morgue is taking place. As the scene closes, it is revealed that the main characters of the film are actors in the production. As noted in the Motion Picture Herald review, the film bears little resemblance to the short story, other than the title and a few plot points. At the close of the film, voice-over narration states that "the will [of those now dead], the will lives on."
American International produced a number of screen adaptations of Poe's short stories beginning with the 1960 film The Fall of the House of Usher, most of which were directed by Roger Corman. Murders in the Rue Morgue was the fifth film by director Gordon Hessler, who also directed the 1969 film Poe adaptation The Oblong Box (see below).
Other film versions based on or inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Murders in the Rue Morgue" include the 1914 silent film The Murders in the Rue Morgue directed by Robert Goodman; the 1932 Universal Pictures Corp. film Murders in the Rue Morgue, directed by Robert Florey and starring Bela Lugosi; and the 1954 Warner Bros. film Phantom of the Rue Morgue(see below) directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Karl Malden.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971