Twice-Told Tales (1963 USA)

In Twice-Told Tales Vincent Price does what he does best: be mysterious. It’s good enough to compare favourably with the best films in the Price / Roger Corman / A.I.P. series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. But the slow pacing and length of the film may not sit well with some viewers, but others will take delight in the atmosphere, the performances, the story telling, and all the trappings of the genre. Possibly the inspiration for “Creepshow,” complete with a skeleton hand turning the pages between stories. Twice-Told Tales is sometimes funny, sometimes ridiculous, but always entertaining in that surreal sixties style I find so charming.

Story #1 is “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” which doesn’t following the source story very closely and stars Vincent Price and Sebastian Cabot as elderly best friends who get a second chance at life. Kind Dr. Carl Heidigger (Cabot) is approaching the twilight of his life and is so entranced with the memory of this late wife Sylvia (Mari Blanchard), who died thirty-eight years before that he is unable to marry or move on with his life after her passing. Dr. Heidegger, along with his heavy-drinking best friend, Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price), accidentally knock over Sylvia’s coffin and find that her corpse has been perfectly preserved.

Somehow the water that’s been filtering through the ground to her tomb has the power to preserve life and restore youth. Both Carl and Alex drink the water and become young again. Then inject the water into Sylvia and bring her back. Things don’t go smoothly however as the effects of the water prove to only last temporarily and some past secrets come to the surface that threaten to spoil the fortunate turn of events. This is a reasonably entertaining segment; Cabot steals it with his charming and sympathetic performance. Next up is “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” which is by far my favourite of the tales. Vincent Price is an Italian scientist living in complete seclusion with his beautiful daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor). Handsome med student Giovanni (Brett Halsey) sees Beatrice from his balcony and instantly falls in love with her, but the closer he tries to get the further she pushes him away.

You see, Beatrice cannot be touched, because she was an unwitting guinea pig to her father’s experiments and now anything she comes into contact with smokes, withers, dies and becomes purple. It has something to do with a toxic plant and Price’s character being scorned by a woman, then going to great lengths to try to protect his own daughter from a similar heartache. Instead, he’s all but ruined her life. A very intriguing little tale (which actually does stick close to the original story), this is well-done, interesting and comes with a nicely tragic ending. But there’s not even the slightest attempt to make this feel like it’s set in Italy and, once again, Price is relegated to more of a less-colourful supporting role.

Finally we have “The House of the Seven Gables,” which had already been filmed several times at feature length, including once in 1940 with Vincent Price playing a completely different role. Here Vinnie gets to play the heavy – lecherous, greedy, abusive Gerald Pyncheon, who is driven back to his ancestral home after an eighteen-year absence because of gambling debts. He drags his lovely wife Alice (Beverly Garland) along and is confronted with hostility by his bitter sister Hannah (Jacqueline de Wit). Legend has it that there’s a hidden vault somewhere on the premises containing millions, which no one has been able to find.

The trouble is that the Pyncheon men all have a strange habit of dying in the same exact chair near a bleeding portrait. Richard Denning shows up as descendant of the Maulle family, who have a long-standing feud with the Pyncheon’s over some land, and possibly more. Definitely the least successful of these tales, which is a shame because I love both Price and Garland to pieces and was looking forward to seeing them on-screen together. This tries to cram way too much plot into 40 minutes and becomes both dull and ponderous, though it does pick up a bit at the end with a surprising pick-axe-to-the-head murder, a silly reanimated skeleton hand and a model of the home crumbling to the ground…Twice-Told Tales is an enjoyable time-killer and I particularly admire the lush photography and colourful sets. Buy the dvd. Now!

Advertisements

Comments

  1. I consider myself well-versed in portmanteaus and the like, and yet have never heard of this film. Thanks for the review, I’ll certainly be checking this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: