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Twice Told Tales

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Twice Told Tales



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: December 01, 2015
    Director: Sidney Salkow
    Cast: Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Joyce Taylor, Beverly Garland
    Year: 1963

    The Movie:

    With the formula of the American International Poe/Corman/Price films a proven success, it made perfect sense for another production company to try and milk that cash cow a little further; and thus, Twice Told Tales, starring Vincent Price and based very loosely on the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, was born. A change of Director, a switch in source material...and no Peter Lorre? How would it compare? Let's find out!

    Dr. Heidegger's Experiment


    Again, based very loosely on Hawthorne's short story, Dr. Heidegger's experiment finds two old friends, Carl (Sebastian Cabot) and Alex (Vincent Price) toasting to Carl's birthday on a dark and rainy night. After the salute to the birthday boy, the two turn their glasses to the window and the family crypt to pay tribute to Carl's long-dead love, Sylvia, gone almost forty years; as a matter of fact, since sudden illness took her on the night before they were to be married. But something is amiss; the door to the crypt is ajar after being locked up tight since the bride-to-be was laid in her eternal resting spot.

    Investigating, the two find that Sylvia has somehow been perfectly preserved in her coffin, which Carl attributes, after some scientific investigation, to the dripping of pure spring water that somehow defies analysis. Convinced that he has found a kind of youth-rejuvenating tonic, Carl drinks some of the water and watches (courtesy of some photographic trickery) as the years melt off of him in the mirror. Alex isn't a hard sell after witnessing the experiment, and drinks his share, also returned to his youthful looks and vigour.

    While a happy ending seems imminent, Carl deduces that the same tonic may restore life to the lovely Sylvia, against all protest from Alex. In a Vincent Price film, you know there's not going to be a happy ending; and Carl discovers that Alex's concerns over rejuvenating Sylvia may not be strictly down to any kind of moral dilemma.

    Of the three stories, Heidegger is the strongest, showing what a minimal number of actors and sets can do. The interplay between Price and Cabot is engaging and carries the film forward nicely, hitting the final lap of forty minutes in no perceived time at all. Mari Blanchard does a fine job in carrying out her role as well, and despite the fact that the film is a little messy, technically, a product of its time, it is an enjoyable entry into the anthology.

    Rappaccini's Daughter

    Price is back again (the only actor to appear in all three stories) as Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini, a formerly well-regarded scientist who dropped out of the public eye when his wife ran off with another man. Alone with his daughter in the city of Padua, the two make it a point to not be seen outside of the walled garden of their home, for reasons unknown. When the young and handsome Giovanni spots the beautiful Beatrice Rappaccini from a neighbouring balcony, he sneaks into the garden to meet her, bringing her flowers and attempting to woo his way into her heart.

    Unfortunately for the lovesick young student, Beatrice is all look and no touch; having been injected with an acidic plant serum by Dr. Rappaccini to prevent her from being exposed to the sin that stole her mother away, laying hands or lips on the lovely lady means certain death. Giovanni leaves after a display of her deathly curse, heartbroken, but returns when the good doctor requests his presence to share a drink. Rappaccini thinks that he has figured out a solution to make everyone happy....but you know what they say.

    A lot of moral issues, and interesting premise, and a unique backstory make Dr. Rappaccini's Daughter more interesting than not, but overdramatics and a dragged out running time takes the wind out of the sails for this entry. There are fine performances all around, and some nicely designed sets, but it definitely runs out of gas after the first twenty minutes.

    The House of the Seven Gables

    Again loosely based on Hawthorne's work, House of the Seven Gables is no stranger to film adaptation, and even starred Price himself in an earlier version. This anthology entry finds Price as Gerald Pyncheon, returning with his wife Alice to the family home (that being the House of the Seven Gables) after seventeen years away. After meeting Gerald's sister Hannah, Alice gets the first hint that something isn't right at the old homestead when their cabman refuses to take their bags any further into the house than the front door.

    It turns out that despite the lovely name, the House of the Seven Gables is cursed, courtesy of a century-and-a-half old feud between the Pyncheons and the Maulle family. After losing his land and house to the corrupt Pyncheons, blacksmith Matthew Maulle swore a curse on the Pyncheon males, and somehow got himself buried in the basement. Though every male Pyncheon has apparently been killed off in the house, courtesy of the curse, Gerald is not to be dissuaded, due to his gambling away of the family fortune and the legend of a vault full of riches hidden somewhere in Seven Gables.

    Things get very weird quickly, when Alice witnesses objects floating through the air, doors opening and closing by themselves, and paintings (among other things) dripping blood. But when she starts experiencing trance-like states and premonitions, and finds an antique locket that bears a picture that looks strikingly like her, it becomes very apparent that there is more to the curse than just gossipy folklore.

    It's got a bit of creepiness to it, and a batshit-insane ending that makes it more endearing, but House of the Seven Gables is easily the weakest of the entries here, despite its ambition. Part of this can be attributed to the sheer volume of lacklustre special effects...that were no doubt quite stimulating at the time of release...but most of it can be credited to too much in too little a running time. Given a feature length (and a few other changes in cast, more on that next) this story could've been much more effective. Experienced actress Beverly Garland is terrible in Seven Gables, switching from smug/possessed to stunned, with little other range. Price is great, channelling the sinister evil he would later bring to Witchfinder General, but it's not enough to save this one. Opening strongly with Dr. Heddeiger's Experiment was a nice start for Twice Told Tales, but finishing with the uninspiring House of the Seven Gables sends it out with a whimper of mediocrity.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Despite its flaws, there are a lot of people who are going to be happy to have more Vincent Price on Blu-ray, and Kino Lorber has done a lot of great work getting his films out there. By now we know the deal with KL....solid but largely untouched video transfers with matching audio, and that's what we get here. The 1.66:1 AVC-encoded transfer looks great for a film that recently passed a half-century birthday, with assorted dirt and damage popping up here and there, but nothing terrifying. The black levels are nice, contrast seems to be well-balanced, and the colours, especially in the Rappaccini story, look wonderful. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track fares about as well, but suffers here and there from some muffling of the dialogue that will cause a straining of the eardrums. Aside from that, it's a good track with consistent sound throughout.

    There are no subtitles provided for this film.

    There are a few extras; trailers for Twice Told Tales, Tales of Terror, and Black Sabbath are provided, and the trailer for Twice Told Tales gets the commentary treatment in an episode of Mick Garris' Trailers From Hell.

    A commentary is also provided, with Richard Harland Smith of Video Watchdog and Perry Martin discussing Hawthorne's background, the history of his Twice Told Tales, the faithfulness of this adaptation to his work, and a number of other facets of the film. Some will find the commentary dry and scholarly...you can almost hear them reading their well-prepared essays...but they are most definitely informative.

    The Final Word:


    Though Twice Told Tales will fall into the category of lower-tier Vincent Price for many, Kino has done a great job of presenting this film on Blu-ray for fans and completists.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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