The Curator of Schlock #62 by Jeff Shuster
Tales of Terror
I was first introduced to Edgar Allen Poe in the 2nd Grade. I seem to recall a bunch of the other boys and myself being corralled by a substitute teacher. To pass the time, she read us “The Black Cat.” She mustn’t have realized the symphony of the grotesque contained within in that story for she wanted to stop reading right at the point the narrator cuts the feline’s eye out. I have no idea why. Us boys were sitting in rapt attention at the grisly details being told to us. We wanted to explore the dark side of human nature, which I think is where the allure for horror comes from. I went on to read many other Poe tales, but “The Black Cat” still remains my favorite. That story along with two others was adapted in 1962’s Tales of Terror directed by the unspeakably-prolific Roger Corman.
Our first tale of terror is called “Morella” and it involves a character by the name of Lorena Locke (Maggie Pierce) who decides to visit her estranged father (Vincent Price). He’s rather cold to her since he blames her for her mother’s death (even though his wife died a few months after childbirth.) His daughter is shocked to find the dried out corpse of her mother, Morella, in the master bedroom. Oh, and Lorena is dying of a terminally ill disease that isn’t specified. She and her father reconcile, Morella’s ghost possesses/kills Lorena, and the house burns down with poor Vincent Price in it. Yeah, I didn’t get this story. I didn’t get David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive either. There’s sometimes a buggy.
The second tale of terror is “The Black Cat” though this telling is also taking cues from “The Cask of Amontillado.” Peter Lorre plays Montresor Herringbone, a connoisseur of fine wines and by connoisseur, I mean a lush who drinks away the money his wife Anabelle (Joyce Jameson) has squared away for food.
He’s also a bit of a meanie to her cat, a black cat. While bar hopping, Montresor comes upon a wine tasting event featuring the world’s most foremost wine identifier, Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price). Montresor calls him a poser, and they settle it with a wine tasting contest. Neither bests the other, both being able to identify each vintage perfectly.
Montresor gets all liquored up. Or is it wino-ed up? Fortunato drags Montresor back to his house to sleep it off. Fortunato and Anabelle start making googly eyes at each other, an affair ensues, Montresor finds out, revenge, solidly built walls, etc. We don’t get a cat getting its eye cut out, but we do get a rather wonderful nightmare sequence where Fortunato and Anabelle play catch with Montresor’s severed head.
Our third and final tale of terror is “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” Basil Rathbone–obviously–plays a hypnotist by the name of Mr. Carmichael. He’s hypnotizing M. Valdemar (Vincent Price), a terminally ill man who wants to forget about his constant pain.
Carmichael manages to alleviate Valdemar’s pain through these trances, but requests that Valdemar participate in an experiment. Carmichael wants to keep him under hypnosis to the point of death, seeing if the hypnosis will keep him alive somehow. The experiment is successful…sort of. Valdemar’s body dies, but soul ends up becoming tethered to corpse. You know, I don’t think that would be so bad. Just tune the radio to A Prairie Home Companion each weekend, and I’ll be okay being stuck inside a cold, lifeless corpse.
So, my first foray into a Roger Corman Poe Picture was relatively painless. If you’d like to learn more about Roger Corman Poe adaptations, please allow me to point you in the direction of Randall Burling’s “The Fall of the House of Corman” featured on episode 8 of The Drunken Odyssey podcast.
Five Things I Learned from Tales of Terror
- Cobwebs are not shabby chic.
- You can drink your food.
- Black cats are bad news.
- Vincent Price always seems to die in horrible ways.
- Oozing putrescence is precisely as unpleasant as it sounds.