SEPTEMBER 30, 2010
Two anthologies in one week? Must be a first. Luckily that's about the only similarity between The Telling and Tales Of Terror, since one's a woeful bore and the other has no less than 4 different Vincent Price characters. Want to guess which one I prefer? I'll give you a minute.
I actually didn't know Price appeared in all three stories (plus acted as narrator); I figured he'd be in one juicy role and then let the other guys in the cast (Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone) take over in the other two. But no, he's a pivotal figure in all three, which is great because it allows him to show his range back to back. One can watch something like The Fly and then maybe a Phibes film and see two entirely different performances, but they'd most likely be days apart at best. Here, we see him play a depressed jerk in the first story, a goofy nobleman in the 2nd, and finally a bed-ridden dying man in the 3rd. It's a terrific showcase for his talents.
I just wish the stories were a bit more evenly balanced. The first and third are only 20 minutes each, and thus left with rather thin stories (the first) or way too undeveloped characters (the third). They're enjoyable, and since this was part of Corman's "golden" era, they have good production values and are shot beautifully (in scope no less!), but they are slightly lacking when compared to the middle story.
This one (which is the one with Peter Lorre, who looks like he's on his way to an audition for The Penguin) takes up half the movie, and wisely combines two Poe tales into one, namely "The Cask Of Amontillado" and "The Black Cat". It changes some of the details, sure, but it's a very fun, well developed tale, and actually provides a better explanation for why he's so angry at Fortunato (Price), taking a brief bit from the story about wine-tasting and turning it into a full-blown contest between the two men, and then having Fortunato bang his wife after bringing him home in a drunken stupor. In the story we never really know what Fortunato did to piss him off, so I liked this expanded setup. Plus it's great to see Lorre and Price face off against each other - is this the first time they appeared together onscreen? They actually probably could have made this a whole movie.
It's also the most fun Price gets to have in the movie, making goofy faces and detailing the proper way to drink wine (with a bunch of sniffing and sipping, whereas Lorre just chugs the stuff like a MAN). A lot of Price roles are very funny, but in a dry way - this is the rare time I've seen him being broad and mugging about. And it's the only really active of the three roles; he gets some action in the first one once he begins being menaced by his wife's ghost, but in the 3rd he's just in bed the whole time.
Speaking of the third, in that one he gets hypnotized by this spinning color light thing, which casts the appropriate color over his entire body as it spins. But I guess it didn't really work, because the light hitting him never really matches up to the one that we see on the spinning box. It drove me insane. Another annoyance was the frequent zooms and fade outs (mostly during the 2nd story), which looked more like "this is the end" or maybe "we're going to commercial" segments, not scene transitions. The whole finale of that one is filmed in some skewed, under-water vision too, another annoyance. It's like they learned some new tricks and wanted to use them regardless of whether or not it made sense.
But that's nitpicking. Overall, it's one of the better Poe/Corman "team ups" in my opinion. It's never boring, has some great scenery chewing from the big guns, and more importantly, didn't have to expand on a short story to make it into a feature, something that diminished the impact of a few others (The Tomb of Ligeia comes to mind).
What say you?