Cinema Sunday: Tower of London (1962)

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Title: Tower of London

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Leo Gordon, Edward Small, F. Amos Powell

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Gene Corman, Edward Small

Starring: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Charles MacCaulay

Released: October 1962

MPAA: Approved

 

After a brief hiatus (one weekend for a quick vacation!), Cinema Sunday has returned! And of course, with a film starring one of the all time greats (if not the greatest), Vincent Price! This film is one I’ve been dying to see, and now that I’ve watched it two or three times, I’ll be spotlighting it today! In typical Price fashion, we get some very disturbing scenes in this film, and his fabulous portrayal of this sinister character. Listen, not everyone can take a historical setting, elements from the works of Shakespeare, and murder, and turn them into gold. But yes, Vincent Price can do the impossible.

The rest of the cast is good as well, and you should definitely recognize a few faces in this one. Murder, ghosts, and insanity, are all present in this gem! Alright, without further interruption, here we go!

 

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The film begins with a narrator telling the viewer that the Tower of London, and the insanity that went on within the structure. The year is 1483, and Edward IV King of England is on his death-bed. He’s surrounded by his family, which includes his brother, Richard, The Duke of Gloucester (Vincent Price). We see Edward’s two sons as well, and they will take over once they become of age. In the meantime, Edward’s other brother, George (Charles Macaulay), Duke of Clarence, is named as protector of the young boys that will one day rule. The three son’s mother is also there, and she seems suspicious that Edward being weak, puts the throne and England in jeopardy.

 

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Later that night, Richard and George (although Richard and Edward call him Clarence) are having a drink together, as they have not seen each other in many years. The two men compliment each other but Richard seems a bit illusory with his words. George then asks Richard for his help in protecting the boys, and puts out his hands for an embrace. As Richard hugs his brother, he pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the back! He then dumps the body into a barrel of water (to make sure the job is done?).

 

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Richard then retreats to his room, where his wife, Anne (Joan Camden) knows about these plans, and urges Richard to wash the blood off of his hands. The others present then find George murdered, and call for Richard. Once he arrives and acts surprised, everyone notices that the blade bears a certain family crest on it, and it is the family of King Edward’s wife’s family, the Woodville’s. Edward’s wife (Sarah Selby) is present, and can’t believe what her family is being accused of this day. They all go to Edward’s chambers to give him the bad news, and in his grief, he thinks that his wife’s family may have done it, in a power play for the throne. Edward then names Richard as the new protector of the children.

 

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Later that night, Richard is quoting Shakespeare to himself, but all of a sudden he hears a voice nearby. He then sees his dead brother (a ghost), and he tells Richard that there will be a reckoning. Richard tries to explain his actions but George tells him that he’ll die a violent death, and at the hands of a dead man. At this very moment, there’s an explosion (lighting, cannon misfires?), and it sends some rubble from the top of the Tower crashing down, almost killing Richard. George tells him again, that death will come for him soon. Richard scurries to him bedroom, and Anne attempts to calm him down, and he reveals to her that a ghost tried to kill him.

 

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Richard goes to visit Edward one last time, and their mother is by his bedside. She speaks very sharply at Richard, and seems to know him for the malefactor that he has become. She urges him to see his dying brother, and as he bids him goodbye, he kisses him on the forehead. As he backs away, he sees blood where his lips touched his brother. He screams in fear, and his mother tells him she doesn’t see anything, and she accuses him of treachery. He shoots back at her, and blames her for his deformities (apparently he has something along the lines of curvature of the spine, and other physical handicaps).

 

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The Queen then launches a secret investigation into the death of George. At this point, we have two factions in the castle. One loyal to Richard, and the others loyal to the Queen and her family. The aid of Sir Richard Ratcliffe (Michael Pate), helps Richard keep everyone off-balance for a while, but when he tries to coerce the Lady-in-waiting, Mistress Shore (Sandra Knight – image below), and later murders her, things really begin to get out of hand.

Will Richard’s plan to usurp the throne of England come to fruition? Or will the Woodville’s and their accomplices be able to stop him before he kills everyone in his way? Watch to learn the answers!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

As far as films starring Vincent Price go, this is definitely a must see. It’s right up there with House of Wax, Last Man on Earth, The Fly, etc. His performance alone is worth the price of admission, but you do get solid jobs from Michael Pate (he plays a great weasel in this film), and even Charles MacCauly (Blacula) in just a couple of scenes that he has in this one.

The special effects are good, and Price really does an excellent job in the scenes with the ghosts. One scene in particular, which I didn’t mention above, is when one of the ghosts inhabits the body of Price’s wife in the film, and this causes him to go off the deep end even further, and he strangles his own wife, believing she’s the ghost. The sets were convincing for sure, but the music wasn’t anything you’ll remember.

Search this one out, and believe me when I say that it’s definitely worth owning. Even if you’re not a huge Price fan like I am, you’ll be impressed with this one after just one viewing!

 

Click here for a couple of clips!

 

Cinema Sunday: Curse of the Undead (1959)

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Title: Curse of the Undead

Distributor: Universal-International

Writers: Edward Dein, Mildred Dein

Director: Edward Dein

Producer: Joseph Gershenson

Starring: Eric Fleming, Michael Pate, Kathleen Crowley, John Hoyt

Released: May 1959

MPAA: UR

 

As promised, I’m delivering on my vampire/western movie review now! This classic was when  studios like Hammer were on the rise, and Universal was on the slide. Back in the 1930’s-40’s, Universal was king of the hill, but by the late 1950’s, they had definitely started to run out of ideas, and their stars were aging. But, this little gem was one that let people know they were still around!

This film is great for so many reasons, but also a grim reminder of the sad, tragic life of actor, Eric Fleming. If you read-up on his life, you’ll understand. Many people have written some good pieces on him, and you can find one of them by clicking here. The man did go on to star in the hit T.V. western series, Rawhide, alongside of people like Clint Eastwood. Another star of this film was also a western T.V.  staple, in Kathleen Crowley. She starred opposite James garner on Maverick. Well, enough about the cast for now, let’s get right to the movie!

 

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The film begins with a man and a woman riding a wagon. They stop at a home, and head inside. It’s the town doctor, Dr. John Carter (John Hoyt), and his daughter, Dolores (Kathleen Crowley). He’s there to visit a girl that has fallen ill, as have a few others in town recently. The town minister, Preacher Dan (Eric Fleming – image below), is also there, praying for the girl. She seems to have taken a turn for the better, and Dr. Carter doesn’t have a clue about why that is or what is plaguing her. As they all leave the room and head downstairs for a meal, they aren’t there for very long,and then a bone-chilling scream rings out from the upstairs bedroom where the sick girl is sleeping. As they walk in, they see that she is dead. The parents cry out in pain, and the doctor and Preacher Dan are left to figure out what’s going on. neither has any answers, but Preacher Dan notices some puncture marks on the girl’s neck, and wonders…

 

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As Dr. Carter and his daughter near their home, his son, Tim (Jimmy Murphy), shows up, and flips out. He’s been beaten up pretty badly by a local goon that has caused trouble for the Carter’s named Buffer, and is livid. Dr. Carter calms him down a bit, and heads off to talk to the sheriff about the situation. After Dr. Carter arrives in town, he talks with Sheriff (Edward Binns – image below), and the sheriff assures him that he’ll talk to Buffer about the problem. We then see a black-clad stranger on a horse, watching the two men go their separate ways. The sheriff heads into the saloon to confront Buffer (Bruce Gordon – image below) and his men. He tells Buffer to stop harassing the Carter’s, and then pulls out his revolver when Buffer gets jumpy.

 

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Meanwhile, Dr. Carter pulls in at his house, but as his family comes out to meet him, he falls out of the wagon. They rush him inside, but he’s dead. Tim flips out, but gets slapped down by Preacher Dan. The next time we see them is at the funeral, and we also see the black-clad stranger, watching in the shadows. He locks the gate, and then creeps into the coffin where Dr. Carter’s corpse has been laid to rest! After hearing there has been more shenanigans from Buffer (presumably), Tim goes into town to face him. Within minutes of Tim getting drunk, Buffer comes into the saloon, and the two have a gunfight. Tim ends up on the wrong end of that confrontation, and ends up six feet under.

 

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The following day, we see Dolores putting up posters all over town, advertising for a gunman to avenge her family losses. The sheriff tears them down, but Dolores won’t be stopped. We then see the slack-clad stranger, and he picks up one of the posters, and heads into the saloon. He tells Buffer and his men that he’s going to take the job, and that he always sees a job through to completion. One of Buffer’s men tries to shoot him, but after he shoots first, the stranger returns fire, and shoots the guy’s pistol right out of his hand!

 

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Over at the Cater ranch, Preacher Dan is trying to put the moves on Dolores, but then a knock at the door interrupts that idea. The stranger has arrived, and introduces himself as Drake Roby (Michael Pate). He and Preacher Dan have a bit of a verbal confrontation, but Dolores tells Dan that she’s going to hire him no matter what he says. She even agrees to let him stay at the house, too! Preacher Dan is furious, for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is because he likes Dolores. Later that night, while Dolores is sleeping, she gets a visit from Drake, and her puts the bite on her. In town, the sheriff, Preacher Dan, and Buffer are trying to figure out what this guy is all about. They formulate a plan to keep Buffer out of Drake’s cross-hairs, and to get Drake away from Dolores.

 

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Will Preacher Dan and the sheriff be able to find out Drake’s secret, and put a stop to his reign of terror or will Drake vamp the entire town?!?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

I heard about this film on a podcast, and it sounded great. I was not disappointed when I saw it for the first time or the second. It has some scenes that really let you know how simple, but also how wide open things were back then (1880’s). The actors in this one were already seasoned, especially in the western genre. It does seem more like a western than a vampire flick, but don’t let that fool you, this film is solid. Michael Pate, Eric Fleming, and Kathleen Crowley, all give wonderful performances. The role of Tim (Jimmy Murphy), is a little over-the-top, but nothing too distracting.

It’s definitely true that this film is better in black and white. It gives it that feel you need to be convinced of the era the film is supposed to be taking place in, for sure. The sets are all good, and really seem like an old western town that isn’t quite up to the times just yet. The music is about what you’d expect for this era of films. Nothing flashy, just standard bells and whistles. There is this creepy music that plays every time Drake appears, and that is a little different than usual.

Give this one a shot, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll like it. It’s a great way to spend a lazy afternoon!

Click here for the trailer!

 

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