TALES OF TERROR
With Tales of Terror, Roger Corman altered his approach slightly in that he had Richard Matheson adapt not one but three Edgar Allan Poe tales. (In truth, there are four tales The Black Cat segment combines two Poe stories with Richard Matheson uncreditedly also using Poes The Cask of Amontillado ). This portmanteau approach is something that works well for Edgar Allan Poe. In all the other Roger Cormans other Edgar Allan Poe films, the various scriptwriters have to pad a single Poe story out to feature length. Most Poe stories are a single effect without much even in the way of motivation in all the other Roger Corman films, Richard Matheson and the other writers had to create an entire backstory to build up to the storys single effect. An anthology film like this is something that allows Poe to operate in a form that requires far less story padding.
The first segment Morella is the slightest of the stories. The story marshals all the cliches of the Corman Poe films an old decaying house, an overwrought and obsessed Vincent Price haunted by the past, possession the piece is like a dry run for The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) and the house burning down at the end. There is one eerie image of a black ghost creeping up the stairs to the sleeping daughters bedside but the episode is otherwise forgettable.
The best of the segments is The Black Cat, which seems like a dry run for the more overtly comic treatment of Poe that Corman, Matheson and this episodes two stars Vincent Price and Peter Lorre would conduct with the following years The Raven (1963). Peter Lorre gives an hilarious performance the wine-tasting contest between he and Vincent Price is a comic gem. Not to mention the surreal vision of a dream sequence of Vincent Price and wife playing catch with Peter Lorres head.
The Case of M. Valdemar effectively uses Poes single scene ending while padding it out with a full flight of There Were Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know paranoia. Here Basil Rathbone gives a wonderfully arrogant performance and Roger Corman builds fine atmosphere with the eerily gurgling voice, climaxing in a memorable deliquescing effect.
Roger Cormans other Edgar Allan Poe films are The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963), the Poe-titled but H.P. Lovecraft adapted The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). The Black Cat and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar were also adapted in the Edgar Allan Poe anthology Two Evil Eyes (1990).
Roger Cormans other genre films as director are: Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not Of This Earth (1956), War of the Satellites (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Tower of London (1962), The Terror (1963), X The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Trip (1967), Gas; or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Cormans World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Cormans career.