Also known as: The Graveside Story (re-issue title, Germany) Release Date: December 25th, 1963 (Detroit premiere) Directed by: Jacques Tourneur Written by: Richard Matheson Music by: Les Baxter Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown
Alta Vista Productions, American International Pictures, 84 Minutes
“To… uh… paraphrase the venerable adage: we shall kill two birds, with one… pillow.” – Waldo Trumball
When I was a kid, I thought that the plot to The Comedy of Terrors was genius. In fact, it inspired a script outline that I wrote in high school for a movie I wanted to eventually make called Cremation.
The plot is about a funeral parlor owner who is about to lose his home/parlor due to not having any business. So he sets out to create business by killing some of the richer people in the community. Eventually, he sets his sights on his rich landlord because that would solve his biggest problem.
While the plot may sound dark and twisted, this is also a comedy and not standard 1960s horror fare.
The film also stars four great horror legends and it is directed by Jacques Tourneur, who helmed some solid horror and classic film-noir pictures in his day.
The humor is great and the tone of the film is superb. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre always had incredible chemistry and this might be the best they’ve ever been together, even though I consider The Raven to be a better film.
I also like the recurring gags in the film with Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who don’t have as much screentime as Price and Lorre but they still add extra layers of awesomeness to the proceedings. Joyce Jameson is also entertaining and perfect in her role, as the object of Lorre’s affection while being married to the cantankerous and murderous Price.
This is a goofy but solid horror comedy in a time where films like that were rare. In the end, this really just showcases how great these actors were, all around, despite being mostly typecast as “horror actors”.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other pictures Vincent Price did for American International. Especially those co-starring Peter Lorre and/or Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.
Also known as: Frankensteins Todesrennen (Austria) Release Date: April 27th, 1975 Directed by: Paul Bartel Written by: Robert Thom, Charles Griffith Based on:The Racer by Ib Melchior Music by: Paul Chihara Cast: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Sand McCallum, Louisa Moritz, Don Steele, Mary Woronov, Roberta Collins, Martin Kove, Joyce Jameson, Paul Bartel, Leslie McRae
New World Pictures, 80 Minutes
“As the cars roar into Pennsylvania, the cradle of liberty, it seems apparent that our citizens are staying off the streets, which may make scoring particularly difficult, even with this year’s rule changes. To recap those revisions: women are still worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, but teenagers now rack up 40 points, and toddlers under 12 now rate a big 70 points. The big score: anyone, any sex, over 75 years old has been upped to 100 points.” – Harold
When Roger Corman stepped away from directing to start New World Pictures, it really opened the door for young filmmakers to usher in a new era of outside-the-box indie pictures. Paul Bartel was one of the premier guys to come out of the Corman camp and while he made a few really good films, none of them had as big of an impact on me as the super stylish and insane Death Race 2000.
The film is about a transcontinental race from New York City to Los Angeles, a race where the drivers earn points for killing human targets. The more offensive the target, the higher the points. So babies and old people are prime meat for the sadistic drivers and their high octane killing machines.
The movie takes place in a not-too-distant future where society has kind of evolved similar to those more modern Purge movies. America is a fascist state and this grand motor race is patriotic. Those who die, as victims of the drivers, are considered heroes and their sacrifices usually come with rewards for their loved ones.
Within this severely screwed up America is a group of rebels who are trying to end the race and overthrow the sick and twisted president in an effort to reestablish an America that is closer to what the Founding Fathers fought for. There is a lot of political and social commentary sprinkled in throughout the film and it almost exists as a response to the American government’s expansion into the world and its quest for occupation and control. It makes sense that this was made at the tail end of the Vietnam War.
The film stars David Carradine as Frankenstein, the most elite of all the racers. He is a literal living legend but he has his own ideas on the race and his government’s politics, which play out subtly as the film progresses, leading to a big rebellious crescendo at the end.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by a very young Sylvester Stallone, who was a year away from Rocky fame, as well as Paul Bartel’s favorite collaborator, Mary Woronov. We also get Roberta Collins, who spent a large part of her career in exploitation films, a young Martin Kove, a decade before becoming the iconic John Kreese from The Karate Kid films, Joyce Jameson, who was a part of a lot of Corman’s ’60s horror productions, Don Steele, a charismatic and over the top shock jock from the ’70s, as well as two beautiful ladies: Simone Griffeth and Louisa Moritz, both of whom play navigators to the two top drivers. Paul Bartel even has a small cameo as Frankenstein’s doctor when the iconic racer is first introduced in the film.
One thing that makes this picture work so well, is that it is a tongue in cheek critique on the government and society but it doesn’t beat you over the head because of how ridiculous and stylized everything in the film is. Every character is more or less a caricature, every car has some sort of bizarre and hokey gimmick and things are so over the top and goofy that you don’t find yourself buried in serious subject matter. And maybe the political statements are sort of lost in this circus of a film but the sentiment seems pretty clear, even if it’s not fine tuned enough to be specific.
Bartel would follow this up with another action car picture for Roger Corman called Cannonball. That one also starred David Carradine and is enjoyable but it doesn’t stick out in quite the same way Death Race 2000 does.
This would also spawn a horrible remake that had even worse sequels. Eventually, a true sequel to this was made called Death Race 2050. I haven’t seen that one yet but I plan to give it a watch in the very near future.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Any Paul Bartel directed film but most notable Cannonball!
Release Date: July 4th, 1962 Directed by: Roger Corman Written by: Richard Matheson Based on: Morella, The Black Cat, The Facts In the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe Music by: Les Baxter Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget, Joyce Jameson
American International Pictures, 89 Minutes
“Haven’t I convinced you of my sincerity yet? I’m genuinely dedicated to your destruction.” – Montresor Herringbone
Director Roger Corman and actor Vincent Price collaborated on several motion pictures for American International in the 1960s. Most of their movies were adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s literary work. They also dabbled in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Nathaniel Hawthorne but it was the poems and stories of Poe that drove most of their collaborations.
This film, is a rare one, as it is an anthology piece that covers three Poe inspired tales. Traditionally, Corman picked a Poe title and turned it into one solid feature. Tales of Terror was a bit more experimental and was able to showcase famous Poe stories that wouldn’t have worked as a 90 minute feature, The Cask of Amontillado for instance, which was mixed into this film’s second story, The Black Cat.
Vincent Price is the only actor to star in all three stories. However, Peter Lorre really steals the show as Montresor Herringbone. He is only in The Black Cat, the middle and longest of the three stories, but it is one of the greatest comedic performances in Lorre’s career. Then again, every time Lorre played the comic relief opposite of Price, the results were always fantastic.
Price also works with Basil Rathbone, another horror legend. We also get to see Debra Paget and Joyce Jameson, two women who would work with Price and Corman again.
Tales of Terror is a solid outing by Corman and Price and it has the same tone and vibe as their other Poe adaptations. The anthology format makes it the most unique and different of these pictures. Plus, it has two really good stories, out of the three. The first one, my least favorite, is still entertaining though, and it is also the shortest.
This is definitely a picture worth checking out if you like Price, Corman or Poe. It is one of the best in their series of these pictures.