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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Tower of London (1962) Roger Corman

If you search IMDb for Tower of London you'll find two films sporting that title, both featuring Vincent Price and both playing merry havoc with the princes in the tower. The first was made in 1939 with a killer cast in every sense of the word, led by the hunchback Richard of Gloucester, who so wants to be Richard III and so bumps off all those pesky kids ahead of him to gain the throne. In 1939 that was Basil Rathbone with his younger and kinder brother Clarence played by Vincent Price, in only his third film role. In 1962 in the hands of Roger Corman, who had already cast him in three recent films, Price becomes Richard.

The story is simple, but Corman has fun with it. In fact he has a little too much fun, imbuing it with no end of ghosts, supernatural trickery and horrendous overacting. Edward IV is dying, so Richard of Gloucester kills his way to the throne, starting with his brother who promptly returns as a ghost to point out that Richard will die himself at the hand of one already dead. Unfortunately Vincent Price leads the overacting race in this movie, with not a hint at the cast of the original and far superior version. Beyond Rathbone and Price, that film had a memorable Boris Karloff, plus Ian Hunter, Leo G Carroll and others, while this one has, well, others.

Working through Vincent Price's career it's pretty obvious that he was both a skilled and sophisticated actor and a shameless ham. In some films, it's the skill and sophistication that comes through, making many of his performances joys to watch. He certainly had his own feel that riddled stories through. Yet in others he does nothing but ham it up, shamelessly overacting every line and every movement. He turns this one into an embarrassingly bad attempt at Shakespearean tragedy and it's an utter failure. Certainly it's the worst of his films that I've seen thus far, and the worst from Roger Corman too.

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