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I came across this movie by chance one night late on the tv. I checked the review in the tv guide and thought it would be an adaptation of one of my favourite plays by Shakespeare: Richard III. However, when I noticed that Roger Corman directed and the guide labelled this movie a horror movie I had mixed feelings. Corman turned the story of Richard Gloucester who "gets rid" of those who stand between him and the throne of England. Corman does that in accordance with the way the people are put away with in the Shakespearean play, but (of course) with greater detail. Plus, Corman focuses more on theoccult aspects - Richard haunted by the spirits of those he killed. However, during the whole movie it does not quite become clear whether those ghosts are real or just hallucinations of Richard's poor soul. Vincent Price - once again - gives a superb villain, very reminiscent of Boris Karloff (who I think played Richard, as well). A perfect movie for dark, chilly nights, with fog and storm outside, and a blanket to crouch underneath.
In between basing no less than seven movies on the wondrously macabre writings of author Edgar Allan Poe, the mega-versatile cinema wizard Roger Corman also found the the time to adapt a famous William Shakespeare play and turn it into an effectively creepy and atmospheric 60's chiller. The greatest actor who ever walked the earth Vincent Price, who else? plays another malicious but emotionally tormented protagonist in the English kingdom of the late 15th century. He is Richard Plantagenet, unlikely to ever inherit the throne in a righteous way, but willing to kill blood relatives in order to become King of all England. But immediately after murdering his own brother and other innocent people that stand in his way, the restless spirits of his victims come back to haunt him in visions. "Tower of London" is a fascinating history lesson, perhaps not very accurate, but at least vastly entertaining and providing more than enough genuine frights and atmosphere. Continuously descending further into madness, sir Richard submits his victims to uncanny medieval torture devices, like a stretching-rack and a rat cage that gets placed on a poor guy's head. The photography is in stylish black & white, the costumes are downright enchanting and the use of medieval vocabulary sounded like pure music to my ears. Vincent Price is amazing, as always, portraying the historical madman that also suffered from a hereditary handicap. The performances of the supportive cast are sadly a bit hammy. For some reason and unlike most other masterpieces starring Price, this baby is rather difficult to find but definitely worth searching for. A must for fans of classic horror.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roger Corman is (in his way) a genius regarding making effective films
on a relatively small budget. In the late 1950s and through the 1960s
he basically followed Edward Wood's "pioneering" in the use of name
stars in his films. Unlike Wood, however, Corman knows how to direct
and produce. You look at his movies, and instead of finding screamingly
funny (unintended) blunders you keep watching the actors and listening
to the lines. He latched onto Edgar Allan Poe far more than had
happened in Hollywood in the past, and while he stretched Poe's stories
(and in the case of THE RAVEN his poetry) out of recognizable limit to
what the originals are, enough of the original framework remains to
leave the movie respectable and sometimes far more than that (such as
my favorite Corman - Poe flick, "The Masque Of The Red Death").
Corman turned from Poe to William Shakespeare in this 1962 film, "Tower of London", which (while based on the Sir Thomas More - William Shakespeare version of the character, career, and reign of King Richard III of England) is a remake of the 1939 Basil Rathbone film "Tower of London". That film was quite effective, given the talents of Rowland Lee (it's director), Rathbone, Boris Karloff (as the cruel executioner Mord), and the cast including Ian Hunter, John Rodion, and Vincent Price (as the "Duke of Clarence"). It's defects are of the same historical variety found in most historical films (i.e. accuracy), and in the continuing issue of whether Richard (who, after all, was finally defeated and killed by Henry VII at Bosworth Field) has been traduced. Also it (and this remake) have both been pushed into the background of the cinema loving public by Sir Laurence Olivier's performance as the evil usurper in his version of Shakespeare's "Richard III".
The 1939 version really benefited by a larger budget (although a "B" feature) and a studio's sets and stages. Corman manages to get real mileage out of his ability to improvise intelligently (as opposed to Wood). A classic example of getting more with less. He used footage from the earlier film for the battle sequence, but he added atmospheric touches showing fog and a swamp that were quite good.
One thing he uses from Shakespeare is that he used the ghosts of the various victims of Richard to haunt him. This includes not only Clarence, but King Edward, the two Princes in the Tower, and Buckingham (who was a Duke - that title has been one of the most fatal in British history!).* Actually Shakespeare had them all pop up before Richard's battle at Bosworth, as the King tries to sleep - they all recount what he did to them, and tell him to despair and die. In Corman's hands, after each evil crime, Richard is confronted by the ghosts who demand his explanation, and he gives mealy ("realpolitik") excuses ("You were not strong enough to be a good King!"). It's an interesting approach, but it really does not sound viable.
(*Think of this - First you have this Duke of Buckingham, a cousin of the House of York, who tries to be a leading supporter of Richard, but finds himself pushed aside - Richard probably didn't trust him. Buckingham led a revolt in 1485 against Richard, lost the revolt, and Richard ordered him executed. Then you had the title revived and given to a cousin and male heir to Henry VIII, who would get involved in several questionable actions in 1521 - including possible witchcraft to encompass Henry's demise. He went to the executioner's block as a result. Nobody wanted the title for a century. Then it was revived first as Earl then as Duke for Georger Villiers, favorite of both James I and Charles I, and he becomes the de facto Prime Minister of England. But his poorly planned policies raise the public against him, and he is assassinated in 1628 - the subject of Dumas' "The Three Musketeers". The title was revived in the 19th Century as the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Nothing happened finally.)
Price does what he can as Richard, but he lacks the vicious inner strengths (oddly enough) of both Rathbone and Olivier. They know what they want and know how to get it (and think they know how to keep it). Price has a type of uncertainty that suggests his actions were successful in spite of himself, not because of his sagacity. His surprise when he suddenly learns he is facing Henry at Bosworth (a name he supposedly never heard of - yet he hears a warning concerning Bosworth earlier from a ghost that should have set him looking for any place that had that name to avoid it!) is really surprising. He only has one powerful moment - when he decides to execute Buckingham. The viciousness of the torture used brings out Price's special horror gifts to the fore. But that is an isolated sequence.
The film is strong enough on it's own to merit watching, but I would wait for the original "Tower of London" or the Olivier (or later McKellan) "Richard III".
The team of Roger Corman and Vincent Price is undoubtedly most famous
for the adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe's works, but it would be unwise
to ignore this interpretation of William Shakespeare's play 'Richard
III' as it's one of the duo's finest hours! This same story was brought
to the screen 23 years earlier with the 1939 film of the same name
(also featuring Vincent Price), but Corman's version, although
obviously made on a limited budget is still a great version of the
tale. The plot features prominent themes of envy, greed and insanity,
and the story of one of England's most famous rulers is interesting for
its own merits, and Corman's portrayal of it makes it interesting for
fans of classic horror also. The plot begins with the death of the
current king of England, Richard's brother. The throne is intended to
go to the brother's son, but King Richard has other ideas as he begins
to murder all those that stand in his path to the most coveted seat in
the country. However, what he doesn't count on is his conscience
getting in the way; and before long, he is being haunted by the ghosts
of his victims.
Every film in the Corman's Poe Anthology is filmed in colour, but here Corman shoots on black and white film, and it does the story no end of favours as the atmosphere always feel thick and foreboding, and gorgeous shots of smoke filled locations help to increase the tension. The fact that the film stars the great Vincent Price is most definitely its strongest element. Price is best at playing villains and people suffering from mental torment, and here he gets to do both in the meaty role of King Richard III. Price's acting style certainly suits Shakespearian roles as he's never afraid to go over the top, and I'm sure Corman was always happy to capitalise on this fact as Price is allowed to let rip completely during many instances of the film. Price also manages to look sinister while he's being hammy, and just small things such as the little hat that Price wears give him an understated villainy that suits the role like a glove. The supernatural elements of the film are well utilised, and Corman is happy to capitalise on the horror aspects of the play at all times. The ending is a little abrupt, but overall, this film is a definite 'hit' and one that shouldn't be missed by Price, Corman and even Shakespeare fans!
Roger Corman's "Tower of London" of 1962 is a great piece of Historical
Horror and a fantastic depiction of madness, that has enriched the
world of cinema with yet another magnificent performance by the
incomparable Vincent Price. Vincent Price was in two films named "Tower
of London" that dealt with the reign and villainy of Richard III, the
other being Rowland V. Lee's great Historical Drama of 1939 in which,
as a young actor, he played the supporting role of the Duke of Clarence
alongside fellow icons Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. Personally, I
first saw this 1962 film by Corman several years before first watching
the 1939 film. Though both films are great, I must say that I still
prefer this one. Unlike the 1939 film, this film is an actual Horror
film, which focuses strongly on the King's madness and Horror elements.
The reasons why I prefer this film (which is officially a remake, but
very different to the 1939 version), are the Horror elements and the
unspeakably intense and creepy atmosphere, but mainly the incredible
on-screen persona of Vincent Price, whom I would call my favorite actor
of all-time. Basil Rathbone was great in the role of the villainous
king, but Price is sublime. The character is way more insane in this
film. The cold-blooded, calculating villain King Richard of the 1939
film has become an equally villainous and murderous, but incalculable
madman, haunted by the victims of his bloody path to kingship.
Director Corman and star Price are always a great combination, as proved by their other collaborations, the brilliant Edgar Allan Poe adaptations which mark the peak of both men's careers. Films such as "Pit and the Pendulum" (1961, also starring the wonderful Barbara Steele, my favorite actress of all-time), "The Haunted Palace" (1963, which is actually the adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft Story) of "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964) range among the greatest Horror films ever made. This is yet another magnificent collaboration of Price and Corman. Price gives a magnificent portrayal of madness and villainy in what is one of his most diabolical roles. The only film in which he plays an even more despicable character is Michael Reeves' 1968 masterpiece "Witchfinder General", and I would rate the role of Prince Prospero in Corman's own "Masque of the Red Death" on quite the same level of evilness as his role here. "Tower of London" has many macabre moments including several downright nasty torture scenes. As in all his Vincent Price films, Corman creates a genuinely creepy atmosphere, this being the only black-and-white film the two did together. Michael Pate plays the role of Richard's loyal and unscrupulous helper on his way to power, basically the role that the great Boris Karloff (another favorite actor of mine) played in the 1939 film. While Karloff played a cruel, but relatively simple-minded executioner loyal to his master Richard, the character 'Sir Ratcliffe' played by Pate is a devilishly cunning snake who isn't far behind Richard in devilish ingenuity. The settings are magnificent, and very similar to those in the 1939 film (though the photography is gloomier) it sometimes looks as if the same settings were used. Parts of the battle sequences from the 1939 film were edited into this one. Overall, this is an amazing film with another brilliant leading performance from the immortal Vincent Price. A must-see for all Horror fans!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Legendary Roger Corman directs this remake of the 1939 classic of the same title. This period piece is made into a horror/melodrama that chills your spine. Atmospheric B&W. Bloody events and plot twists thread through this low-budget feature. Vincent Price plays the hunchbacked Richard III, who ruthlessly tortures and murders anyone he deems standing in his way ascending to the throne of England. Richard is haunted by those he disposed of. This Gothic setting bodes well for Corman's sadistic style. Price's menacing and maniacal performance adds to his legend. One of Price's earliest roles was a supporting one in the afore mentioned 1939 original. Other players of note: Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Donald Losby, Joan Camden, Robert Brown and Sandra Knight.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vincent Price gives one of his best performances as Richard the third,
who kills his enemies in front of him to the throne. Price is extremely
evil in this movie making him an unlikable villain. But Price does die,
and does he ever, but not before he goes on a killing spree.
This version is actually superior to the 1939 version (that Price was also in), despite it's stature as a B-movie. Roger Corman directs and scores yet again along with his other stuff from the early sixties.
I bought the Midnite Movies release of this and The Haunted Palace, and this turned out even better than HP. I say buy it(for cheap). then, you can even watch it.
Not anywhere nearly as well done as the 1939 version, this Corman/Price
vehicle has to be the weakest of their collaborations.
Price is generally too hammy here, not well-directed as in other Corman films, and definitely nowhere near his excellent performance in Witchfinder General. Sets are pretty much bare-bones, effects and battle scenes look like stock footage superimposed over characters acting out in front of a black curtain.
The murder of the two young heirs to the throne of England is the best scene and very effective, however. The end of this film of a mere 79 mins. is very welcome to the viewer as about 70 mins. of it are practically a complete bore. Pretty much one to forget unless you have to collect every Corman/Price film ever made.
King Richard III of England is a very tough guy to understand today
because the truth about him is hopelessly muddled. Most of what we
THINK is true about him comes from Shakespeare's Richard III--which is
very entertaining but Skakespeare was probably no better a historian
than Paris Hilton! His histories are based on both traditional tales
AND an effort to make the Tudor dynasty look good (after all, Elizabeth
was queen while many of his plays were produced and if they were
critical of her family, he would have likely been beheaded). So,
considering that Richard III was murdered by her grandfather (Henry
VII), it's not surprising that in the play he's a scheming and deformed
jerk. This film also is based somewhat on Shakespeare's tradition,
though he's far crazier. Whether Richard actually killed his nephews,
walked like a hunchback or was so untrustworthy and stupid is up for
debate--and many historians do question the traditional view of the
Now, if you aren't a history teacher or a member of the Richard III Society (www.richardiii.net), most of this probably won't matter very much to you. My advice is to just watch the film for it's entertainment value--not historical.
As entertainment, it's not bad. Fans of Vincent Price will especially enjoy his way over the top and highly emotional re telling of the reign of Richard. Seeing his face contort and ghosts popping in and out certainly is fun to watch, as is the nasty scene involving dropping a rat in a cage on a man's face! Obviously, this is NOT a Merchant-Ivory production!! No, in many ways it's highly reminiscent of director Roger Corman's other forays with Price (such as his Poe "inspired" films). And so, if you like them, you'll love this homage to insanity and evil. If you are looking for something more...well, you won't find it.
I was looking forward to Tower of London as I am a big fan of Vincent Price and a lot of his and Corman's collaborations. After seeing it, I don't think it is one of their best, and the 1939 film while not perfect is a better film, but it is a decent film and should be better known than it is. Granted it is nowhere near perfect, the ending is abrupt, some of the supernatural scenes are more silly than they are haunting and most of the supporting cast are very hammy. The history is also questionable, though I wasn't expecting a history lesson when watching Tower of London and I don't count it as as big a flaw as the ones above. However, the sets, costumes and photography are quite good, the score has a haunting quality to it and the dialogue is intelligent. The story has some uneven moments, but the murders are very disturbing and there is a good atmosphere about it. The killings of the princes and Richard's decision to kill Buckingham are the best scenes of the film. Corman's direction is generally solid and Robert Brown and Joan Freeman are good in their roles and handle them with professionalism. But Vincent Price is the best actor in the film, his Richard of Gloucester is superb, the only one of the cast to make me feel that way. While slightly on the camp side, and I do think he has given better performances before and since, he is also menacing and troubled. All in all, not one of Corman's best but worth the viewing for Price's performances and the murder scenes. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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