Legendary producer Roger Corman remains a name truly independent, with an output that would be the envy of most mainstream Hollywood Studios. His productions were the fertile training ground for many of today’s top film-makers, including James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, who worked on his 1980 cult space classic Battle Beyond The Stars, which also launched the career of the late composer James Horner.
His 1962 production, Tower Of London, has been remastered by Arrow Films. Originally released by United Artists and shot in black and white (according to an interview with Corman on an extra on the Blu-Ray edition, the studio insisted on this because of economic reasons, even though Corman said that the American International productions of the Poe adaptations he had been making were still cheap enough to be released in colour). That said, the black and white does add something to the overall atmosphere of this offering, which takes elements of Shakespeare’s Richard III and transcends them to a gothic horror yarn.
Something bad is afoot in the year of Our Lord, 1483. Who better than Vincent Price in the lead, as the Duke of Gloucester, out to get the throne when his dying brother, King Edward IV, names his brother Clarence as the heir to the throne. Richard is understandably hurt by this development, which he demonstrates by stabbing Edward literally in the back with a dagger bearing the crest of the Woodville family in-laws in a plot to frame them, dumping him in a barrel of water. However, his dark determination doesn’t end there, as he also goes after Edward’s widow’s lady-in-waiting, Mistress Shore, to cajole her into stating the two children of the dead King are illegitimate to ensure he gets the throne for himself….
The Art Director on this film was one Daniel Haller, who later went on to direct the 1979 theatrical pilot of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, one of numerous television-based works he was to do later on in his career. His work here is pretty good and captures the atmosphere, context and essence of the story.
Part of your desire on whether to embrace Tower Of London does boil down to how much you believe horror legend Price in the lead role of Richard. That could be like when you watch Morecambe and Wise doing their comedic variations on classic works in their Christmas specials. Price actually is pretty good in the role and part of the joy of watching this is letting him do his thing, as you are expecting him to do something macabre and horrific based on his work in the likes of The Fly and House Of Wax.
Tower Of London is classic horror hokum at it’s best and well worth a look if you are backtracking on classic Price and Corman.
TOWER OF LONDON / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: ROGER CORMAN / SCREENPLAY: LEO GORDON, F. AMOS POWELL, ROBERT E. KENT / STARRING: VINCENT PRICE, MICHAEL PATE, ROBERT BROWN / RELEASE DATE: 13TH FEBRUARY