Theatrical Release: September 1963
Blu Ray Release: December 1, 2015
Director: Sidney Salkow
Review by James Klein
Based on the short story works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales is an anthology film of three tales of horror and suspense. Starring the always magnificent Vincent Price who not only stars in each segment but also narrates the film, Twice Told Tales begins almost immediately as there is no wrap around story and just goes into each segment by the turn of a page.
The first segment, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” stars Price and Sebastian Cabot as two old friends who reminisce about their lives on a dark and stormy night. With a loud crash of thunder, the men venture into the tomb of Cabot’s long dead wife who, while still deceased, looks exactly like how she looked when she was alive. Noticing that water is dripping down onto her, the two men realize they have discovered the fountain of youth. As the men decide to taste the mysterious liquid, they quickly turn younger, feeling much more alive and happy. Cabot then decides to take things further by injecting his deceased wife with the liquid, only to wake up as if the many years that have passed have never happened. But like any tale of the macabre, there is a downfall to the fountain of youth which harbors a deep down jealous rage between the two men. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” succeeds due to the atmosphere of the story; very gothic and tragic. The only thing that detracts from this tale is that the segment is predictable and also too short. It builds and builds but the payoff is so quick that one is left thinking, “Oh that’s it?”
The second segment, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” also is very much like “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” in that it’s build up is much more exciting than its payoff. Price plays the egomaniac scientist Rappaccini who has injected in his daughter’s blood a poisonous acid that with her deadly touch, she can turn life forms into a purple burned mess. The poison is taken from a plant that grows in the scientist’s garden. The beautiful Joyce Taylor plays Beatrice, Rappaccini’s daughter who frequents the garden to speak to a young suitor named Giovanni played by the rather bland Brett Halsey. Giovanni begs Rappaccini for Beatrice’s hand to which Rappaccini decides to experiment on the young man with disastrous results. This mad scientist segment is enjoyable thanks to Price himself who plays an overly protective and mad father who wants no one to ever take his daughter away from him. Sly and manipulative, Price steals every scene he’s in. One can only imagine what could be done with this story if remade now, given that there is a very subtle sexual infatuation that Rappacini has with Beatrice.
The final segment, “The House of the Seven Gables” is the longest of the three stories and most horrific. This tale about a cursed family takes place in 1841 with Price playing Gerald Pyncheon who arrives with his wife Alice (Beverly Garland) to The House of the Seven Gables, where Gerald’s sister Hannah (Jacqueline deWit) lives. The Pyncheon family has been cursed for one hundred and fifty years, when the blacksmith Mathew Maulle (Floyd Simmons) was murdered and buried below the house. Gerald comes to the house to seek a vault with the family fortune, with Alice being haunted by ghosts the moment that she arrives in the house. With no love or loyalty for one another, the family members attack and betray one another so that they can possess the family fortune for themselves. Like the other stories, this takes some time to get going and in fact was way too long and should have been shortened. However, once it the action starts to pick up, this segment is actually a fun, gruesome story.
Kino’s blu ray looks pretty good with colors really sticking out. It’s clarity is also impressive for such an old film, Twice Told Tales looks great and better than it ever has. I wish I could say the same for the audio but I had to crank up the sound just to hear the dialog. Anytime music or sound effects are used, one can simply not hear what the characters are saying. With a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix, this should not be the case.
Rounding out the special features is an audio commentary track by film historians Richard Harland Smith and Perry Martin. Their commentary, while very informative, feels like they are reading from text books and quickly gets dull. There is a Trailers From Hell segment where the theatrical trailer is played via audio commentary by film maker Mick Garris (the guy who gave us the shitty made for TV mini-series The Stand and The Shining along with the hilarious bad Sleepwalkers). Garris just discusses Price’s career and how he saw this film as a kid on its original release. Rounding out the special features are trailers for Twice Told Tales, Tales of Terror, and Black Sabbath.
Movie and blu ray Rating: