Freely expanded by scripter Richard Matheson from the oft-filmed/irresistibly-titled Edgar Allan Poe short-story, this is generally considered the strongest of the Vincent Price/Roger Corman horror pics. And perhaps it is. Blessedly free of Corman’s directorial comic touches, it nevertheless pulls its basic plot and various twists from those facetious Haunted House thrillers.* Here, our 16th Century truth-seeker is John Kerr, brother to Vincent Price’s recently deceased wife. Unexpectedly knocking at the castle door, he’s determined to find out what caused his sister’s death, and there’s loads of possible suspects! Not only in that neurasthenic brother-in-law, but also the attending physician, Price’s kindly kid sister, a couple of suspicious servants, and just possibly a ghost in the form of his undead sister. Yikes! Kerr’s search inevitably leads him to the cellar, a dungeon where Price’s late father kept a fully functioning torture chamber . . . still in working order! Much of this plays far better than the low-grade acting would indicate, even when the sets looked trucked in from some defunct traveling opera company. (That’s where those DON CARLOS sets went to!) But on its own terms, it works. Even Price, popping his eyes, dramatically lowering his voice and using chronic indigestion as a Method actor might feed off personal memory. Floyd Crosby’s densely colored lensing can be a little stiff, Corman keeps lining up his cast as if prepping for curtain calls. But most of the shock cuts still land; there’s an elegant line to the matte paintings; imaginative paint swirls in the credit sequences; and a rousing semi-atonal score from Les Baxter that needs no apology whatsoever.
DOUBLE-BILL: *You’d be surprised how close a lot of this is to THE CAT AND THE CANARY/’27; ‘39)
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: File under truth in advertizing: John Kerr keeps his blouse on as the blade swings ever closer. (And it's PanaVision, not CinemaScope.) Still, very nice poster. (Click to expand.)