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Twice-Told Tales (2022 Reissue)
Directed by Sidney Salkow in 1963, Twice-Told Tales is a three part horror anthology film that adapts a trio of suspenseful short stories originally written by Nathanial Hawthorne.
The first of the three stories is Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, tells the tale of Doctor Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot) and his lifelong friend Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price) as they celebrate his birthday. As the rain comes down, the two men wind up in the crypt of the woman who Carl was to marry, Sylvia Ward (Mari Blanchard), but she passed away from a sudden illness thirty-eight years prior. Heidegger has never loved again, his loss was too great. While in the crypt, Sylvia's coffin is opened and the two aged men are shocked to discover that her corpse is perfectly preserved. Heidegger deduces that the only thing that would have done this would be the unique water that has been dripping from the roof of the crypt all these years. They take some of the water and use it on themselves and find that it restores their youth! Armed with this knowledge, Heidegger figures if he gives Sylvia enough of this same water, she'll be rejuvenated and come back to him. And he's right. But of course, there's a catch.
Rappaccini's Daughter is the second tale, Vincent Price plays Giacomo Rappaccini, a stoic and rather strange man who keeps a close eye on his beautiful daughter, Beatrice (Joyce Taylor), who is basically held captive within the confines of the family estate. Beatrice has grown up, however, and she's fallen head over heels in love with their neighbor, Giovanni Guasconti (Brett Halsey). Rappaccini, a quiet but flamboyantly attired man, has prepared for this, however, as he has used some of the strange purple plants growing in their courtyard to inoculate poor Beatrice with the poison that they produce! Though Beatrice herself is immune to it, others are not and it is her father's hope that this cruel twist will keep her in his possessive clutches for all eternity!
Last but not least is The House Of The Seven Gables. Here Price plays Gerald Pyncheon, a man who, along with his wife Alice (Beverly Garland), returned to his family's home in hopes of taking care of some personal matters and taking ownership of the family fortune to which he feels he is rightfully entitled. The couple reunite with Gerald's sister, Hannah (Jacqueline deWit), but then things take a strange turn when Alice begins to feel she's connected with a man named Mathew Maulle (Floyd Simmons), who just so happens to have been dead for years. Is the Pyncheon family curse back to haunt Gerald and his bride or will Maulle's descendant Jonathan (Richard Denning) somehow save them both from the clutches of insanity?
Made to cash in on the success of AIP's Price starring Poe adaptations, Twice-Told Tales isn't as good or as inventive as those earlier pictures but it is still pretty decent entertainment. The script, written by producer Robert Kent, definitely takes some liberties with Hawthorne's original source material but it's all in the name of making a better horror picture, so most probably won't mind that so much. Some of the dialogue feels padded and there are definitely times where you want director Sidney Salkow to pick up the pace (the film is just a hair over two hours long) but the movie always looks quite good. The sets and costumes are bright and colorful when they need to be, and atmospheric and eerie when called for (the tomb in the opening story is a good example of the latter).
The real reason most will be interested in this one, however, is Vincent Price. The supporting cast members are all fine: Brett Halsey makes a dashing enough hero and Mari Blanchard, Joyce Taylor and Beverly Garland are each just fine as the female lead in their respective stories, but Price is absolutely the main attraction (something that the poster art, trailer and marketing materials made very clear). He's very good in each one of the three stories, always appearing to give one hundred percent and chewing just enough of the scenery to keep things interesting even when the pacing droops. Price and Sebastian Cabot in particular have great chemistry here in the first story, making the way that it concludes all the more chilling. So if this isn't necessarily a perfect horror anthology, the presence of a horror legend at the top of his game and some fine supporting efforts ensure that, flawed or not, it's still very much worthwhile.The Blu-ray:
Twice-Told Tales was previously released by Kino on Blu-ray in 2015, and this new reissue is nearly identical to that original disc. The film is presented on Blu-ray in 1.66.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer and generally speaking it looks very nice. There are a few small scuffs and scratches evident here and there but overall the picture is quite clean. The increase in detail is frequently very impressive when compared to the previous DVD release from MGM while texture and depth are strong throughout as well. Black levels are solid while shadow detail is quite good as well. There is no evidence of any noise reduction or edge enhancement nor are there any compression artifacts.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film's native English. The original release did not include any subtitles of any kind, this reissue rectifies that and does include English subtitles. Again, we get a nice upgrade when compared to the DVD. The score has more depth and clarity to it while balance is spot on. That means that there aren't any problems understanding the dialogue when the music or effects kick in. Hiss and distortion are non-issues. A very fine mix overall, one that would seem to be an accurate representation of the original elements.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary from film historians Richard Harland Smith and Perry Martin and it's a good one. These guys hit the right balance of serious and informative mixed with laid back and humorous. They make some pretty interesting observations about Price's wardrobe in the movie (in the second story they note that audiences wanted nothing less than to see Price looking fabulous!) but also about his performances here. There's plenty of background information offered up for each and every one of the main cast members and some critical insight into the effectiveness of the direction as well. By the time this is over you'll not only be a veritable expert in the career of Brett Halsey but you'll also be taken to school on the frequent differences that pop up between the filmed versions of these stories and Nathanial Hawthorne's original stories. This is definitely worth taking the time to check out, especially if you've seen the movie more than once (it makes a great way to revisit it and learn something at the same time).
Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, a Trailers From Hell segment (hosted by Mick Garris), bonus trailers for Tales Of Terror and Bava's Black Sabbath, static menus and chapter selection.
It's also worth pointing out that this reissue includes a slipcover, whereas the original release did not.Final Thoughts:
Twice-Told Tales isn't the high point of Price's sixties horror outings but it's a fun movie with some interesting supporting players. Price fans will get the most out of it as he headlines each one of the three Hawthorne adaptions that make up the film and he does pretty good work here too. There's enough style, wit, charm and suspense here that this is definitely worth seeing. Kino's Blu-ray reissue offers up the same presentation as the 2015 release, but adds English subtitles and a slipcover to the mix. Is this worth buying again if you have the original? Probably not, but if you don't have that disc then this is definitely worth checking out and recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.