Tower of London (1962)

If Masque of the Red Death was Roger Corman’s take on Bergman, this was his take on Shakespeare… Richard III with shades of Hamlet, remade from the 1939 film of the same name. Somewhat to my surprise, it’s in black and white and only 1.66:1 as opposed to the full colour and Scope films he was making at the same time, although as the featurette on the DVD notes it was to Corman’s own surprise too… the film was initiated by his brother Gene, who had the opportunity to produce it for one Edward Small and his company for release through United Artists, borrowing Roger plus Vincent Price and some other AIP personnel. However, unlike AIP, who trusted Corman’s instincts with his Poe films and gave him the money to shoot them in colour and Scope, Small insisted the film be shot flat and in black and white to save money and to reuse stock footage from the original 1939 film. This, then, was the not entirely happy result of a not entirely happy production, an adaptation of the historical tale of Richard III (Price, obviously; ironically, the 1939 Tower was one of his first films, in which he played one of Richard’s many victims) as a sort of ghost story, with Richard literally and figuratively haunted by those he kills in the course of stealing the throne. It’s hampered by some singularly colourless (ho ho!) secondary characters, although they don’t get on my nerves as much as the American accents do; they make for a grating sound in a story set in 15th century England. Still, monochrome and all, it doesn’t look too bad (even if most of the sets were recycled from other films in true Corman fashion) and on the whole I don’t think it’s as bad as some of its critics would have it. Nothing special, but OK. And it’s Vincent Price, after all…

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