When you get Roger Corman and Vince Price together you tend to get a stylised horror film that is hard not to love. While Tower of London may not be their best collaboration, it is an interesting take on Shakespeare’s play of the nefarious King who killed his way to the top.
Corman’s film though is a more mix-and-match tale for Richard III which pulls in Macbeth and Hamlet to make the tale much more ghoulish. Featuring ghosts that haunt Vincent Price’s Richard of Gloucester it is very clear that Price relishes the prospect of taking on a Shakespearian role, but hams it up for all it is worth.
Price does this many times with Corman’s work, and while some would look negatively on such a performance I see it more the case of Price knowing his audience and understanding what a horror film like this needs. With a similar understanding of Price, the audience also expects the same from Price though admittedly it may go a little too far in Tower of London, which is what makes it one of the weaker collaborations. We as the audience still love him for it anyway.
Listening to the commentary included on the Blu-ray by featuring Price biographer David Del Valle and Tara Gordon, the daughter of Leo Gordon who worked on the film it is interesting to hear the history behind the film. It seems that there were many things that worked against the production, one of them being that it was chosen to be filmed in black & white, even though originally planned to be filmed in colour.
What this choice does is in some way make the film feel older than the Poe movies that Corman and Price worked on, though this is not the case. Tower of London was actually filmed in 1962 after Pit and the Pendulum and borrowed many of the sets from that movie. It is interesting to note that it uses old stock footage from the original Tower of London, the Universal Studios version starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and of course a younger Vincent Price.
In many ways, it seems that Tower of London was a film weakened by many cost cutting restrictions placed upon it. Lovers of the Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaborations will still love it though because of the common style that is evident in the movie, and for many Price fans, even at his weakest Price is still a true legend of the world of horror.
What is a little disappointing with Tower of London is that the special features feel a little sparse in number. The commentary track is well worth a listen, and an interview with Roger Corman is always interesting to listen to. It just feels like there could be more included. It may be the case that Arrow have covered Corman and Price so many times though with documentaries it would be overkill to make many more, especially on a disc that may be seen as less important as their greater movies.
Tower of London is a film that will fit in any Vincent Price collection, and will be proudly placed there. While we may be taking a different view on Richard III and his history, that doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the fictional dark tale of his rise to king. If you want the tale of the twins in the tower, the murderous hunchback, and a few added ghosts for good measure, then Tower of London is just what you are looking for.
Tower of London is available on Dual-Format Arrow Video Blu-ray & DVD in the UK from February 13th.