The remake of the 1939 feature of the same name, Tower of London opens with Richard of Gloucester (Vincent Price) being passed over to succeed his dying brother’s reign of England. As a result, he chooses to “off” those who get in his way, only for them to haunt him from beyond the grave.
Tower of London, directed by Roger Corman, would be the fourth time that the “King of the B’s” worked with Price, after the successful American International Pictures run of their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Tales of Terror would garner the director praise from critics and audiences alike. This film allows Price to flamboyantly shake and flex his Shakespearian acting muscles on screen rather than on stage as he’d previously done. The supporting cast of Tower of London give serviceable but unmemorable performances, doing not much more than moving the narrative along.
While the Grand Guignol murder set pieces aren’t horrifying to a modern audience, the idea of being stretched on a rack or having your head locked in an iron mask with a hungry, live rat does generate revulsion.
It was a project developed by producer Gene Corman for United Artists, shot on a budget of $200,000 over 15 days. For budget reasons, the film was shot in monochrome (even though previous Price/Corman films had been shot in colour), and, while it doesn’t have the colourful luridness that the Poe movies contained, it’s made up for by D.P Arch R. Dalzell’s atmospheric cinematography, where he made use of borrowed sets from other films.
The low budget does hamper the film, particularly in the very cheap model tower and in the case of the unremarkable final sequence on Bosworth Field, which was shot in a sound stage alongside superimposed stock battle footage from the previous version. This remastered Arrow Video Blu-ray release contains a brand new seven minute interview with director Corman, who discusses the film’s production, as does his producer brother Gene in a short featurette from a previous MGM release.
There is also an in-depth audio commentary from noted historian David Del Valle, joined by daughter of the film’s screenwriter Tara Gordon, and a slideshow of production images round off the limited supplemental material featured on the disc. At 119 minutes, Tower Of London was enjoyable for a Roger Corman fan (as I am), but might be an endurance test for others. This is a film perhaps more suited to completists only.
Dir: Roger Corman
Scr: Leo V Gordon, Amos Powell, James N Gordon
Pro: Gene Corman
Cast: Vincent Price, Micheal Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Bruce Gordon
D.O.P: Arch R. Dalzell
Edit: Ronald Sinclair
Music: Michael Anderson
Run time: 119 minutes
Tower of London is available on Blu-ray now.