Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (1st December 2014).
The Film

***This is an A/V and Extras review only.***

From the Merchant of Menace, Vincent Price, and the King of the Bs, Roger Corman, come six Gothic tales inspired by the pen of Edgar Allan Poe.

In The Fall of the House of Usher, a young man learns of a family curse that threatens his happiness with his bride-to-be. In Pit and the Pendulum, a brother investigates the untimely death of sister, played by Barbara Steele. Tales of Terror adapts three Poe classics, Morella, The Black Cat and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, each starring a horror icon. The Raven is a comic take on the famous poem concerning three rival magicians. In The Haunted Palace, a newcomer in a New England town is suspected of being a warlock. And in The Tomb of Ligeia, filmed in Norfolk and at Stonehenge, a widower’s upcoming marriage plans are thwarted by his dead first wife.

The six films boast a remarkable cast list: not just Price and Steele (Black Sunday), but also Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), Peter Lorre (M, The Beast with Five Fingers), Lon Chaney Jr (The Wolf Man, Spider Baby), Basil Rathbone (The Black Cat) and a very young Jack Nicholson. Adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, I Am Legend) and Robert Towne (Chinatown), these Six Gothic Tales now rank as classic examples of sixties horror cinema.

Limited to 2000 copies.

Scoring for the features:
The Fall of the House of Usher - B
The Pit and the Pendulum - B
Tales of Terror - C+
The Raven - B
The Haunted Palace - B
The Tomb of Ligeia - B


The Fall of the House of Usher - The first film of this set is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is 1080p, and uses an AVC MPEG-4 encode. As with most Roger Corman films of the time, some scenes in this transfer come across a little soft due to the stock used, but generally, this is a very good presentation. The old MGM DVD did have one of two stability issues which have been fixed for the most part (bar some occasional transitional frames) and contrast levels are spot on. The gothic blues and velvety reds really pop here, especially in wider shots encompassing entire rooms, whilst blacks are deep with little noticeable crush. Details are generally strong, though do fluctuate scene to scene a little. Natural film grain runs throughout, and can become quite heavy in some of the close-ups, but it never descends into noise. There are no compression issues, no signs of edge enhancement or aliasing, and no obvious use of digital noise reduction. There are some minor nicks here and there, but nothing major. B+

The Pit and the Pendulum - As to be expected, the feature is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is 1080p, and uses an AVC MPEG-4 encode. This transfer isn't quite as strong as that for "The Fall of the House of Usher", but it is a satisfying experience overall. Once again, black levels are perfect throughout, especially in close-ups, with little crush. The compression artefacts that litter the Shout! Factory release from America are all but gone, but that release does share a disc with a second feature. Details are good throughout, most notably in the costume design and in facial close-ups, whilst shadow details are adequate. There is the occasional nick in the print as well as some minor scratches, but apart from one external five-second shot of waves hitting rocks, there are no major blemishes or causes for concern. The natural grain levels are generally consistent, and there are no signs of edge enhancement, aliasing, or digital noise reduction. It's an above average transfer for films of this ilk, but nothing special. B+

Tales of Terror - Like the first two features in the set, this film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is 1080p, and it receives an AVC MPEG-4 encode. In comparison to the old MGM DVD, this looks miles better, although it certainly isn't flawless. One notable concern I had was that on rare occasions, there is a noticeable change in quality between scenes, such as for a few seconds at 57:22, where the colours suddenly get much darker. However, apart from that, there aren't any major issues with the transfer here. Details are quite good throughout, especially during facial close-ups, and some objects which were a little blurry on DVD, now look much better (like the patterns on the rug). The reds of the furniture, rugs and clothing look great, whilst blacks are deep without crush. A couple of frames are slightly unstable (63:53), but that is barely noticeable. Overall, this is a strong transfer with very little damage, no aliasing, no edge enhancement, and no digital noise reduction. B

The Raven - Presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the fourth film in this set receives a 1080p transfer, and an AVC MPEG-4 encode. It's not bad at all, but there are a couple of unfortunate flaws which can likely be contributed to the source. Colours are, for the most part, quite strong, with reds of particular note. Unfortunately, there are a couple of moments where colours do feel slightly faded, and even a little inconsistent (Vincent Price's shirt). However, blacks are deep, yet they remain surprisingly detailed when you'd expect them to crush - just look at Peter Lorre's clothing in that respect. Details aren't great at all times though, with a couple of small moments lacking clarity and sharpness found elsewhere in the print (close-ups with the appearance of the raven for example). Still, despite these small flaws, there in nothing major to worry about. There are some light specks at times, but there is no edge enhancement, aliasing, obvious scratches or blemishes, or signs of digital noise reduction. A good effort, and satisfying experience. B

The Haunted Palace - Once again, Arrow provide us with the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 for this fifth entry in the box set. The transfer is 1080p, and receives an AVC MPEG-4 encode. Like the other films, there are small nicks in the print here and there, but on occasion, the scratches are more refined and noticeable, such as at 24:36. There are also a couple of larger elements of damage at play, although nothing major. Details are again strong though, especially in facial close-ups. However, it is in scenes such as the one takes place in the 31st minute, where the details of the cobbled road, and of various mis-figured people look very nice indeed. Colours are consistent, and blacks deep, with skin tones looking natural throughout. There are no major issues such as edge enhancement or aliasing, and no signs of digital noise reduction. The print might not be quite as clean as the other movies, but it is still better than I had expected any of these films to look. B-

The Tomb of Ligeia - Arrow provide the sixth and final film of this set with the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and like every other film in this set, it is 1080p and receives an AVC MPEG-4 encode. Once again, it blows the old MGM DVD out of the water, but still exhibits one or two minor problems. Whilst most films in the set have very minor nicks in them, there is the most noticeable damage in the set on this disc at 24:05, where we get am obvious scratch running vertically through the entire frame for several seconds. Blacks aren't always as deep as they perhaps should be, especially in the scene around the bell tower just after the half hour mark. However, skin tones look great, and lighter colours are vivid, and pop well. Details are usually strong, especially external day time scenes around the church, where the masonry and stonework looks very strong indeed. Unfortunately, in some of the slightly faded internal scenes, these details aren't quite as good. As per the other features, there's no edge enhancement, aliasing or digital noise reduction to speak of here, but a couple of scenes do suffer from slight instability. B-


The Fall of the House of Usher - For this title, a single English LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono track has been provided, and it is quite punchy and shows a surprising amount of depth for such a track. The various ambient effects of thunder, and creaks, are immersive despite the limitations, and volume levels consistent throughout. The music by Les Baxter is suitably creepy and tense, though on occasion could have been slightly louder. Dialogue is clear and concise at all times, with no issues of mumbling or poor syncing. I noticed no signs of damage such as drop outs or scratches, or any background hiss. This is up there with the best mono tracks I have heard for films of this era. Optional English HoH subtitles are included. A-

The Pit and the Pendulum - A single English LPCM 1.0 Mono track has been provided here, and the first thing I feel I must do is point out one thing I found quite obvious. I have read on some forums about people believing they are hearing background hiss throughout (the disc has previously been available separately), but they are incorrect. What they are actually hearing is the rain from the stormy weather outside of the castle! The track isn't damage free though, as there are a couple of brief crackles, but certainly nothing of particular note. Dialogue is clear and concise at all times, never overshadowed by the suitably dark score by Les Baxter. Effects are also clear, but do feel slightly flat on occasion. An adequate track, without any major issues. Optional English HoH subtitles are included. B-

Tales of Terror - Again, a single audio option has been included here; English LPCM 1.0 Mono. Throughout the three tales, dialogue is clear at all times, except when it is intentionally mumbled (at about 77 minutes) as part of a special effect. The score in this one is silent at times, but when it comes into play, it can be quite boisterous. Volume levels are consistent throughout, and despite the limitations of the mono track, it can show good depth thanks to a strong mix of effects, dialogue and the score. At other times however, when the audio is focused purely on dialogue, it can sound ever so slightly flat. Still, there are no signs of damage here such as drop outs or pops, and I didn't detect any background hiss. A solid, if unspectacular mix. Optional English HoH subtitles are included. B

The Raven - Once again, we get a single English LPCM 1.0 Mono track for the fourth film in this box set. The Raven has a number of more significant action scenes than some of the other Corman/Price/Poe movies, especially in the final act, and this track presents a good sense of depth for the audio effects from these scenes considering the limitations of a mono track. Dialogue is clear at all times, even during the aforementioned scenes where a lot is going on through the audio, with no mumbling or issues with syncing. The score by Les Baxter is more-full-of-life than the previous films in keeping with the more comic tone of the film, and sounds great. There are no issues with background hiss, drop outs, or any other damage. Optional English HoH subtitles are included. B+

The Haunted Palace - Whilst the transfer on this particular feature may be slightly lesser quality than the rest of the features, the sole English LPCM 1.0 Mono track certainly is not. Everything here sounds pretty good, with volume levels consistent throughout. The depth of some of the effects is strong, such as the man burning alive at 65:13, where the crackling of the fire sounds crisp (no pun intended). Unlike the previous films, the score here is by Ronald Stein, but it keeps a familiar feel that sets the tone well. Dialogue is clear at all times, and there are no issues with drop outs, scratches or background hiss. A solid track. Optional English HoH subtitles are included. B+

The Tomb of Ligeia - The final feature on this Price extravaganza features the same audio as the previous four; English LPCM 1.0 Mono. The audio here, is certainly in better condition than the transfer, with a good sharp feel to it, and some good depth. Roaring fire, footsteps, and opening/closing doors all sound smooth and never overpower the dialogue. The score by Kenneth V. Jones is exactly what we've come to expect from this series of Poe adaptations, and it has been transferred to Blu-ray without any issues. Dialogue is clear at all times, and there aren't any issues with crackles, pops, drop outs, or background hiss. English HoH subtitles have been included, and are optional. B+


The Fall of the House of Usher

We start the extras off with an audio commentary by director and producer Roger Corman. Originally recorded by MGM for their DVD release, this commentary is typical of Corman. He tries to tell us anecdotes, and technical aspects of the film, but often gets sidetracked by what is going on on-screen before getting back to his original point! Corman is very easy to listen to, and his love for film shines through (despite his slow delivery). An above average solo effort.

Next, we have an interview with director and former Corman apprentice Joe Dante (26:47). Dante is an excellent interviewee, and really opens up about Corman's career, with the additional aspect of someone whose career was essentially launched thanks to him. He talks about the type of material that Corman would go for, and how he convinced American International Pictures to make a single colour movie in cinemascope (House of Usher!), rather than two cheaper black and white movies. Some interesting points about Price cementing himself in horror with William Castle films, and much more are included here. Great stuff.

The interview with gothic horror expert Jonathan Rigby, clocks in at a mighty 32:59. It should be noted that this featurette does include spoilers (as noted when you press play) so be wary if, for some reason, you watch this before the film. Rigby is the author of "American Gothic" and "British Gothic", and talks about the various adaptations of Poe including plays, and the Universal movies of the 1930s. He tells us how Corman kept faithful to Poe's stories, though there are some changes to suit the audience of American International Pictures at the time. This interview is in-depth, and essential viewing, as Rigby covers a lot of angles in-depth.

The archival interview with Vincent Price (11:46) was originally recorded in July 1986 by Claude Ventura in Malibu. First broadcast on French television on the 18th November 1986, it does unfortunately have burnt in French subtitles which Arrow were unable to remove, but at least they apologise for any distraction that may be caused in a brief text screen beforehand! Amusingly, Price starts off by bringing out a gift he received from Disney for filming "Basil the Great Mouse Detective", and comes across as wonderfully happy and jovial, still with love for the business (though he says to never call it a business). He's enthusiastic, genuine, and the whole reason he was an extremely well liked actor is obvious from his demeanour here.

"Fragments of The House of Usher" is a specially-commissioned video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns that examines Corman's film in relation to Poe's story (10:47). Using film footage to illustrate all of Cairns' examinations, this is an easy to watch essay which helps us understand more about the similarities between the story and the film, and the meanings behind certain aspects. A welcome extra, though likely a single watch on this occasion.

The on-disc extras finish with the original trailer (2:30).

We also get a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

The Pit and the Pendulum

The extras on this disc, start with an audio commentary with director Roger Corman. Once again Corman delivers and interesting solo effort without much in the way of dead space. He de-constructs various aspects of the film scene by scene, whether it be the choice of the multi-coloured credits sequence, the cast members, or various aspects of the story. Considering the number of films Corman has under his belt, it still surprises me he can remember so much detail. An easy listen where time flies by.

A second audio commentary, with Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog is a more detailed breakdown with a massive amount of research behind it. Lucas does sound a little monotonous at times, as though he is simply reading his pre-prepared notes, but the constructive and intricate analysis here is excellent. Anyone with an interest in film history would do well to listen to this one, as Lucas often talks about other films that some of the cast members starred in.

An Isolated Score and Effects Track is included. I gave it a quick once over, and it is exactly what it says on the tin, in LPCM 1.0. Not an extra that I would honestly make use of, but I do know several love having this as an option with their favourite films, so I won't grumble.

"The Story Behind the Swinging Blade" documentary (43:07) was filmed exclusively for Arrow in 2013, and looks at the making of the film with the help of interviews with director Roger Corman, actress Barbara Steele, Vincent Price's daughter Victoria, and many more. Corman does inevitably retread some of his comments from his commentaries found on both this and on "The Fall of the House of Usher", but Barbara Steele and others certainly add some good information from different perspectives. It's a good retrospective, which also looks at a wider scope of the careers of those involved with the movie.

"An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe" is a made for television 1970 special clocking in at 53:07. The programme features Vincent Price narrating four of Edgar Allan Poe's most popular stories (The Tell Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum) in front of a live studio audience. Price is very animated during his narration, but the quality of the video is unfortunately rather poor.

The "Added Television Sequence From 1968" (5:04) is footage that was shot by Roger Corman's assistant Tamara Asseyev so that the film would fit a two hour television slot. The only cast member who was available at the time was Luana Anders, and to be honest, doesn't really add much to the movie overall. It's good to have it included here for the history of the feature, but it was a single watch extra for me.

The on-disc extras end with a theatrical trailer (2:30).

There is also a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx.

Tales of Terror

First extra included here via the audio options menu, is an Isolated Music and Effects Track (LPCM 1.0). Just like the one included on "The Pit and the Pendulum", it is exactly what it says on the tin. I had a quick flick through it, and didn't spot any immediate issues.

Next up, we have a documentary entitled "The Directors: Roger Corman", running close to an hour at 58:31. Made for television, and first screening in February 1999, it takes a career-encompassing look at Roger Corman's work as a director and producer, and includes contributions from James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, and many more. This is a corker of a documentary, as it really shows just how much influence Corman has had on the industry, giving directors like Scorsese, Demme, and Howard their first big breaks. If you enjoy this, I thoroughly recommend the more in-depth "Corman's World", to which this would make the perfect companion piece.

"Kim Newman on Edgar Allan Poe" featurette (29:32) has the British horror expert Kim Newman discussing the influence Edgar Allan Poe has had on cinema and some of the key adaptations of his work. Newman is an old hand at recording extra features having previously worked with Arrow on their release of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" where he was part of a round table with Ben Wheatley and Norman J. Warren. Having watched that on release, it comes as no surprise that Arrow have invited him back for more. Well spoken, informative, and lively enough to avoid boring the audience considering the length of this solo effort, it is certainly another tick in the positive column for this release.

Just when you thought there was something that isn't covered, along comes the "Cats in Horror Films" featurette (9:11). In this, Anne Billson, the critic, novelist and creator of the Cats on Film blog, discusses the contribution our feline friends have made to genre cinema. This is a lot more interesting than I was expecting it to be, and it is surprising just how big a role cats play in horror films without the viewer realising it. Something a little different.

Next we have "The Black Cat" short film (18:20). Co-written and directed by Rob Green, this adaptation of the popular Edgar Allan Poe story was made in 1993. They nailed the macabre aspect of the story, though the acting could certainly have been better. Surprisingly atmospheric for a film that likely had the budget of a ticket to the cinema.

As per usual, the on-disc extras end with a theatrical trailer (2:21).

A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford is also included.

The Raven

First up, an Isolated Score and Effects Track (LPCM 1.0) by Les Baxter, which like on previous discs, needs no introduction. I had a quick look through a couple of scenes, and it sounds great.

"Peter Lorre: The Double Face" is a documentary clocking in at 61:21. Filmed in 1984 by Harun Farocki, this German documentary takes a closer examination of Lorre's career, from his early days in thetre, to his untimely death in 1964. This is the first time it has been available in an English-friendly state, and is a cracking extra to have included. This is as in-depth as it could possibly be, and covers all aspects of his career, including his overnight exile from Germany. The narrator is perhaps a little monotonous at times, but the information is invaluable none-the-less.

"Richard Matheson: Storyteller" is an interview with writer and novelist Richard Matheson which was recorded in 2003 for MGM Home Entertainment (6:35). Here, Matheson talks about writing offbeat stories and remaining unpredictable, and the thought processes he went through to turn the original short poem, into a feature length comedy film. He talks about the various cast members (though he never got to speak to Karloff), and having Vincent Price star in so many of the films he wrote and they became close friends.

"Corman's Comedy of Poe" is an interview with director Roger Corman recorded in 2003 by MGM, and lasts 8:10. Corman tells us that he was a little worried that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he was adapting were starting to feel a little similar, and so when Richard Matheson came up with the idea to turn it into a comedy, Corman agreed enthusiastically. They made the sets a little less sombre, changed the camera angles in relation to the previous films, and focused more cast close-ups. Another solid extra, if a little short.

"The Trick" is a short film running 12:18. Written and directed by Rob Green in 1997, it has a close relationship to The Raven due to the aspect of the rival magicians and the comic tones. Quite an amusing little short this, with an interesting premise, and an ending I'd like to see happen to most amateur magicians!

There is a standard gallery with 57 pages of pictures from the film.

The "Promotional Record" advert (5:40) is an audio extra with some stills in the background which is advertising the movie.

The on-disc extras end with a theatrical trailer (2:26).

A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov is also included.

The Haunted Palace

The main extra on this disc is an audio commentary by Vincent Price’s biographer David Del Valle and Dario Argento biographer Derek Botelho (not with Lon Chaney Jr's son as stated on Arrow's website). They dedicate the commentary to actress Cathie Merchant who became close friends with Del Valle towards the end of her life. Del Valle leads this commentary well, with Botelho more or less resigned to chipping in as and when required, but they make a good team. There is a lot of information here, not just about the movie, but about the genre, the careers of various cast members, and more. I've not heard of either of them before, but I'd happily listen to another commentary by this pair.

We get another Isolated Score and Effects Track (LPCM 1.0) which can be accessed via the audio menu. By this point in the box set, I've said all I possibly can about these tracks!

The "Kim Newman on H.P. Lovecraft" featurette lasts 27:58, and has the renowned horror film critic and novelist considering the relationship between H.P. Lovecraft and cinema, as well as the challenges faced when adapting his works. I'm not sure how Newman manages to remain so enthusiastic in every single thing I have ever seen him in, but his obvious love for the subject matter is always catching. One again, this is rammed with information, and it's presented in a manner that makes for very easy viewing.

"A Change of Poe" is an interview with director Roger Corman lasting 11:17, that was filmed by MGM in 2003. Like previous similar extras on this set, Corman is very good in this sort of extra feature. Here, he discusses how he believes the studio tried to get him to make a Lovecraft picture rather than a Poe one all along. He tells us that he didn't necessarily want to continue with Lovecraft movies, but wanted to have a small break from Poe. Another good extra.

We also have a standard photo gallery (30 pages).

The on-screen extras end with the theatrical trailer (2:13).

A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin is also included.

The Tomb of Ligeia

First up on the sixth and final disc, we have another audio commentary with director Roger Corman. Once again, Corman goes into great detail in another sterling solo effort. It simply amazes me how he can remember so much considering his varied and busy career, but here, he can even remember which parts of the United Kingdom he travelled to when he was scouting locations. Of course, he has a lot to say about the generalities of making the film, as well as talking about various cast members. There are a couple of quiet spots in comparisons to his other commentaries on this set, but they never last too long.

A second audio commentary with actress Elizabeth Shepherd, moderated by Vincent Price biographer David Del Valle is next on the agenda. Shepherd is quite softly spoken so the first thing I had to do was turn this up a little. I was a little wary of how this one would play out, but Del Valle does a great job in asking Shepherd questions to keep things going, as well as interjecting with some tidbits of information himself. It isn't as informative or as enlightening as Corman's effort, but is worth listening to none-the-less.

Yet another Isolated Music and Effects Track (LPCM 1.0) is included here. The fifth one in this set, you should know the general flow of this by now! A welcome addition for many, but not something I would use personally.

A series of interviews comes next:
- uncredited screenwriter and Roger Corman's assistant Paul Mayersberg (24:25)
- first assistant director David Tringham (8:14)
- clapper loader Bob Jordan (7:40)
- composer Kenneth V. Jones (6:19)
I'm always happy when people who are in jobs you don't generally get to hear about get interviewed about their experiences. I honestly can't remember the last time I heard what a clapper loader had to say, that's for sure! They all have a lot of nice things to say about Corman, which really doesn't surprise me, including attributing some of his success to how he invests in people. Some people might be tempted to skip the interview with Bob Jordan (because they just may not know what a clapper loader does), but it is probably one of the best interviews here, especially of you are interested in the Panasonic cameras used. Shot exclusively for Arrow throughout 2014, these are fantastic additions to the disc.

The on-disc extras finish with a theatrical trailer (2:31)

A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil is also included.


Limited edition 200-page collector’s book containing new writing on all films, an interview with Roger Corman, extracts from Vincent Price’s autobiography and full reproductions of tie-in comic books for Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia originally published in the sixties.


Packaged as six individual keep cases housed in a box with the 200-page book. You can see pictures of the packaging over at Arrow's own Tumblr page.


An essential purchase for any fan of Vincent Price. Simple as that.

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B+


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