This three-part selection of horror stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne explores the psyches of convention-bound characters and the bizarre means they use to elude the restrictions of society. "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" tells the tale of an elderly physician who develops an elixir of life, and uses it to resurrect the woman he was to have married. He also rejuvenates himself and his best friend, only to discover, with tragic consequences, that he is the odd man out in a lover s triangle. "Rappacini's Daughter" is also about love and jealousy. Rappacini is a disillusioned botanist who rears his daughter in a garden of poisonous plants and goes so far as to inoculate her with their juices until anyone who touches her dies. "The House of the Seven Gables" concerns a rumor of treasure hidden within a haunted house, and the effect of an ancient curse on the young man who tries to find the fortune.
Once Was Enough
- Twice Told Tales review by Count Otto Black
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Round about the time this film was shot, Roger Corman was making American International Pictures a great deal of money with his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, almost all of which starred Vincent Price (they were churned out so fast that Vincent had to miss one because he was accidentally double-booked). So an utterly obscure studio called Admiral Pictures thought they'd jump on the bandwagon with this triple bill of 19th century horror stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, all of them starring Vincent Price.
Unfortunately it fell a bit flat. Director Sydney Salkow, who mainly did westerns, and is remembered almost entirely for directing the original Addams Family TV series, which wasn't exactly spine-chilling horror, entirely lacked Corman's over-the-top exuberance, and since Hawthorne didn't have Poe's manic morbidity, his tales must by 1963 have already seemed quaintly old-fashioned. Vincent Price is as professional as ever, but there's only so much he can do with scenes that are just him and somebody else talking absolute rubbish, of which, alas, there are many!
The first tale basically consists of two men talking far, far too much in order to stretch a brief and ludicrously contrived story that could have been told in ten minutes to four times that length. Then we get a twist that would have been obvious even if the synopsis didn't give it away, and a couple of seconds of very mild horror, though mainly it's about tragic love and regret. The same is true of the second segment, in which slightly more happens, but really it's just a fable about an over-protective father, and the nearest we get to any actual horror is the noise the guinea-pig makes as it turns purple. Yes, really...
The final third is as low-budget as the rest, all of which are shot entirely on small and extremely fake studio sets, pare the cast down to the point where there are almost no characters, however minor, who aren't absolutely necessary, and obviously didn't spend huge sums on the special effects. However, it does at least try a bit harder to scare us, with ghostly goings-on in a creepy old house that provide far more blood and horror than the other two parts combined. Still not very much though. And in a perverse change of pace, the characters struggle to pack their extremely stilted dialogue with shedloads of confusing and wildly improbable plot exposition concerning witchcraft, curses, family feuds, lost treasure, secret rooms, and a whole movie's worth of exciting-sounding things that happened 150 years previously, which we don't get to see because that would require a much more expensive movie than this one.
It's not absolutely terrible, but it isn't much good, and Vincent Price sometimes seems a bit lackluster, as if the director didn't know how to get the best out of him. Roger Corman did, and even the cheapest and least interesting of the Poe films they made together, while they're superficially similar to this, are far more fun, so you're probably better off watching one of those instead.