Historical Epic - Universal Horror Style!
Rowland V Lee’s epic retelling of the end of Plantagenet rule in England (with added Boris Karloff) gets a DVD re-release in the UK courtesy of Fabulous Films.
England in the late 1400s. Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Basil Rathbone) is determined to become king despite being seventh in line. He has a plan that involves his loyal club footed executioner, Mord (Boris Karloff), a dungeon filled with torture devices, and a little tableaux of dolls of the royal family Richard keeps hidden in his cupboard so he can keep track of who needs to be bumped off next.
Vincent Price gets drowned in a vat of wine, the Prince of Wales dies on the field of battle by Richard’s sword, King Henry VI gets a knife in the back and the little princes die a horrible death in the tower, after which King (at last!) Richard meets his end at the battle of Bosworth Field before the kind of pack your bags and run ending Hammer would be making all their own twenty years later.
Whether it ended up as something of a horror piece by accident or by design, it’s likely that most of the interest for Universal’s TOWER OF LONDON is going to come from those who love the studio’s monster movie output of the era.
The addition of Boris Karloff to the cast and a score pinched from the same year’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (when studio executives demanded the period music be replaced) both give TOWER OF LONDON a deliciously disrespectable edge, one that meant the film received a few unkind comments from the critics back in the day.
It’s a bit creaky now but TOWER OF LONDON does still move well. The turns from the main cast are all tremendous fun, and the sets and battle sequences are bigger and better than much of what made its way into the studio’s horror films. Rathbone is very good as Richard, making him less of a caricature than Olivier perhaps later did, and Karloff’s introductory scene in the torture chamber is wonderful. In fact the entire endeavour makes you wonder what Universal might have done with other historical subjects that could have leant themselves to the lurid.
As is usually the case with Fabulous releases, the DVD contains no extras.
Universal's TOWER OF LONDON is out on DVD from Fabulous Films on Monday 21st August 2017