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Six Gothic Tales on Limited Edition Blu-ray in December

20 November 2014

From the Merchant of Menace, Vincent Price, and the King of the B’s, Roger Corman, come six Gothic tales inspired by the pen of Edgar Allan Poe. Arrow Video has announced the limited edition release of this Six Gothic Tales box set. Limited to a run of just 2000 copies, this much-anticipated release will include The Fall of the House of Usher, Tales of Terror, Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, The Haunted Palace and The Tomb of Ligeia.

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.

In keeping with Arrow Video tradition, this limited edition box-set will host a wealth of new bonus features sure to please Price, Corman and Poe fans alike. The set will include various new featurettes such as Kim Newman on Edgar Allan Poe, in which the novelist and critic looks at Poe’s influence on the big screen and Kim Newman on H.P. Lovecraft, a look at the relationship between Lovecraft and the cinema. In the featurette Cats in Horror Films, critic, novelist and Cats on Film blogger Anne Billson discusses the genre contributions of our feline friends.

Alongside these newly commissioned featurettes, various other documentaries will be included such as The Two Faces of Peter Lorre (1984), the English-friendly debut of acclaimed filmmaker Harun Farocki’s career-spanning portrait of Lorre’s early days through to his untimely death. And The Directors: Roger Corman, an hour-long episode from the TV series on the filmmaker featuring contributions from James Cameron, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard will also be included.

Other standout bonus content includes all-new interviews with The Tomb of Ligeia crew members including co-writer/production assistant Paul Mayersberg (who would go on to write The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence among others).

The Haunted Palace features a newly recorded audio commentary by Vincent Price's biographer David Del Valle and Tales of Terror will include Rob Green's acclaimed short film from the nineties, The Black Cat (1993) and The Raven will include his other short The Trick (1996).

The set will be rounded off with a 200-page book containing a wealth of new writing on each of the films, an interview with Roger Corman, and reproductions of tie-in comic books for Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia originally published in the sixties.

Six Gothic Tales will be released as a Limited Edition, 6-disc Blu-ray box set on 8th December by Arrow Films at the RRP of £79.99.

And so to the details of each of the films and discs. Deep breath...

The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

When exploitation maestro Roger Corman decided to raise his game by hiring Vincent Price to star in an adaptation of a classic tale by Edgar Allan Poe, he set in train a series of Poe adaptations that would redefine American horror cinema.

When Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) visits his fiancée Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) in her crumbling family mansion, her brother Roderick (Price) tries to talk him out of the wedding, explaining that the Usher family is cursed and that extending its bloodline will only prolong the agony. Madeline wants to elope with Philip, but neither of them can predict what ruthless lengths Roderick will go to in order to keep them apart.

Richard Matheson’s intelligent, literate script is enhanced by Floyd Crosby’s stylish widescreen cinematography, but it’s Price’s anguished conviction in one of his signature roles that makes the film so chillingly memorable over half a century on.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM

  • Original uncompressed 2.0 Mono PCM Audio

  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary with director and producer Roger Corman

  • Legend to Legend, an interview with director and former Corman apprentice Joe Dante

  • Interview with author and Gothic horror expert Jonathan Rigby

  • Fragments of the House of Usher, a specially-commissioned video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns examining Corman’s film in relation to Poe’s story

  • Archival interview with Vincent Price

  • Original Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

A horse-drawn carriage pulls up on a deserted beach. A sombre figure dismounts and gazes up towards his destination – a foreboding cliff-top castle perched high above the crashing waves. Thus the perfect Gothic scene is set for Pit and the Pendulum, the second of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations once again starring the ever-reliable Vincent Price (The Fall of the House of Usher, Theatre of Blood) alongside the bewitching Barbara Steele (Black Sunday).

Having learned of the sudden death of his sister Elizabeth (Steele), Francis Barnard (John Kerr) sets out to the castle of his brother-in-law, Nicholas Medina (Price), to uncover the cause of her untimely demise. A distraught, grief-stricken Nicholas can offer only the vaguest explanations as to Elizabeth’s death – at first citing “something in her blood”, but later asserting that she quite literally “died of fright”. What sort of unspeakable horrors are buried within the walls of this castle that could cause one’s heart to stop so? With Francis determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the terrible truth will not stay buried for long.

Right from its brooding kaleidoscopic opening titles, Pit and Pendulum draws you into its world of cobwebs, secret passageways and dusty suits of armour. All the necessary elements are present and correct and, along with one of Price’s most tortured performances, makes Pit and the Pendulum every inch the Gothic masterpiece.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM

  • Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio

  • Optional isolated music and effects track

  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary with director and producer Roger Corman

  • Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas

  • Behind the Swinging Blade, a new documentary on the making of Pit and the Pendulum featuring Roger Corman, star Barbara Steele, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price and more!

  • Added TV Sequence – Shot in 1968 to pad out the film for the longer TV time slot, this scene features star Luana Anders

  • An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe with Vincent Price (1970, 52 mins), Price reads a selection of Poe’s classic stories before a live audience, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum (with optional SDH subtitles)

  • Original Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Tales of Terror (1962)

In his earlier Edgar Allan Poe films, Roger Corman took short stories by the great Gothic master and expanded them into full-length features. Here, by contrast, the stories stay short, the only other thing they have in common being the participation of Vincent Price.

In Morella, Price plays a tormented man forced to confront a dark family secret when his long estranged daughter tracks him down. In The Black Cat, he’s the rakish lover of the wife of Peter Lorre, who naturally plots a deadly revenge. And in the title role of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar he tries to relieve chronic pain by asking Basil Rathbone to hypnotise him, something that leaves poor Valdemar hovering on the border between the dead and the living.

Corman’s previous Poe films were played completely straight, and parts of Tales of Terror are as authentically creepy as any of them. But he also stirred comedy into the Poe brew for the first time, particularly in the scenes between Price and Lorre.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM

  • Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio Optional isolated music and effects track

  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • The Directors: Roger Corman, an hour-long documentary on the filmmaker featuring contributions from James Cameron, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard

  • Kim Newman on Edgar Allan Poe, the novelist and critic looks at Poe’s influence on the big screen

  • Cats in Horror Films, critic, novelist and Cats on Film blogger Anne Billson discusses the genre contributions of our feline friends

  • The Black Cat, a 1993 short film adaptation of Poe’s classic tale directed by Rob Green (The Bunker)

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford

The Raven (1963)

Although The Raven is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems, the lack of a narrative hook initially stumped screenwriting legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Duel) until he realised that the idea of adapting the poem was so ridiculous that he might as well make it a comedy.

And what a comedy! Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff play rival magicians whose paths cross when Dr Craven (Price) hears Dr Bedlo tap-tap-tapping on his windowpane. For Bedlo has been turned into a raven by Dr Scarabus (Karloff), and when transformed back into his old self he naturally vows revenge. But the scripted rivalry is as nothing compared to three great horror masters relentlessly upstaging each other - even a young Jack Nicholson, as Bedlo’s son, barely gets a look-in.

If there’s not much authentic Poe in these sorcery shenanigans, the sets and cinematography more than compensate: director Roger Corman was by then a master of conjuring Gothic atmosphere on a very modest budget.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM

  • Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio

  • Optional isolated music and effects track

  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • The Two Faces of Peter Lorre (1984, 61 mins), Harun Farocki’s career-spanning portrait from Lorre’s early days in the theatre alongside Brecht to his untimely death

  • Richard Matheson: Storyteller, an interview with the legendary novelist and screenwriter

  • Corman’s Comedy of Poe, an interview with Roger Corman about making The Raven

  • The Trick, a short film about rival magicians by Rob Green (The Bunker)

  • Promotional Record

  • Stills and Poster Gallery

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov

The Haunted Palace (1963)

Although recognised as part of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe cycle (its title comes from a Poe poem), The Haunted Palace has a much more significant place in film history for being the first high-profile adaptation of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, in this case his novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Ward is one of two characters played by Vincent Price, the other being Ward’s great-great-grandfather Joseph Curwen, burned as a warlock 110 years before. When Ward returns to the village of Arkham to reclaim the family mansion, his striking resemblance to his ancestor is just the first of many macabre events that proceed to unfold, including the screen debut of Lovecraft’s legendary Necronomicon.

As before, Corman and his team worked wonders with their modest budget, with Daniel Haller’s sets amongst the most elaborate in all the Poe cycle, enhanced by genuinely creepy moments such as the crowd of deformed villagers still living under Curwen’s curse.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio

  • Optional isolated music and effects track

  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary by Vincent Price’s biographer David Del Valle and writer Derek Botelho

  • Kim Newman on H.P. Lovecraft, a look at the relationship between Lovecraft and the cinema, and the challenges of adapting his work

  • A Change of Poe, an interview with Roger Corman

  • Stills and Poster Gallery

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

For the last of his cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Roger Corman asked screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown) to turn Poe’s story ‘Ligeia’ into another vehicle for Vincent Price, who once again plays a man so haunted by his past that he is unable to function in the present.

In this case the past comes in the form of his now-deceased first wife Ligeia, who casts a long shadow over an ill-advised second marriage to a woman who resembles her (Elizabeth Shepherd), particularly when he becomes convinced that Ligeia’s spirit is returning to him in the form of a black cat. But is this actually a delusion on his part?

Although the doom-laden narrative and Price’s tormented performance had become well established ingredients in the Corman Poe cycle, the film looks strikingly different from the earlier films, with much of it taking place in broad daylight, and shot in actual English locations (notably Stonehenge and Norfolk’s Castle Acre Priory) instead of Hollywood sets.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM

  • Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio

  • Optional isolated music and effects track

  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary by director and producer Roger Corman

  • Audio commentary by star Elizabeth Shepherd

  • All-new interviews with crew members including cowriter/ production assistant Paul Mayersberg, first assistant director David Tringham, clapper loader Bob Jordan and composer Kenneth V. Jones

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil