What's better than three classic tales of the macabre squeezed into a single film? I mean, what could possibly top that, right? What if I told you all three star the one and only Vincent Price?
Yeah, that would top it!
Twice-Told Tales is broken out into three sections, each one based on a different short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorn. In Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, two elderly friends, Alex (Price) and Carl (Sebastian Cabot), make a startling discovery in the tomb of Carl's fiance, Sylvia (Mari Blanchard), who died the night before their wedding 38 years earlier. Leaking from the ceiling of Sylvia's crypt is water that can reverse time, a veritable fountain of youth. Both men drink the water and become young again, but things go badly when Carl decides to use some to revive the long-deceased Sylvia. In Rappaccini's Daughter, Price plays Giancarlo Rappaccini, a scientist whose wife left him for another man many years earlier. Out of anger, Rappaccini locked himself and his infant daughter away in a garden villa, where, in an attempt to prevent his daughter from repeating the sins of her mother, he bred a poisonous toxin into the girl's system, one that is lethal to the touch. Now grown, his daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor) has attracted the attention of a young suitor named Giovanni (Brett Halsey), yet her “condition” prevents her from ever being able to touch him. The final tale, The House of the Seven Gables, centers on a 150-year-old curse, one that has plagued every male member of the Pyncheon family for generations. After a 17-year absence, Gerald Pyncheon (Price) returns to his ancestral home to claim his inheritance. However, the curse, and his estranged wife, Alice (Beverly Garland), may just prevent him from doing so.
While certainly bizarre, I can't honestly say that all three of these tales qualify as bona-fide horror stories, yet I will state unequivocally that each is very well told. Dr. Heidegger's Experiment gives Price a chance to play off another fine actor, Sebastian Cabot, and the two generate a real chemistry together. Rappaccini's Daughter is more of a romance, though Price does do his damnedest to keep the ghastly at least lurking in the shadows with his mad scientist turn. The House of the Seven Gables is undoubtedly the film's most horrific tale; paintings bleed as they hang on the wall, and ghostly groans echo through the halls at night. As Gerald Pyncheon, the last surviving member of a prestigious family, Price is both cold and calculating. Having gambled away the family's fortune, he returns home to locate a hidden treasure, one closely associated with the curse leveled against his family. Using his wife, who seems to have a strange connection with the house, as a guide, he manipulates, lies, and even murders to get what he's after. Along with three separate stories, Twice-Told Tales also treats us to three completely different versions of Vincent Price (four if you count his work as narrator of each tale), and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Twice-Told Tales may not deliver consistently on the horror promised in it's ads, but what it does provide are three well constructed tales, each equally fascinating, with a true master starring in all of them.