When Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce) travels from Boston to be reunited with her father (Vincent Price) in his decrepit and cobwebbed mansion, she finds him drunk, disordered, and depressed. He refuses her company, insisting that she killed her mother Morella (Leona Gage) in childbirth. Lenora then discovers her mother's body decomposing on a bed in the house. Lenora cannot return to Boston and remains in the house to care for her father. His feelings soften towards her when he learns she has a terminal illness. One night Morella's spirit rises, and kills Lenora in revenge for her childbed death. Morella's body is then resurrected, becoming as whole and as beautiful as she was in life. This is in exchange for Lenora's, which is now decomposing where Morella lay. Morella strangles her horrified husband as a fire breaks out in the house. Then Morella and Lenora return to their original bodies, Lenora smiling as she lies on her dead father, rotten Morella cackling as the flames consume the house. The cast includes Edmund Cobb as a coach driver.
"The Black Cat"
Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) hates his wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson) and her black cat. One night on a ramble about town, he happens upon a wine tasting event and challenges the world's foremost wine taster, Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price), to a contest. Herringbone becomes drunk. Luchresi escorts him home and meets his wife. Time passes, and Annabelle and Luchresi become intimate. The cuckolded Herringbone then entombs them alive in an alcove in the basement. The authorities become suspicious and two policemen (John Hackett and Lennie Weinrib) visit the house to investigate. Hearing screeching behind a basement wall, they knock the wall down to discover the dead lovers — and Annabelle's black cat, which Herringbone had accidentally walled up with the lovers. Cast includes Wally Campo as bartender Wilkins and Alan DeWitt as the wine-tasting chairman.
Dying from a painful disease, M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) employs a hypnotist, Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), to alleviate his suffering by putting him under various trances. He then remains between the worlds of the living and the dead. In a trance, Valdemar begs Carmichael to release his soul so he can die, but Carmichael cruelly refuses. Months pass and Valdemar's putrefying body remains in his bed under the complete control of Carmichael. The hypnotist tries to force Valdemar's wife Helene (Debra Paget) to marry him. When she refuses, he attacks her. Valdemar's putrid body rises from the bed and kills Carmichael. Helene is rescued by Valdemar's physician (David Frankham) and carried from the scene of horror.
Richard Matheson was the screenwriter for yet another of the Corman-Poe cycle. These particular short stories were VERY short, so Matheson and Corman both felt they’d work better as short films within a feature length anthology of sorts—a trilogy of tales. They also felt, since they had already worked together on the other Poe films, they were in danger of repeating themselves, and decided this format would stand out better from their previous work. To further differentiate them from the previous films in the cycle, they added humour (best represented with the presence of actor Peter Lorre...he and Vincent Price make a great team). They really went for the humour in The Black Cat. Vincent was the lead in all three stories.
Corman’s favourite of the three (which were filmed over 5 days each) was The Black Cat, as Price and Lorre worked so well and so humourously together. Apparently, about 50 black cats come to audition (as a publicity stunt). And during the actual shoot, whenever a cat wasn’t cooperating for a scene, they swapped it out for another—which likely worked better, I imagine, for the cats AND the rest of the crew!
Morella ended in fire, a tried and true ending of FX for the Corman-Poe cycle. Roger Corman said in an interview that he chose to end The Terror (filmed during the Corman-Poe film cycle years and honourary Corman-Poe cycle film) with a flood, just because he was so tired of ending all these films with a fire!
Mr. Valdimar included Basil Rathbone. He was on the elderly side, and Corman worked with him rather gently…though Rathbone was well prepared, he often had trouble remembering his lines.
The Black Cat went in between the 2 more gothic/serious pictures. It established a pattern for later works with Peter Lorre and Vincent Price — The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors.
I'm actually not as big a fan of Tales of Terror when compared with the rest of the cycle, but it is a fun departure to have three stories "for the price of one," especially since the one in the middle (The Black Cat) is so different in its comedic approach.