Tower of London (1939)

Not really a horror film, but a uniquely sinister and highly compelling history lesson, this late 1930’s Universal production brings together a marvelous cast and tells a rather loose interpretation of William Shakespeare’s famous play “Richard III”. It’s once again Boris Karloff’s charismatic face that parades the DVD-cover, but the true personification of greed and wickedness here comes from the fantastic Basil Rathbone, who plays Richard the Duke of Gloucester and brother to Edward; King of England. Richard already heavily influences all the king’s decisions, but he wants to reign by himself and thinks of fiendish plans to eliminate all those preceding him in line of the throne. He even owns a miniature theater where his progress to owning the royal crown is illustrated by dolls! Richard most loyal partner in crime is the barbaric and uncanny looking executioner Mord, performed by Boris Karloff. And yet another icon of horror cinema can be found in the cast list, moreover in the earliest phase of his rich career, namely Vincent Price. He splendidly gives image to the Duke of Clarence and appears in the film’s absolute best sequence where he and Richard hold an unfair drinking contest. The story is sometimes confusing and not entirely without flaws, but the wholesome is very atmospheric and suspenseful. Near the beginning there’s a morbid execution sequence and later in the film there are two spectacular and typically medieval battle scenes. The costumes and settings were convincing enough for me and every line that comes out of Rathbone’s mouth is a fascinating experience. Roger Corman re-told this story in 1962, again starring Vincent Price, although that version put the emphasis more on explicit torture and supernatural elements. Very much recommended.