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England, 1483: On his death bed, King Edward IV (Justice Watson) makes
his brother Clarence (Charles Macauly) protector of his two sons (Donald
Losby, Eugene Martin), much to the dismay of his other brother,
hunchbacked and malformed Richard III (Vincent Price), who wants nothing
more than rule England (modest chap, isn't he?). So Richard murders his
brother Clarence to become protector of the boys in his stead, then puts
the blame of Clarence's death on Edward IV's wife's family. Not content
yet though, Richard has the midwife (Sandra Knight) present at the birth
of Edward's sons tortured so she claims the boys were not really Edward's
children - but she refuses and he tortures her to death. Thing is, all
those he has killed come back to haunt him, driving him to the brink of
madness - so much so that in a fit of rage he eventually strangles his
wife (Joan Camden) to death, the one woman who always stood by his side.
or not though, in his quest for power, Richard gets more and more
ruthless, so much so that his own mother, the Queen (Sarah Selby) opposes
him - to no avail though, eventually, Richard even kills the sons of
Edward IV with his own hands ... but they too come to haunt him, and at
one instant even try to lure him to jump off his castle walls. He is saved
though and soon proclaims himself King.
Eventually, those loyal to the
late Edward IV and to the Queen mother start a rebellion, and in the
all-decisive battle at Bosworth, Richard is again haunted by those he has
killed, and ultimately falls into the battle axe of a deceased soldier,
fulfilling a prophecy to be killed by the hands of a dead man.
in between his Edgar
Allen Poe adaptations and made with largely the same cast (and
maybe even on the same sets), Roger Corman made this little a period drama
reminiscent of Shakespeare (not in language but in topic, after all
Shakespeare wrote his own version of the story in Richard III), but
with strong macabre overtones. The outcome is an obviously cheap but
surprisingly effective piece of horror cinema in period settings, that
might not at all be historically accurate, but it's extremely haunting and
atmospheric. And while an older version of the story, Tower
of London from 1939 (which also featured Vincent Price and from
which the battle scenes were borrowed for this film), is a rather
conventional historical on a reasonable large scale, this low budget
version of the story limited in sets and cast of characters comes off as
way more atmospheric and convincing (even if it lacks in accuracy, as
mentioned above). And of course, Vincent Price's self-consciously hammy
performance really carries the whole thing. Really worth a watch.
the way, the film wasn't supposed to be in black and white originally, but
executive producer Edward Small decided on it (for cost-cutting measures,
presumably) and told Corman about it only days before shooting.