Perhaps one of the biggest names in Hollywood horror of the 20th Century was Vincent Price. His performances in films like The Fly, House on Haunted Hilland House of Wax certified him as a master of horror. Over his career, he collaborated seven times with director Roger Corman to adapt the works of Edgar Allan Poe. These sixties horror films proved that Poe could be adapted to screen and adapted well.
While the Rotten Tomatoes (RT) review process generally includes a broad scope of critic reviews, Price and Corman’s films have only double-digit critic reviews and far more fan reviews. These films are ranked from lowest to highest based on the scores given and the number of critic views. Each work is available for rental or with a subscription to Amazon Prime.
7) ‘Tales of Terror’ (1962)
Bringing to screen multiple Poe works, Tales of Terror breaks down into short installments of the short stories. While RT and IMDb refer to the anthology film as covering three tales, Turner Classic Movies lists Tale of Terror as an adaptation of four short stories: “Morella,” “The Black Cat,” “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado.”
Reaching double-digit critic reviews at 14, Tales of Terror earned a 71% from them and 63% from over 5,000 audience members. While rating the film positively, fans believed it was the weakest of the seven Poe-Corman-Price films but still a solid adaptation for literature junkies looking for screen versions.
6) ‘The Haunted Palace’ (1963)
Based on the Poe poem of the same name, this film also draws inspiration from HP Lovecraft’s story “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” Price stars as two characters, Charles Dexter Ward, who inherits the house of his ancestor Joseph Curwen, a warlock who cursed the small New England village where the house stands just before being burned alive.
This would be the fifth of the seven Corman projects the pair worked on, released months after The Raven in 1963. With only eight RT critic reviews and over 1,000 audience reviews, The Haunted Palacecomes in with the lowest rating at a 75% critic score and a 65% audience score, with both sides applauding the visuals and Price’s performance.
5) ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ (1964)
Price stars as 12th Century Prince Prospero, a prince who worships Satan and is devoted to evil. He uses his castle to hide from the Red Death plague decimating the peasant population around him. The film is based on Poe’s short story and the last Poe adaptation feature the pair would do, another double-release year with The Tomb of Ligeia also released earlier in 1964.
With eight RT critics and over 250 audience reviews, The Masque of the Red Death came in with 89% and 66%, respectively. Loyal fans of the cinematic duo praised the final film for its ability to portray the beauty of gothic tales, some calling it “art,” and for Price’s excellent interpretation of Poe’s villain.
4) ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ (1964)
Based on another short story, this film finds Price as Verden Fell, a widower who finds himself married again, but the spirit of his first wife is forcing herself between Fell from him and his new bride. This film sneaks in as the final time the pair would bring Poe to the screen as its UK release dated November 1964, just after The Masque of the Red Death’s June 1964 release.
The Tomb of Ligeia comes in with 86% from its RT critics with 14 reviews. With over 1,000 audience reviews, the film scored 60%. Movie-goers felt the same page-turning tension in the film that they experienced reading Poe’s story.
3) ‘The Raven’ (1963)
Its title speaks for itself. Corman’s version of the famous poem expands the premise into a more magical one. Price stars as Magician Erasmus Craven, who is deeply depressed after the death of his wife, Lenore (Hazel Court). Craven is visited by a raven that turns out to be Adolphus Bedlo (Peter Lorre), who had been transformed into a bird by the evil sorcerer Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). Craven and Bedlo track down Scarabus’s castle in search of Lenore’s spirit.
Definitely not the “The Raven” as most Poe fans remember it, The Raven film still earned a high score with audiences. The over 2,500 audience members delivered a 64% score in comparison to the 88% of 17 RT critics. More comedic than horror, the film still entertained even with an appearance from a young Jack Nicholson.
2) ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ (1961)
The second film for the Poe collaborators, The Pit and the Pendulum, features a familial triangle. Francis (John Kerr) believes his sister Elizabeth’s (Barbara Steele) premature death may not be what it seems when he learns her husband Nicholas’s (Price) mother was buried alive. As he investigates, he begins to believe Elizabeth’s spirit wanders the halls of Nicholas’s castle.
A score of 75% came from over 5,000 RT viewers and 88% from 24 critics. Using visuals once again to chill his viewers, Corman proved he could produce back-to-back horror adaptations with the same lead to satisfy viewers and Poe fans.
1) ‘House of Usher’ (1960)
The first and highest-rated Corman-Price adaptation, House of Usher remains their most iconic film of the seven. Starring Price as Roderick Usher, the film’s shortened title embodies the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a tale of family, curses, ghosts, and brick walls.
Critics and audiences enjoyed the wide range of genres from strange to scary and even a little gimic-y, Price’s portrayal of the original character was spot on, and Corman’s cinematic scare techniques did the job sufficiently. House of Usher earned a certified fresh rating from its 49 critics at 86% and 74% from its over 5,000 audience members.
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