Monday, October 12, 2009

Karloff is the blunt instrument of evil ambition in 'Tower of London'

Tower of London (1939)
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price, Ian Hunter, Boris Karloff, Nan Grey, John Sutton and Barbara O'Neil
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

The vicious and powerhungry Richard, Duke of Glocester (Rathbone) manipulates, bullies and murders his way to becoming King of England.

Most of you reading this are familiar with Shakespear's "Richard the Third." (And if you aren't, at least go rent one of the many movie and/or TV versions available. You're severely lacking in your cultural education). As such, the broad strokes of the story are familiar, but the particulars and the way they are executed in this version are not. Nor is the great fun you'll have watching Basil Rathbone portray a truly dispicable character, and Boris Karloff playing off him as an equally evil but pathetically devoted henchman.

Special notice should also be paid to Vincent Price, who plays the simpering drunkard Duke of Clarence. He easily holds his own against Rathbone in the scenes they share, and he displays an approach to the character different than any of his later performances and a style totally absent as he became more closely associated with horror films and thrillers.

Although included in Universal's Karloff Collection and touted as a horror film, it is not. It is a well-mounted period drama that features exceptional acting on the part of everyone on screen. The film does adhere to the hyperbolic claim on the set that Karloff is seen in one of his most frightening roles. Mord the Executioner is an exceptionally creepy character and Karloff draws out every ounce of Sinister to be found within him.

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