The bitter-tragic horror of Edgar Allan Poe combines an exploitation legend and brightly colored aesthetic – and this clash is convincing: the cult horror gem “The Horrible Mr. X” with a top cast is finally available again in home theaters.
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Opposites attract: Edgar Allen Poe’s works are considered indispensable building blocks of horror literature and are timeless classics thanks to their often tragically bitter aftertaste. Roger Corman, on the other hand, is a legend of low-budget films and is responsible for such absurd films as “The Wasp Woman” or “Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf”. But Corman also made impassioned Poe adaptations that have taken pride of place in horror film history.
Some of these are genre hot spots, others have become cult classics. “Horrible Mr. X”, also known as “Black Tales”, falls into the latter category. It has already received several home theater editions in Germany, including as a strictly limited media book. However, most are only available second-hand, so stocks are now taken care of: As of now, “The Horrible Mr. X” is finally available as regular edition on Blu-ray:
» “The Horrible Mr. X” on Blu-ray at Amazon*
Certainly not only of interest to fans: the bonus material includes the almost hour long documentary “The Tale Of Mr. Corman And Mr. Poe” about the extraordinary combination of prestigious horror writer and brutal B-filmmaker.
“Horrible Mr. X”: Vincent Price, Vincent Price and Vincent Price!
The horror anthology Harrowing Mr. X consists of three independent stories based on the seminal novelist Edgar Allan Poe: The opening story “Morella” is about the isolated widower Locke (Vincent Price), who receives an unexpected visit from his daughter Lenora (Maggie Pierce). Soon after, the alcoholic recluse is haunted by the vengeful ghost of his wife (Leona Gage)…
The episode “The Black Cat” is all about grumpy Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre), who doesn’t know who he hates more: his wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson) or her scratchy cat. He constantly tries to avoid them, which is why he becomes a regular in a tavern. There he meets the arrogant Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price again) – an encounter with dire consequences…
The dark and tragic final episode “The Valdemar Case” is about the dubious hypnotist Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), who must help a dying man (you guessed it: Vincent Price) find peace in his last minutes. But Carmichael has dark intentions…
‘Terrifier’ creator is not only working on part 3, but also has a project with a true horror legend in the works
For fans of bygone cinema eras, “The Horrible Mr. X” offers a tongue-clicking cast. In addition to horror icon Price, Lorre, known for Fritz Lang’s landmark “M – Eine Stadt sucht den Mörder”, Sherlock Holmes actor Rathbone and Co., Debra Paget, for example, plays an important role. Celebrated as a sex symbol for a long time, Paget made her revealing roles repeatedly cause scandal before turning to horror cinema in later years of her career.
However, most of these names are impressive additions rather than the main attraction of the Corman-directed creepy parade. Because the focus is on Price, who repeatedly demonstrates his distinctive voice and pleasantly sinister charisma, as well as the fabulous optics surrounding him.
Contrary to what you would normally expect in a Poe adaptation, “Horrible Mr. X” has an almost psychedelic color world. The stark backgrounds and garish effects not only give the stories an original, unforgettable aesthetic: thanks to Corman’s fierce style and consistent execution, the highly artificial design creates an unreal and gruesome atmosphere in a very special way.
Responsible for this is cameraman Floyd Crosby, who previously filmed the nerve-racking western classic “12 noon”. In “The Horrible Mr. X” he literally let off steam and created one Pop art nightmare very rarely seen these days.
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