Twice Told Tales from 1963

 Cabot & Price

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mid-nineteenth century short stories were collected by him into a book, with more than a dozen philosophical mysteries. It was titled Twice Told Tales. He was not into the psychological terror as his fellow writer, Edgar Allen Poe.

There is an almost pre-science fiction quality to his literary themes, and yet when they were adapted for the big screen in 1963, the star and narrator of the film would be Vincent Price, already a big name in bad literary adaptations.

Price found steady work doing high-end schlock for more than a few decades. He brought dignity and style to what might normally pass for low-budget pot-boilers. Twice Told Tales zeroes in on three stories (two are famous in their own rights:  “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “Rappuccini’s Daughter”). The third story in the trilogy-anthology is House of SevenGables, which was a novel, his usualmetier.

Two center on scientists who play God, trying to control human nature and life over death. In the first, Dr. Heidegger’s tale is altered seriously. It becomes a small cast melodrama, now set in a dark and stormy night. Sebastian Cabot and Price are aging in pursuit of the Fountain of Youth.

 In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” he is a reclusive scientist who has filled his daughter with poison from a plant to make her separate from the normal business of social life. These are changed enough to be slick color TV specials of the era: about forty minutes each.

House of Seven Gablesis another known title, but hardly within the themes of the first two. Here, a house holds a mysterious presence of evil, rather than the people which include an heir played by Price again.  Richard Denning and Beverly Garland join him in this ghostly tale of hidden treasure.

They are not horrific much, slow-moving, and quite literary, hardly up to contemporary standards of horror and special effects. That may be their charm. If you want something that is neither the original Hawthorne story, nor a modern flashy horror, this is your movie.