EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally appeared on the site on July 6, 2021. Kino Lorber has re-released this on blu ray, including audio commentary by film historians Richard Harland Smith and Perry Martin, a “Trailers From Hell” with Mick Garris and the theatrical trailer.
Of the three stories featured in Twice-Told Tales, only one of them — “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” — is actually from the Nathaniel Hawthorne book. The other two — “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and The House of the Seven Gables — are from another story and a book the author wrote.
Much like Tales of Terror, all three of these stories feature Vincent Price as narrator and star. It was written and produced by Robert E. Kent, the man who brought Roy Orbison to the screen in The Fastest Guitar Alive. This was directed by Sidney Salkow, who also worked with Price on The Last Man On Earth.
In “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot, The Time Machine) and Alex (Price) meet to celebrate Heidegger’s 79th birthday. As they look back on their lives, they learn that Carl has never gotten over the death of his fiancee Sylvia. In a drunken depression, he wanders down to her grave, only to find her perfectly preserved. As he drinks the water that rains down on her coffin, the old man — and then his friend — become young again.
Both of them decide to inject the dead woman with the water and she returns, only to inform Carl that Alex was her lover. The two men clash, only for Alex to die and Sylvia to wither to a skeleton. Alex wanders the crypt, unable to find any more of the water.
While dramatic, this story doesn’t match Hawthorne’s, during which four older people use water that they’ve found from the legendary Fountain of Youth, near Lake Macaco in Florida. It doesn’t end on such a down note either.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is the story of a man (Price) who has kept his daughter like a plant in a garden, treating her with the extract of an exotic plant that makes her very touch deadly. Yet what happens when she falls in love with a young man (Brett Halsey!)?
This story inspired the DC Comics character Poison Ivy, while the story itself was based on Indian fairy tales of poisoned maidens. The pop culture life of this story also extends to the Fleetwood Mac song “Running through the Garden.”
The last story is “House of the Seven Gables,” which finds a cursed family, reincarnation, an inheritance and skeletal hands emerging to attack Price. The same story had been previously filmed in 1940 and also featured Price (he plays Gerald Pyncheon here; he played Clifford in the original).
The Hawthorne novel was a major inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft, who claimed that it was “New England’s greatest contribution to weird literature.” You can detect the novel’s shadow cast over his stories “The Picture in the House”, “The Shunned House” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
If you enjoy anthology horror and Vincent Price, this one is for you. If you don’t, never speak to me again.