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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History? No! Fun? Absolutely!!
The story of Richard III's bloody rise to the throne of England has been told many times, most memorably in Shakespeare's highly fictionalised play. This version perpetuates the "Richard as Demon King" legend and is a helluva lot of fun.

Basil Rathbone is a wonderful Richard, malevolent, driven, utterly ruthless and goes just far enough over the top without...
Published on 28 Mar 2010 by Peter Howley

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crookback and Dragfoot..
When Jack Nicholson, swinging that axe, is lurching around the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING it reminds me instantly of Karloff as Mord the Executioner right down to the limp. Jack and Boris had worked together for Roger Corman in the Sixties and I'm sure this was Jack's way of paying homage to the great veteran.
TOWER OF LONDON is a Classics Illustrated take on...
Published on 1 Feb 2011 by "filmfogey"


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History? No! Fun? Absolutely!!, 28 Mar 2010
By 
Peter Howley (Chester, Cheshire Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
The story of Richard III's bloody rise to the throne of England has been told many times, most memorably in Shakespeare's highly fictionalised play. This version perpetuates the "Richard as Demon King" legend and is a helluva lot of fun.

Basil Rathbone is a wonderful Richard, malevolent, driven, utterly ruthless and goes just far enough over the top without straying into the realm of pantomime. Karloff is, as always, superb, as the sinister Mord, executioner and henchman to the Duke and a young Vincent Price (later to play Richard himself in a low-budget remake) is the doomed Clarence, drowning in a vat of Malmsey (actually flat Coca Cola) after an outrageously hammy drinking scene with Rathbone. The ladies are pretty much sidelined. Nan Grey is a pretty nonentity and Barbara O'Neill really abandons any thoughts of restraint, playing bug-eyed horror directly into the camera lens on more than one occasion, which is curious when one considers her wonderful performance the same year as Mrs O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind". Incidentally, the two young princes in the tower are very effectively modelled on Millais' famous painting. The only serious disappointment is John Sutton as the "hero". He's truly terrible (and appears to be wearing more make up than all the females put together). It's a HORRIBLE performance.

The production looks magnificent both in terms of sets and costumes, well directed by the ever-dependable Rowland V Lee and although the score seems to be mostly recycled from other Universal horrors, it works well. All in all, a highly entertaining 92 minutes.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crookback and Dragfoot.., 1 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
When Jack Nicholson, swinging that axe, is lurching around the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING it reminds me instantly of Karloff as Mord the Executioner right down to the limp. Jack and Boris had worked together for Roger Corman in the Sixties and I'm sure this was Jack's way of paying homage to the great veteran.
TOWER OF LONDON is a Classics Illustrated take on Richard III, favouring Shakespeare's potent vision though not his dialogue and effectively splitting the murky monarch into two characters - Basil Rathbone's evil genius and Karloff's devoted sidekick, the Public Headsman with a club-foot who's in charge of the dirty work. Though both stars are truly chilling in their dedicated malevolence the film they grace is a scrappy affair. It looks good in its grey no-nonsense Thirties style but the narrative is fragmented and some of the support inadequate. Barbara O'Neil as the Queen is given staring close-ups but there's nothing going on in her eyes while John Sutton's noble hero suffers hideous torture from which he emerges strangely unmarked. A young Vincent Price makes a snarling stooge of the Duke of Clarence who almost drinks Richard under the table in a grimly amusing set-piece before being drowned in a vat of wine but the murder of the boy-princes is brutally uncompromised. There's a great moment prior to this scene when Karloff seems in two minds about killing them. He stares down at the sleeping pair as if undecided then abruptly calculates the space needed to dig a hole for them. The two super-villains die together on Bosworth Field but though the battle is strikingly drawn, mostly in dank close-ups, their actual demise is disappointingly sudden and we're off to a happy ending for the young lovers and England safe under a bland Harry Tudor.

The vexed question of guilt or innocence is thoroughly aired in THE TRIAL OF RICHARD III, a London Weekend TV programme from 1984 unseen since its first transmission but now a companion-piece to Olivier's film on dvd. It runs as long as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on just the one set but it's absolutely riveting. A real judge presides while real counsel argue the case before an actual everyday jury and a medieval murder-mystery unfolds. The 'witnesses' for and against are historians with their documented evidence and one of them is a certain Dr. David Starkey, looking absurdly young with an H.G.Wells moustache but otherwise recognisable as the man we know today and giving the defence - Starkey's 'against' - some wasp-stings when the poor chap gets his name wrong - twice. The incontrovertible fact is that the princes disappeared after their induction into the Tower for 'protection' and were never seen again and no one apparently raised a peep about it afterwards. Did Richard's silence indicate guilt or political discretion ? Was Buckingham the instigator, the man who changed sides, was he working with the Tudors who in the event of victory over Richard wouldn't want the princes around ? Henry Tudor never mounted an enquiry after becoming King, was he behind it all ? If Richard was stitched up Shakespeare's later hatchet-job to please the Elizabethans was to skewer his image for centuries. Paintings of him are produced in court to contend that they were 'doctored' afterwards to distort his appearance. There's discussion about the bones discovered in an alcove in modern times.. The jury's eventual verdict is not legally binding, of course, and never can be but it feels satisfying. One thing's for sure, you can't keep a good story down. Add to that here the intoxicating pleasure of hearing the English language spoken throughout so beautifully and with authority. Sublime.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic entertainment, 21 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
Wonderful acting and a great story line - these guys never age and have that magic quality to be able to hold their audience spellbound!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars quite enjoyed it, 23 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
I quite enjoyed this movie. A fictional recreation of the machinations of Richard III, casting him in the role of an arch villain in the mould of Shakespeare's Richard III.
This is both dramatic and offbeat at the same time and this is where it manages to carve its niche in the annals of cinema.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester is portrayed by Basil Rathbone as evil and scheming but not so obviously deformed as he was in Richard III (Special Edition) [DVD]. Thewrefore he can appear more charming and even dashing when he needs to be, while we see him in secret with a dolls house of wax figures representing those in the way of his line to the throne which he disposes of after having them murdered.

Boris Karloff portrays his thuggish club footed henchman Mord. And Barbara O Neil plays Richard's nemesis Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
Miles Mander comes off as an enfeebled aged and half mad Henry VI, dressed up as a pantomime king, and Ian Hunter plays a well rounded Edward IV. John Sutton plays the comical hero of the story John Wyatt-an utter fop who it comes off as satirical that he escapes and plays his role in the victory of Henry Tudor (Ralph Forbes). the scenry and props are impeccable
Great performances by Ronald Sinclair as the boy king Edward and particularly John Herbert-Bond the boy Prince Richard of York, so beautifully done by John Herbert-Bond. So appealing and delicately beautiful- it is so difficult not to almost shed a tear watching him at play and prayer, knowing his fate. And then the brave reaction little Prince Richard actually puts up to the killers they came really stood out as moving
This was great year for cinema, with The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights all making their debuts on screen, and this movie is a great piece of cinematic history in itself. This film is about the evil machinations of power and ambition and came out in 1939 at the time Europe was threatened by ruthless tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Franco.
It fun, offbeat, a little scary in parts, and I liked it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No age is without its ruthless men who in their search for power, leave dark stains upon the pages of history.", 7 Dec 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
Although best remembered today, if at all, for Son of Frankenstein, director Rowland V. Lee was responsible for a nice line in swashbucklers in the 30s and showed he could handle darker bigger budget fare with aplomb with 1939's Tower of London, a determinedly non-Shakespearean but highly entertaining account of the rise of Richard III and the fall of the Plantagenets. It's not quite top notch but it's not far from it, Lee managing to draw slightly more diverse performances from his leads than their usual default screen personas.

Filmed at a time when Universal still had enough of their Hunchback of Notre Dame backlot left to give the film an impressive sense of scale (ironically scheduling conflicts with this film meant that Basil Rathbone had to drop out of playing Frollo in the Charles Laughton version of Hunchback), it's surprisingly lavish, Lee's dynamic and visually striking direction putting every cent and more besides up on the screen. It also benefits from a witty script that may not aspire to Shakespeare but has a firm grip on the practicalities of power in the Middle Ages ("Marry your enemies and behead your friends!") and enough of the blood-soaked cruelty of the era to satisfy the Universal horror fans ("There's a way of tearing the truth from a man's soul") thanks to the presence of a bald and limping Boris Karloff as Crookback's favorite torturer, Dragfoot Mord. There's even a striking battle in the pouring rain (naturally shot in crippling heat) that may well have made an impression on Orson Welles when he heard those Chimes at Midnight.

Rathbone, looking like Mr Spock, is quite magnificent here, relishing fencing with sword and words alike, whispering to avoid waking the sleeping boy king during court business and even managing to deliver one of the screen's few genuinely convincing drunk scenes in his drinking match with Clarence over that fateful vat of Malmsey wine. Ian Hunter makes a convincingly robust King Edward and Vincent Price (who would play Richard Crookback himself in the 1962 remake) a weaselly Clarence. Naturally the good guys can't compete: led by John Sutton, sounding alarmingly like Peter Cook, they're a typically bland lot, and it's only really some weak casting on the side of the angels and a rushed ending that doesn't give Richard and Mord good enough exits after such a grand buildup that let it down. But for 90 minutes you'll probably be having so much wicked fun with this near-forgotten near-classic that you'll forgive the less than grand finale. No extras on the DVD, though.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder, Malmsey & Medieval Madness., 11 May 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
Tower of London is directed by Rowland V. Lee and written by Robert N. Lee. It stars Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Barbara O'Neil and Ian Hunter. Music is collaborated by Ralph Freed, Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner and cinematography by George Robinson.

Out of Universal Pictures, film is a reworking of how Richard III (Rathbone) rose to become King of England by scheming and killing off those ahead of him in line to the throne.

No square headed or fang sprouting monsters in this Universal Picture, this is about human monsters, splendidly played out with historical observation. It's 1471 and we are involved in shifty shenanigans, torture, war, infanticide and depravity. All played out amongst classic Universal backdrops; of which the titular Tower is a prominently gloomy force. There's much decadence to be found and gruesome deaths are interlaced with medieval malarkey such as a wine drinking competition to the death! Some deliciously macabre scenes land in the conscious and stay there, none more so than with Richard's returning visits to his Royal figurines! All good dastardly fun.

Story has a lot going on, so paying attention is heartily recommended to get the best out of Lee's screenplay. Characterisations are rich with period flavours, especially the villains, where Rathbone is wide eyed, edgy and maniacal, and the irrepressible Karloff a hulking grotesque who takes pride in his position as chief torturer. Robinson's photography is suitably atmospheric, with the misty marsh laden battle at the finale particularly striking: the latter of which also finding director Lee on good camera form as he fluidly tracks the mud, blood and swinging of steel.

Sure some of it's unintentionally smile inducing, and that final battle needed to be considerably longer, but all told it's classical period stuff that does have some serious humanistic themes at its core. 7.5/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars rather plodding and rambling but still good., 6 Jun 2012
By 
jeremiah harbottle (Littlebourne, Kent.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
this is rathbone and karloff's film all the way! between them, they plot to kill off all of the members of the royal family who would stand to be the newly crowned king of england.
as the character who craves the chance to be king, basil rathbone tends to be a bit hammy at times. i wouldn't say it's his fault, it's down to the director. i think boris karloff fares better as rathbone's evil manservant, he sure knew how to chill and creep his audience!
the plot is a bit rambling and i sometimes had trouble keeping up with what was going on. the set designs and costumes are well done though.
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3.0 out of 5 stars But For Karloff... tosh..., 4 Sep 2014
By 
A.J.Bradley (Belper,Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tower Of London [DVD] (DVD)
I'm always interested in seeing anything with Karloff - and he's about the only reason for staying awake until Bosworth field. Rathbone is awful, Vincent Price - not one of my favourite actors at the best of times - is worse. As for the others... hmm... Oh, Lionel Belmore is fine ... Did this come before or after 'Son Of Frankenstein'?
Anyway, you pay your admission fee for dear old Boris: Come Into The Garden, Mord. He has the best of it, seeing off the absurd princes in the tower with their queenie hairstyles, for instance. Lee was a more than capable director - and at least we didn't have Una O'Connor running around screaming and buggering things up, as in 'Bride' and 'The Invisible Man'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I like the Tower of London. It shows a young Vincent Price along with Boris Karloff set in the 14th century., 3 Jan 2013
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Set in medivial times I particularly like the behaviour of the way people behaved. Not a violent horror film, I enjoy the suspence and fallowing of the film entails.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Just the job !, 30 July 2014
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I bought this as a prezzie for my father in law who saw it as a child in 1930's , he enjoyed it as did I a bit dated historically inaccurate but just the job for a rainy afternoon
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