Tower of London (1962 film)

Tower of London is a 1962 historical drama and horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price and Michael Pate. The film was produced by Edward Small Productions.

Tower of London
The theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Corman
Produced byGene Corman
Edward Small
Written byLeo Gordon
F. Amos Powell
Robert E. Kent
StarringVincent Price
Michael Pate
Robert Brown
Charles Macaulay
Joan Freeman
Morris Ankrum
Music byMichael Anderson
CinematographyArchie R. Dalzell
Admiral Pictures
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
24 October 1962 (1962-10-24)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film tells a highly fictionalised account of the rise to power and eventual downfall of King Richard III of England, freely combining elements derived from the plots of Shakespeare's plays Richard III and Macbeth.

Aside from the historical setting, the movie is not connected to the 1939 film of the same name, starring Price, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.


In 1483 England, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester (Vincent Price), is dismayed when his dying brother King Edward IV names their brother George, Duke of Clarence as Protector to his young son and heir, Prince Edward. Richard wants the position himself, to become de facto ruler after his brother's death. He secretly stabs George to death with a dagger bearing the crest of the Woodville family, framing the dying king's in-laws. Richard is now named Protector. His wife Anne approves of his crime and encourages him to take the throne for himself.

After the death of King Edward, Richard tries to achieve his ends by intimidating the widowed queen's lady-in-waiting Mistress Shore into claiming that the dead king's two children are illegitimate. She refuses, and Richard tortures her. After she dies on the rack, Richard claims he executed her for spreading the rumour that the princes were illegitimate. He says that the two princes should be placed in his protective custody.

The ghosts of Clarence, King Edward and Mistress Shore haunt Richard, warning him that they will be revenged at "Bosworth". He is also told that he will be killed by a dead man. Shore's ghost merges with the body of Anne, and a semi-deranged Richard strangles his own wife, believing her to be Shore. Without his beloved Anne, he is struck with guilt and loneliness. Richard consults the Moorish physician and sorcerer Tyrus, who shows him visions of his future, including the prophecy that he will be king.

Tyrus is disturbed by Richard's increasingly deranged demeanour. Fearful for the safety of the princes, he informs Sir Jasper, a young aristocrat who is looking after the lads. Jasper plots with his girlfriend, Lady Margaret, to rescue the princes. He manages to get the young Duke of York and his mother free, but he is trapped and captured with the child-king Edward. Lady Margaret, who has been sent to get aid from her father Lord Stanley, is also captured and imprisoned.

Richard spares Jasper, because he needs him to negotiate with Stanley, who is withholding his support for the Protector. Richard forces the Archbishop to give up the Duke of York, who has sought church sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with his mother. Aided by his crony, Sir Ratcliffe, Richard then murders the two princes in their beds and proclaims himself king.

The ghosts of the princes try to lure Richard to his death from the battlements of the Tower, but he is saved by Buckingham. Buckingham confides in Ratcliffe his doubts about Richard's sanity, suggesting that they should join Lord Stanley. Ratcliffe informs Richard, who has Buckingham tortured to death. Meanwhile, Tyrus helps Jasper to rescue Margaret, but is mortally wounded during the escape. Jasper and Margaret join Stanley to encourage him to topple Richard from the throne.

Richard is crowned, but is still haunted by fear. Ratcliffe informs him that Stanley has marched to the village of Bosworth with an army. Richard declares that he will fight. When Ratcliffe learns that Stanley has been joined by the Earl of Richmond, he advises Richard to flee, but the king is convinced of his invincibility. At the Battle of Bosworth Field Richard is eventually left alone on the battlefield after his army has been defeated. The ghosts of his victims appear, and he attempts to fight them. Jasper, Stanley and Richmond watch as Richard swipes at thin air. The king attempts to mount a horse, but is thrown and killed by a battleaxe held by a dead soldier.



Roger Corman says Edward Small had been impressed by Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with Vincent Price and approached him with the idea of making a story about Richard III.[3] According to Corman's brother Gene, who co-produced the film, the idea came from him and writer Leo Gordon. They were trying to come up with a fresh take on the Poe picture; they considered Nathaniel Hawthorne "and three or four other ideas" before deciding on William Shakespeare; Macbeth was not ideal but Richard III was. "We were exploring the same genre, but a different author," says Gene Corman.[4]

The film was shot in fifteen days.[5] Francis Ford Coppola worked on it as dialogue director.[6] Gene Corman says the main cost was the sets, built at the old Producer's Studio.[2] Gene Corman says the decision to shoot the film in black and white came from Eddie Small due to cost reasons; Small only informed them of this shortly before shooting, leading to a big argument between Roger Corman and Small. Gene Corman says "what Eddie obviously decided was that Vincent Price had a built-in audience and they would not realise up front that they were buying a black and white Price film. They'd take it for granted that this was in colour."[7]

The movie was meant to be the first of a three-picture contract between Corman and Small. Corman later called the movie:

The most foolish thing I’ve ever filmed. Every night he would come to see me or call me. The script was changed, reworked without my consent. Lots of strange things were happening all the time, and finally I asked him to tear up our contract. He realized he wouldn’t get anything worthwhile out of me and tore it up. I have nothing against Eddie Small. He’s an old man who had lots of success during the thirties, and who doesn’t know that times have changed.[3]


Reviews were mixed.[8]

Gene Corman says "I kind of liked that film and I know Vincent was always pleased with that performance."[7] He says the movie "opened big – for that kind of film – but the down-the-line play was not what it should have been, because at that point the distributor knew he didn't have a colour film."[7]

See also


  1. Alan G. Frank, The Films of Roger Corman: Shooting My Way Out of Trouble, Bath Press, 1998 p 111
  2. Weaver p 101
  3. Nasr, Constantine. Roger Corman: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series). University Press of Mississippi. p. 17.
  4. Weaver p101
  5. Article on film at Turner Classic Monthly. Retrieved 3 June 2013
  6. Coppola Breaks the Age Barrier Madsen, Axel. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 2 January 1966: m6.
  7. Weaver p 103
  8. Price Stars as Mad King in New Film Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 3 November 1962: 15.
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