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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Tower of London (1939)



Reviews and Comments

A cast including Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Ian Hunter, Vincent Price, and Leo G. Carroll may sound like an impressive -- if unnerving -- emsemble cast. It is. But this is Rathbone's movie, all the way.

This is not to say the other cast members don't do a fine job. Price turns in one of his better performances in his supporting role, and his "duel" with Rathbone is one of the highlights of the film. Karloff is a creepy (surprise!) presence and creates another sinister character with his hulking proportions and arrow-like eyes. But Rathbone's performance as the power-mad Richard Duke of Gloucester is, save for a few scenes, the dominant presence in the film. It's a dark tale about his corrupt seizure of power. Among the more chilling moments are his continual return to his "doll house" where he measures his distance from the throne and burns the figures of those he has swept from his way.

By today's standards, the movie's impact is considerably less than it probably was. Some horror films from the golden years of movies are just as biting today as they were, but this is not one of them. And, at times, this movie takes on a ploddingly soap operatic tone, though these moments are in the minority. Hence, the plot isn't one of Tower of London's great assets. The performances by its ample cast, however, make it worth watching.