Countdown to Halloween: "L" is for Legend of Horror (1972)
Watching Legend of Horror has left me playing junior detective in its wake. For a movie supposedly made in 1972, it looks as if it’s at least a decade older, and not just because it’s presented in black and white. The credits also refer to flashback footage by another director, Enrique Carreras, when this movie is credited to Bill Davies. Obviously, it’s a Frankenstein monster of a movie, stitched together from multiple sources.
From what I can tell, and I can find no additional information about it, there was an Argentinian crime/fantasy television series in 1959 called, Obras maestras del terror (Masterworks of Terror), that featured the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar and The Cask of Amontillado segments were edited into a 1965 movie called, Master of Horror. The Tell Tale Heart story was edited into the larger story of Legend of Horror.
Legend of Horror, which picks up speed as it progresses, culminates in the actual Tell Tale Heart story with which we’re familiar, and is depicted in only about five minutes. The context for a character going crazy while he listens to the heartbeat of the man he killed while being questioned by the police, is a compelling story with a moral center and a surprising little twist. It’s contained within a flashback story told by a character in the primary story.
Confused yet? Let’s start at the beginning. A man named Pierre is convicted for seduction of the mayor’s daughter and is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He’s placed in a cell with a crazy old man, Sidney, whose only friend is a rat named, “Tommy.” Sidney has a secret which he eventually shares with Pierre: he’s been digging a tunnel for escape from the prison. He also begins telling the story of how he came to be incarcerated.
At the end of the first part of his story, Pierre has fallen asleep. That doesn’t mean his story is boring, although we at first don’t know how it’s going to be relevant. As a young man, Sidney’s father sent him to his uncle to be educated. His uncle is a cranky old man with one good eye who offers only bed and food for the slave labor he expects from Sidney. Sidney concludes that his uncle hates imperfection and vows to help him end his own imperfection.
Back in the present, Sidney and Pierre face complications escaping and Sidney murders some people here and there. This is where the “blood-chilling realism of Magicmotion” is introduced. It’s basically stop-motion that graphically depicts Sidney stabbing and cutting his victims with a sword. I’ve never seen anything like it and, as silly as it sounds, it kind of works in the context of the rest of the movie.
The first murder is bloodless, despite the fact that we see Sidney force a sword right through a man’s face. Subsequent murders grow increasingly gory. Late in the movie, we realize Sidney is not who he seems to be and our suspicions are confirmed as the flashback concludes and he fulfills the vow he shared with us about his uncle. With only a couple of minutes remaining, we return to the present for a dark conclusion and a splash of color at the very end.
Perhaps my interest in Legend of Horror lies in my fascination of its unknown origins. It feels like I’ve discovered something for the first time about which no one really knows much. I don’t even know where it was shown, although there’s a movie poster with it advertised on a double bill with something called, Diabolic Wedding. (At first glance, that one may also be edited from Masterworks of Terror.) Nevertheless, it’s a fun movie, although certainly odd.
Written by Enrique Torres, Ramsay Everleaf, Louis Penafiel
Story by Edgar Allan Poe (The Tell Tale Heart)
Directed by Bill Davies
Starring William Bates, Karin Field, Fawn Silver, Narciso Ibanez Menta, Narciso Ibanez Serrador RT 75 min.
Home Video Sinister Cinema (DVD)
Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.