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Horrible History or The Humpbacked Murderer

I’m making bold to write about another horror movie, because it is Halloween week. Steven and I watched three this past Sunday. I do love to write about horror movies. Some may protest that The Tower of London (1962) sounds more like history than horror, but I think it veers more into the horror genre.

I knew I would be in for some spurious history, because the movie is about Richard III and the princes in the tower. However, Vincent Price as a hump-backed murderer, what’s not to like?

Richard III, many historians now say, did not have a hump and did not murder his nephews in order to seize the throne. These stories were commissioned by Henry VII, who defeated Richard III and became king himself, thus proving the adage that history is written by the winners.

Full disclosure: I may have that wrong or I may be quoting some controversial revisionism. I may look up some more information on Richard III and get back to you. Right now I want to write about a horror movie.

I feel no spoiler alert is necessary, because a voice-over at the beginning tells us what is going to happen: Richard Plantagenet is going to murder people who are going to come back and haunt him. I believe at the time this picture was made everybody believed the hump-backed murderer story, so perhaps the filmmakers figured people knew that already anyways.

I, of course, know all about what “everybody knows” about Richard III, because I saw a production of the play Richard III by William Shakespeare. I kept comparing what I remember about that play to this movie, and I was a little disappointed that Richard never said, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer…” (That’s all I remember of that speech.)

After the spoiler voice-over, the movie gets right down to business with Richard having a hunchback and looking evil. I could see where Mel Brooks got the idea for Igor’s movable hump, because Price’s prosthetic is not real consistent. Then again, my memory may be at fault and I only think the hump changed. If I watch the movie again, I’ll take hump notes (anyways, why would I not include a reference to Young Frankenstein if I thought I could get away with it?).

One of my favorite aspects of watching an old period piece like this one is the hats. I don’t know what they kept putting on Price’s head, but as far as I was concerned it didn’t do enough to cover his bowl haircut. At times I thought he looked like a Pilgrim from the neck up. Oh well, Thanksgiving is coming.

The women’s hats were more fun. One lady sported the traditional princess hat of a cone with a filmy scarf hanging from its point. Richard’s wife Anne had the best headgear. I’m not sure if the costume designers got them from paintings of the era (or within a couple hundred years; you know Hollywood) or from a deck of playing cards. Perhaps the Queen of Hearts, because in this picture, Richard truly loves his wife. She is a good wife, too, all encouraging his evil ambitions and to hell with everybody else. It’s sad what happens to her, which, spoiler alert or not, I won’t share here.

So almost right away, Richard starts murdering and almost immediately following, he starts to be haunted by the ghosts of his victims. You’d think he would repent his evil ways after the first ghost, but, no, after bouts of tremulous madness, he gets his evil mojo back and continues his blood-strewn path to the throne.

He is helped along the way by some henchman whose name I didn’t catch. I kept waiting for the henchman to turn on him or come to a bad end himself, but if it happened, I missed that part. I’m sure some people think that if I’m going to write about movies, it would behoove me to watch them with more attention. Well, I’m not apologizing, because I was roasting pumpkin seeds. It is Halloween week, after all.

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