Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 - Tower of London Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Written by Robert N. Lee
1939, 93 minutes, Not Rated
Released on December 17th, 2019

Basil Rathbone as Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Boris Karloff as Mord
Barbara O’Neil as Queen Elyzabeth
Ian Hunter as King Edward IV
Vincent Price as Duke of Clarence



England – 1471: King Edward IV has seized the Tower of London and holds the feeble Henry VI prisoner. Edward’s brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, is a scheming man dissatisfied with his position and hungry for power. He is sixth in line for the throne and plots his advancement through a series of calculated murders. Richard is closely aligned with Mord, the royal executioner, and conspires with him to sway public opinion in his favor for the crown. What follows is an epic tale of greed and violence that spans more than a decade as we follow the trajectory of a ruthless man’s ascent to power.

Universal’s Tower of London (1939) is a period drama loosely inspired by historical events and Shakespeare’s Richard III and injects a generous level of Grand Guignol-style horror. Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood) stars as the villainous Richard, hell-bent on being number one in his family. He is rather dastardly and gleefully fills the character with menace. Boris Karloff (The Body Snatcher) steals the show with his commanding performance as Mord, the bald-headed, club-footed executioner. He is intimidating and yet sympathetic as the henchman who is all business when it comes to killing. His best scene involves the dispatching of two children. Vincent Price (The Fly) makes his horror debut in a small but memorable role as Richard’s doomed brother, the Duke of Clarence.

Director Rowland V. Lee (Son of Frankenstein) makes the most of his limited budget, telling an epic story complete with multiple battle scenes. The script, written by his brother Robert N. Lee (Captain Kidd), occasionally gets bogged down in fictional subplots involving the supporting players, but this is primarily Richard’s story. Something that really works is the diorama featuring figures representing the line to the throne and watching Richard merrily toss them aside as he carries out his plan. Tower of London is the best film in this collection and benefits from solid camera work from cinematographer George Robinson (The Mummy’s Tomb) and great performances.

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