This is three short films loosely based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe, each with a narration by Vincent Price.
In “Morella”, Leonora Locke (Maggie Pierce) arrives home from Boston to see her father (Vincent Price) and finds him drunk and depressed. In the decrepit and cobweb-filled mansion, he does not want to see her and accuses Leonora of killing her mother, Morella (Leona Gage) in childbirth, which is not strictly true. In fact, Leonora finds her mother’s body decomposing in the house. Instead of returning to Boston, Leonora stays in the house to take care of her father. Leonora has a terminal illness and her father’s attitude softens. But one night, Morella’s ghost rises and kills Leonora. Morella is then resurrected young and beautiful as Leonora decomposes. A fire breaks out in the house and Morella strangles her husband, then both Leonora and Morella return to their original bodies. Leonora smiles as she lies on her father’s body and the rotting Morella cackles as the fire consumes the house and everyone in it.
In “The Black Cat”, Montresor (Peter Lorre) hates his wife Annabelle and her black cat. One night he goes to a wine-tasting event and challenges Luchesi (Vincent Price) to a contest. Luchesi escorts the drunken Montresor home and meets his wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson). It is not long before the charming Luchesi has seduced her. Montresor discovers the seduction and entombs them in an alcove in the basement, but he soon hears their ghosts taunting him and the irritating black cat yowling. Two policemen investigate and find the dead entombed with the yowling cat.
In “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”, Ernest Valdemar (Vincent Price), dying from a painful disease, hires a hypnotist, Mister Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), to ease his suffering. While in a trance, he hovers between the world of the living and of the dead. Valdemar begs Carmichael to release his soul, but he refuses. After several months, Valdemar’s putrefying body is lying in bed under Carmichael’s complete control. Carmichael means to force Valdemar’s wife, Helene (Debra Paget) to marry him. She refuses and he attacks her. Valdemar’s putrid body rises from the bed and kills Carmichael. Helene is rescued by Valdemar’s physician Doctor Elliot James (David Frankham) and he takes her out of the house of horror.
The film was produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Roger Corman of American International Pictures, and directed by Corman from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. The Black Cat was partly based on Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado. Some shots in Morella were from the climax of House of Usher. Price’s decaying body in Valdemar was produced by plastering his face with mud, which dried up and cracked open. The mixture was made by pouring glue, glycerin, corn starch, and makeup over his head. He could only stand the hot mixture for a few seconds.
The Black Cat story was recycled for Comedy of Terrors in 1963, but Price and Lorre exchanged roles. Vincent Price based Fortunato on Ernie Kovac’s satirical TV character Percy Dovetonsils in the late Fifties and early Sixties. During breaks, the actors in the Black Cat amused themselves by tossing Peter Lorre’s fake head around. He was not amused. Price got to die in each story. Critics liked the film as a showcase for Vincent Price but felt that the use of three separate stories in the script prevented the film from achieving the majestic and relentless horror build-up of the other Poe films.