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Tower of London
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Produced by Rowland V. Lee
Written by Robert N. Lee
Starring Basil Rathbone
Boris Karloff
Vincent Price
Music by Ralph Freed
Hans J. Salter
Frank Skinner
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by Edward Curtiss
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) North America November 17, 1939
North America June 1948 (rerelease)
Europe April 16, 1944
Europe September 5, 1952
Running time 92 minutes
Language English

Tower of London (1939) black-and-white historical film released by Universal Pictures and directed by Rowland V. Lee. It stars Basil Rathbone as the future Richard III of England, and Boris Karloff as his fictitious club-footed executioner Mord. Vincent Price appears as George, Duke of Clarence. Actor John Rodion, who appears in a small role, is actually Rodion Rathbone, Basil's son.

The film is based on the traditional depiction of Richard rising to become King of England by eliminating everyone ahead of him. Each time Richard accomplishes a murder, he removes one figurine from a dollhouse resembling a throneroom. Once he has completed his task, he now needs to defeat the exiled Henry Tudor to retain the throne.

The plot was not derived from Shakespeare's Richard III, but rather was written by Robert N. Lee (director Rowland V. Lee's brother) after reading a great deal of British history. George, Duke of Clarence (one of Richard's brothers) is depicted as something less than the tragically noble figure found in Shakespeare. Ian Hunter portrays Edward IV, who is not depicted here as the feeble, dying King found in Laurence Olivier's 1955 film version of Shakespeare's play. The exterior castle sets constructed for this film became a staple of the Universal backlot and could be seen time and time again in subsequent films (most prominently in the 1952's The Black Castle).

The film inspired a 1962 remake with Vincent Price now in the lead role. The remake was made on an extremely low budget, was shot in black-and-white with a small cast (and used stock footage from the 1939 version for the battle sequences), and placed far more of an emphasis on genuine horror. Price later told Rathbone's biographer Michael Druxman that he felt Rathbone's performance as Richard was probably more historically genuine than either Laurence Olivier's or his own.


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