Tower of London
1939 US Theatrical Poster
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) November 17, 1939 (1939-11-17)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000[1]

Tower of London is a 1939 black-and-white historical film and quasi-horror 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.


See alsoEdit


  1. Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p197

External links Edit

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