16 February 2015

Blu-ray Review - The Comedy Of Terrors (1963)

Horror, Comedy
Arrow Video
Release Date:
16th February 2015(UK)
Region: B/2
Running Time:
83 Minutes
Jacques Tourneur
Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff
The Comedy of Terrors [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]

The Comedy of Terrors is a fairly insubstantial film in the careers of everyone involved. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur who is responsible for one of the greatest film noirs of all-time Out of the Past and other films like Cat People. It’s a textbook AIP film, it full of classic actors on their way out Vincent Price (even though he still had another 20 plus years left), Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and finally Basil Rathbone. The real star however is the feline one Orangey (billed as Rhubarb) who was the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Vincent Price plays a wonderfully over the top undertaker Waldo Trumbull who has the assistant Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) and to save on costs after doing the funeral they just dumb the bodies in a grave and keep the coffin. They live with Trumbull’s neglected wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) and her father Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff) who originally started the undertaking business.

The Trumbull household is facing eviction due to lack of customers and the money-grabbing landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone). Waldo schemes a plan to kill Mr. Phipps, an elderly gentleman and then get his very young wife to pay them for the funeral. Naturally they start considering to get rid of that nuisance named Mr. Black but nothing is ever that easy.

The critic Mark Kermode has a theory that a comedy needs 6 good laughs (not chuckles or sniggers) for a film to work as a comedy and for a film proclaiming to be a comedy in it’s title it falls flat. It’s amusing throughout but it only had about 3 solid laughs much less than even most dramatic films. It does however work as just a fun silly throwaway Vincent Price AIP film, he did much better work for them mainly the Roger Corman Poe films but he also did much worse, it falls in the middle.

Like The Criterion Collection, even if you’re not that crazy about the film the special features Arrow compiled makes the purchase worthwhile. It includes two commentaries by Price historian David Del Valle; David DeCoteau moderates one of them. The highlight is a wonderful 50 minute interview with Vincent Price where he talks about his entire career for the early bit parts in films like Laura to his many roles in horror films. There is an interesting video essay on the work of Jacques Tourneur, a interview with Richard Matheson and finally the trailer and the expected length booklet with a essay on the film by Chris Fujiwara.

Ian Schultz

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