Friday, November 21, 2014

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) Blu-ray review

The Comedy of Terrors (1963) d. Jacques Tourneur (USA)

After the success of The Raven, AIP attempted to tap the comic vein a second time but with decidedly diminished returns, both artistically and financially. The premise of a funeral home recycling its one coffin and occasionally helping the town’s populace into them is an amusingly dark one, but despite its terrific veteran cast, the comedy feels much more forced and mean-spirited, with Price’s tyrannical drunken lout snarking at underling Lorre and wife Joyce Jameson (who had memorably appeared opposite the two stars in “The Black Cat” episode of that year’s Tales of Terror).

Karloff is back as well, but given little opportunity to shine, relegated to “what’s that?” deaf jokes and snoozing under those distinctive bushy eyebrows. One can understand the temptation to flip the antagonistic relationship between Price and Lorre, but it just doesn’t play as well as watching the little fireplug tear into Uncle Vincent towering above him.

Not to say there aren’t a few amusing moments, such as Jameson’s ear-and-glass shattering attempts at opera and Basil Rathbone’s Macbeth-spouting cataleptic that just won’t stay dead, but it’s unfortunate that screenwriter Richard Matheson couldn’t have come up with better zingers than simply having Price endlessly bellow “Shut up!” Great title, though.

The Comedy of Terrors is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their excellent The Vincent Price Collection II, and sports another vintage intro / wrap-up from the star (from when he hosted an Iowa public television showcase of his films) extolling the good times he had with his fellow fiends. There's also a brief interview with Matheson, and while we won't speak ill of the dead, it bears noting that the late great scribe was known much, much more for his skill in crafting an intelligent, suspenseful sci-fi tales than with his laugh-inducing wordplay. There's also a still gallery and theatrical trailer to round things out.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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