In Review: The Comedy of Terrors (1963) on Blu-ray

by Maryann O'Connor on 19/02/2015

The Comedy of Terrors (1963) stars the king of sardonically delivered horror ham Vincent Price and his esteemed cohorts Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff as hunter and the hunted; Waldo Trumbull (Price) is running a failing funeral directors and John Black (Rathbone) is the creditor about to repossess his assets. Price decides to kill two birds with one stone by making his creditor his next customer into the funeral parlour.

The film starts off quite strongly with a macabre graveyard scene and some highly appropriate black humour but then becomes silly quite quickly despite the occasionally very quick witted script by Richard Matheson. Price is as poised as always and his doomed onscreen relationship with failed opera-singer wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) is amusing, as is his relationship with his creaky old father-in-law Amos Hinchley, played by Karloff. Karloff proves to be one of the best things about the film as even when the farce is so abundant as to be highly irritating, he pulls off some great line or other and temporarily redeems the film. His gleeful recounting of the Egyptian mummification process is the breakout moment of humour, especially so considering the reference to his career highlight playing Imhotep in The Mummy (1932).

The ever-watchful ginger cat (Rhubarb) also provides some interest, some small relief from the try-hard and off-key humour, especially when travelling, regally poised upon the roof of the funeral director’s carriage.

In comparison to some of Price’s work, The Comedy of Terrors is shoddy. It lacks the imagination of The House of Wax (1953) or Theatre of Blood (1973) and is not as inherently likeable as many of the other films from this group of actors. This home entertainment release is clearly one for the collection of Price afficionados and forgiving lovers of kitsch horror but not really for anyone else.

Extras: Film historian David del Valle’s interview with Vincent Price – Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes. Audio commentary from David del Valle and David Deloteau. There is a documentary on the work of director Jacques Tourneur entitled ‘Whispering in Distant Chambers’ and one on writer Matheson ‘Richard Matheson, Storyteller’. The interview with Vincent Price is informative but also quite longwinded at times. The documentaries are worthwhile for anyone interested in the making of the film and the directorial trademarks of Jacques Tourneur.

Maryann has awarded The Comedy of Terrors (1963) on Blu-ray two Torches of Truth


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