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Roger Corman's "The Haunted Palace" has very little in common with Poe's
poem, with the exception of the title and a few lines recited by Vincent
Price. It is in fact based on an H.P. Lovecraft story "The Strange Case of
Charles Dexter Ward". In fact, that was this films' title before it was made
an entry in Corman's highly successful Poe series.
That doesn't mean this is a bad picture at all. In fact, this is one of Corman's very best films: a beautifully shot (by Floyd Crosby in Panavision), subtly frightening thriller. Price stars in a double role: Ward and his great-grandfather, an evil Puritan (I guess) who has a hidden secret. Hundreds of years later, Ward inherits the "haunted palace" of the title. You can probably guess what happens next.
But films like "The Haunted Palace" (and the other Poe films for that matter) aren't about plot. It's about style, atmosphere and fine acting, all of which this film has. Price is excellent as usual in his double role, but he also gets strong support from Lon Chaney, Jr. as Ward's servant and Debra Paget as his wife (This was her final film before her retirement the following year)
The sets by Daniel Haller are the best yet in a Poe film. (And this was before his final two Poe assignments. After that, he became a director with "Die, Monster,Die!", ironically also based on a Lovecraft story "The Colour from Outer Space")This is a really classy production with great production values and Corman proves he knows how to get the most for his money on screen. How many people can you say that about?
Note: As with all the Poe films, "The Haunted Palace" is best seen in the letterbox format, which preserves the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the Panavision photography. With American Movie Classics showing this frequently and MGM releasing the cycle on DVD, viewers now have a chance to see these films the way they are supposed to. Well done.
**** out of 4 stars
Roger Corman directed this film in the midst of his Poe cycle. It has most of the typical features of those films. Lots of eerie atmosphere, swirling fogs, and wonderfully painted back-drops, a fine acting troupe headed by the incomparable Vincent Price, and ably assisted by a sober-looking Lon Chaney Jr. and a beautiful Debra Paget, a fairly tight script, a marvellous score by Ronald Stein, and always the look of a lot of money spent despite the knowledge that you know it was cheaply made. The film is titled based on a small Poe poem found within "The Fall of the House of Usher" and this film has little to do with it. It really is much more of an H. P. Lovecraft film as its main protagonist is called Charles Dexter Ward(Price), but also bears little relation to that great story. It does, however, incorporate many Lovecraftian touches. The names of characters and the town(Arkham) come from the works of Lovecraft, as does the plot thread dealing with an elder god of sorts in a well for the purpose of breeding and the fabled book of supernatural knowledge, the Necromonicon. Despite the complexity and borrowing nature of the script, the story makes sense and is entertaining. Vincent Price plays a man with two personalities, and he does so brilliantly. As always, he is a joy to watch. The rest of the cast is very good. One scene in particular stands out as Price and Paget walk alone in the streets of Arkham only to be slowly surrounded by human mutants. The scene is quite eerie with all its swirling fog, and creeping pace.
Frankly, I don't really care whether the screenplay of "The Haunted Palace" is based on a H.P Lovecraft-story, simply carrying an Edgar Allan Poe title...or based on an Edgar Allan Poe poem, heavily influenced by H.P Lovecraft's short story. Both these legendary horror authors were genius and an amalgamation of the two oeuvres could only result in an even better movie, right? And that's exactly what "The Haunted Palace" is! A brilliant and genuinely scary film that neatly fits in with the rest of Roger Corman's Poe cycle when it comes to intelligent story lines and ominous atmospheres. Vincent Price gives away another staggering performance (in a double role!) as a New England warlock who's burned alive for his evil practices by the inhabitants of Arkham. Over a century later, he reincarnates as his great-great-grandson Charles Baxter Ward and continues with his malicious sorcery... but not without wreaking vengeance on the descendants of his tormentors! The script is extremely compelling, without dull moments whatsoever, and the set designs are magnificent: ground fogs, castles with creaking gates and secret doorways, loud thunderstorms... It's truly beautiful to see how the camera prowls through the dark, nightmarish scenery and reflects the brooding suspense right onto your screen. The score is excellent and, despite the obvious low-budget, there are several very decent make-up effect to admire, like on the terrifying mutant-villagers who sneak around in the village. Roger Corman's surefooted yet elegant directing is close to perfection, and he damn well knew that he could count on Price again to portray another memorable villain. "The Haunted Pace" is quintessential horror-art!
Roger Corman's 'Poe' series is one of the all time highlights of
cinema. With low budgets, great stories and Vincent Price; Corman has
created a legacy that is hard to react to with anything but admiration,
and it's certainly a style of film-making that will never be utilised
again. This film is, actually, not based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe;
but one by the almost equally excellent HP Lovecraft. You will notice
Poe's name on the posters, but that's nothing more than a ploy by
American International to ensure that people went to see it. However,
whoever wrote it is inconsequential, because it's incredible whatever.
From the moment it begins, with an incredibly malevolent Vincent Price
being burned for witchcraft shortly after putting a curse on the
village of Arkham in one of the man's finest monologues ever; this film
grabs you doesn't let go until the words 'The End' appear on your
screen. The subject of witchcraft and burning witches has, and will
always be absolutely fascinating and this film capitalises on that.
Adding to the intrigue is some otherworldly creatures in the basement
that Price feeds young women to, and a village full of deformed
residents! Lovecraft's Necronomicon joins the party as well...
I don't know how much American International paid Vincent Price for making this and other Corman films, but whatever it was, it wasn't enough. Price holds the viewer's attention like no other actor has ever, and probably will ever do again. He handles his dual role fantastically, and switches between the darkly macabre and an innocent naivety at the drop of a hat. Also joining in the fun is fellow horror legend, Lon Chaney; who puts in a delightful performance and provides most of the scares! Corman does an absolutely fantastic job of building atmosphere in this movie, and the village of Arkham is constantly foreboding and intriguing. The use of smoke is right on cue; as is the music, which is massively over the top; but very, very effective. The problem with many horror films is that in spite of being excellent, they're often not very frightening; but there's one sequence in this film that sees a bunch of deformed villagers surround Price and his wife that is positively nightmare inducing! I have nothing but respect and admiration for this picture as it is an immense achievement in Corman's Poe cycle, and don't let the fact that it's not a Poe story put you off - if you're a fan of Price, Corman or just low budget atmospheric horror in general, see this film NOW!
Roger Corman rarely gets the credit he deserves. While best known for the dozens of schlocky exploitation movies he was involved in as a producer, he also directed several underrated films, including his excellent Edgar Allen Poe series in the 1960s. 'The Haunted Palace' is really only a part of that series in name only. It takes its title from a Poe poem, but it's plot is (very loosely) adapted from H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Strange Case Of Charles Dexter Ward' by Charles Beaumont. Beaumont, a talented writer of short stories also scripted Corman's best Poe movie 'The Masque Of The Red Death'. As I said this is only loosely based on Lovecraft's original source material (a slightly more faithful version can be seen in Dan O'Bannon's 'The Resurrected', also recommended), but I'm sure most Lovecraft buffs will get a kick out of watching this, which is as far as I know the very first movie inspired by his fiction. Vincent Price stars in a duel role of Ward and his ancestor Joseph Curwen, and gives an enjoyable performance. Price really seemed to like working with Corman and gave the director some of his best work. I watched an old VHS print of this, but, like the Poe movies, it still looked like another great effort for a very limited budget. The supporting cast is worth noting - the beautiful Debra Paget, and legendary character actors Lon Chaney ('Spider Baby'), Elisha Cook, Jr ('The Killing') and Leo Gordon ('Kitten With A Whip'). 'The Haunted Palace' is another excellent Corman movie that still has a lot of entertainment value. Highly recommended to all Vincent Price and H.P. Lovecraft fans.
Centuries ago in Arkham, New England, the warlock Joseph Curwen
(Vincent Price) abducts young ladies from the local village and brings
them to his castle to use in experiments with the Necronomicon. The
local Edgar Weeden (Leo Gordon) raises a lynch mob that go to the
castle and burn Joseph Curwen alive at the stake. Before dying, he
curses the village, the villagers and their descendants.
One hundred and ten years later, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price), who has inherited the manor, comes to Arkham with his beautiful wife Ann Ward (Debra Paget) to visit the real estate and has a cold and hostile reception by the dwellers. Only Dr. Priam Willet (Frank Maxwell) helps him and tells that the village has many mutants and the villagers believe that it is a cursed town.
When Charles arrives in the castle, he meets two former associates of Joseph Curwen that also worship the devil, and Charles is possessed by the evil Joseph Curwen that wants to revenge on the descendants of those who killed him and to bring his beloved mistress back to life. Ann and Dr. Willet try to help Charles to escape from Curwen's power.
"The Haunted Palace" is a classic Gothic horror by Roger Corman that follows the same style of the Hammer films. The plot is very simple but works perfectly well, supported by Vincent Price and the gorgeous Debra Paget. Further, this is the last feature of this beautiful actress that retired after getting married for the third time. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Castelo Assombrado" ("The Haunted Castle")
The darkest of Roger Corman's Poe chillers, though this yarn owes more
to HP Lovecraft than Edgar Allan's poetry. Vincent Price gives his all
time greatest performance in a dual role as possessed and possessor,
aided by a wonderfully literate script by Charles Beaumont. It gives
Price no leeway to indulge his tendency to sometimes ham it up.
Here, he keeps tight dramatic restraint on himself, making his gradual transformation from kindly innocent to the reincarnation of his warlock ancestor a virtuoso portrayal of inner turmoil overwhelmed by fiendish evil. Corman even provides a last good role for Lon Chaney Jr (as he'd done previously for Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone) as a ghoulish henchman.
Undeniably, 'The Haunted Palace' does have a rather ponderous pace and music score that makes the film seem stretched as Price wanders down just one more hidden corridor. Floyd Crosby's widescreen cinematography is also unrelenting, capturing the drab, muted blue and brown pastels of a Puritan village plagued by witchcraft. And the barely glimpsed green demon lurking inside the vault was perhaps a mistake.
But Corman's skill on a 15-day schedule and a cheap budget is evident throughout. He introduces Chaney in a splendidly done sudden shock appearance that will still make unwary audiences jump (asked why he is preparing a room in the dark, he tells Price, "One becomes accustomed to the darkness... here").
True Corman fans will rank this chilling piece of American Gothic among his best. Not least where an exasperated Chaney asks the possessed Price when he will be satisfied avenging himself on the descendants of those who burned him at the stake. "Not until this village is a graveyard," Price promises Chaney sibilantly. "Not until they too have felt the kiss of fire on their soft flesh... all of them."
In 1765,evil warlock Joseph Curwen(Vincent Price)is lynched by the villagers and burnt alive for performing sorcery and for abducting some of the local women.Before he perishes,he puts a curse on the inhabitants of Arkham and their offspring.One hundred and ten years later,his kind descendant Charles Dexter Ward(Price again),visits Arkham with his beautiful young wife to claim the inheritance of Curwen's castle.The spirit of Curwen begins to possess him".The Haunted Palace" is actually based on H.P.Lovecraft's story.The film relies heavily on Gothic atmosphere with plenty of fantastic,cobwebby and shadowy sets.Price is amazing in the dual role and Curwen is one of his most despicable characters.The film offers some creepy scenes and is simply great.Give it a look.9 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roger Corman is fondly remembered for his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations
in the early 1960s. With The Haunted Palace, Corman takes his
inspiration from another great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and
creates an eerie, atmospheric bloodcurdler. The trump card is Vincent
Price's portrayal of the main character(s). Price is brilliant as the
tormented hero slowly corrupted by an ancestral curse, shading his
gradual descent into evil with clever understatement. Whenever the film
slips into one of its periodic lulls, we can always rely on Price to
keep our attention until the lull has passed.
Warlock Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) is burnt at the stake by his Arkham neighbours for crimes of witchcraft. During his dying moments, he plots his revenge by placing a terrible curse on them. Curwen's curse seems to have its desired effect, as the subsequent generations are plagued by the birth of disfigured mutants into their families. Over a hundred years later, Charles Dexter Ward (Price again) an ancestor of Curwen arrives in the village of Arkham with his beautiful wife Ann (Debra Paget) to claim his inheritance of the Curwen castle. The villagers are immediately distrustful of Charles it doesn't help that he bears an uncanny resemblance to his great grandfather, nor that they are constantly reminded of Curwen's legacy by the presence of accursed mutants in their village. Charles and Ann do not believe in such supernatural nonsense and prepare to move into their inherited home. They are further encouraged to stick around by the castle caretaker Simon (Lon Chaney Jr), though it becomes increasingly apparent that Simon has an ulterior motive for wanting them to stay. Gradually, Charles begins to act more and more out of character, and it emerges that his body has been possessed by the spirit of Joseph Curwen. For a century he has waited for his chance to wreak terrible vengeance upon the villagers who killed him . and now his time has come.
Corman generates creepy visuals despite his shoestring budget and hasty shooting schedule. Swirling fog, creaking doors, cobwebbed corridors and disorientating shadows permeate the story, lending a well sustained atmosphere of dread. Kudos is due to Daniel Haller for his effective art direction, depicting a wholly believable period village shrouded in fear and secrecy. In the acting stakes, Price is ably supported by the ghoulish Chaney, while Paget does a convincing enough job as his wife. The story is simple but effective there have been so many variations of this basic premise that most viewers will figure out with ease what is going on well before the characters manage it. But bear in mind the film was made in 1963, a time when its plot twists and "shock" revelations probably raised plenty of goosebumps. And even now, almost 50 years on, the film's eerie mood still retains the power to unsettle. The Haunted Palace is a good, effective, old-school screamer a worthwhile nostalgia trip for those who lament the fact that "they don't make 'em like they used to".
Roger Corman's "The Haunted Palace" of 1963 is a truly brilliant Gothic
Horror film, and, alongside the ingenious "Pit and The Pendulum" of
1961 and "The Masque Of The Red Death" of 1964, the greatest
installment of Corman's superb Poe cycle with the great Vincent Price.
Some people seem to be bothered by the fact that this is not actually
based on the poem by Poe, but on H.P. Lovecraft's novel "The Case Of
Charles Dexter Ward", but I can't really see why. First of all, there
is no doubt that both Poe and Lovecraft were extremely important
writers of the horror genre. Second, it doesn't matter what this film
is based on, since it is simply a brilliant film, regardless of which
literary model it used.
In 1756, the vicious warlock Joseph Curven (Vincent Price) is dragged out of his palace in the New England town of Arkham by an angry mob furious about his evil ways of hexing innocent young women. Before he is burned alive, Curven places a curse on his the people of Arkham and their descendants. 110 years later, Curven's great-grandson Charles Dexter Ward (also Price) comes to Arkham with his wife Ann (Debra Paget) to accept his inheritance - Joseph Curven's castle. Most of the little town's inhabitants, who still believe in the witchcraft and who are living in fear of Curven's curse, react hostile towards the couple, especially because Ward is the spitting image of his ancestor. The Wards, who are not superstitious, decide sleep in the castle anyway, although the only friendly person around is the town's doctor, who does not believe in superstition either. There are strange things happening in the town of Arkham, however, people have terrible deformities and when the Wards arrive they immediately notice an eerie huge painting of Joseph Curven, which has a strange effect on Charles...
There is no doubt in my mind that Vincent Price is one of the greatest actors who ever lived, and his performance in "The Haunted Palace" is one of his best. Price plays his role with pure brilliance, and once again proves that he is THE absolute master of sinister roles. Debra Paget's performance as Anne Ward is also excellent, and the cast furthermore includes Lon Chaney Jr., who proves his greatness in an eerie role. The movie is excellently photographed in great, eerie sceneries, and the film maintains a wonderfully creepy atmosphere from the first minute. The great score even intensifies the eeriness and suspense, and I couldn't find one aspect of "The Haunted Palace" that is not brilliant.
German speaking people - please make sure to watch this film in its original, English version. I personally always watch films in the original when its possible, but it is essential to do so with this movie. The German title reads "Die Folterkammer Des Hexenjägers" (=The Witchhunter's Torture Chamber), although the film has nothing to do with a Witchhunter, and there is no torture chamber either. In the dubbed German version, the Warlock becomes a Witchhunter, New England becomes Wales, and the whole plot makes little sense. Fortunately, the German DVD contains the English version, so stick with the original version of this masterpiece.
All said, "The Haunted Palace" is a perfect Horror film. Vincent Price's brilliant leading performance, the fantastic atmosphere, the constant suspense and genuine creepiness - everything about this film is superb! In short: "The Haunted Palace" is a Gothic masterpiece, and an absolute must-see for every Horror fan! 10/10
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