Sunday, March 15, 2009

3/12/09: The Comedy of Terrors (1964)

I used to have a book about horror movies when I was in middle school, and one of the photos inside was a promotional still from this American International comedy-chiller. I was convinced that the man in the picture was supposed to evoke the image of W.C. Fields, and have always wondered about it. Now that I've finally seen the movie, I know it's actually Peter Lorre in a top hat.

Richard Matheson, author of dozens of Twilight Zone episodes, as well as the stories that inspired films like Duel, The Incredible Shrinking Man and Somewhere in Time, wrote this farcical sendup of Edgar Allan Poe-type stories. Vincent Price is a drunken funeral director who can't pay the rent, so he takes matters into his own hands by producing a few fresh cadavers, with assistant Lorre as his Igor. Various slapstick antics ensue, with a lot of bumbling and one particular corpse (Shakespeare-quoting Basil Rathbone) that just won't stay dead. It reminded me vaguely of another horror satire I saw when I was a kid called Arnold, although this movie is appreciably more madcap. Joyce Jameson shows off a lot of cleavage as Price's wife, while Boris Karloff, as her senile father, gives the film its great punch line. The film, though full of macabre one-liners, would undoubtedly have played much better in front of a live audience. Rating: 3/5.

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