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COMEDY OF TERRORS, THE (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriter: Richard Matheson; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Anthony Carras; music: Les Baxter; cast: Vincent Price (Waldo Trumbull), Peter Lorre (Felix Gillie), Basil Rathbone (John F. Black), Boris Karloff (Amos Hinchley), Joyce Jameson (Amaryllis Trumbull), Beverly Hills (Mrs. Phipps), Alan DeWitt (Black’s Servant), Joe E. Brown (Cemetery Keeper); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Carras; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1964)
“It’s hard to believe, but the horror spoof goes under despite this awesome cast.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People”/”I Walked with a Zombie”/”Night of the Demon”) helms this tedious horror farce that features the indomitable scene-stealing foursome of Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. It’s hard to believe, but the horror spoof goes under despite this awesome cast. The problem is with the strained comedic screenplay by Richard Matheson, which is about on the level of your typical Abbott & Costello venture, and the uninspired direction by Tourneur — he’s near the end of his career.

It’s set in the 1890s in a small New England town. The snarling, unscrupulous, alcoholic, wife-abuser Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) is partners in a funeral parlor he inherited from his elderly and senile father-in-law Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff). His put-upon shrill wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) rues the day she married her piggish hubby and gave up pursuing her opera career, not realizing that she’s an incredibly bad singer. Business is so bad that Trumbull has no money and his unfriendly landlord, John F. Black (Basil Rathbone), an aspiring Shakespearean actor with cataleptic tendencies, threatens eviction if the year’s rent isn’t paid in the next 24 hours. To drum up business, Trumbull and his timid, inept, dim-witted, escapee felon assistant Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre), break into homes of prosperous elderly men after midnight and Trumbull smothers them with a pillow in their sleep and then he appears on their doorsteps to take charge of the funeral arrangements. But things don’t go as planned, so Trumbull in this difficult time tries to kill two birds with one pillow by taking out his widower landlord.

Rathbone is hammy and a bore as he acts out Macbeth and when pronounced dead by a doctor can’t stay dead. Price delivers trite dialogue and chortles through his villainy and is never that funny because it seems so forced. Lorre has a problem handling the physical comedy and is more pathetic than funny, but he at least made me laugh a few times with his silly asides. While Karloff sleepwalks through his role, as his bit is that he’s so dotty that he thinks the poison Price is giving him is medicine but somehow he never drinks it and grouches about no one allowing him to get his medicine, while Price is frustrated he can’t eliminate his half-dead partner. Joe E. Brown has a cameo as the cockney cemetery keeper.

It’s just another load of crap released by AIP.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”