Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Haunted Palace

The Haunted Palace, 1963, 85 minutes, American International, directed by Roger Corman. Starring Vincent Price as Charles Dexter Ward/Joseph Curwen, Debra Paget as Ana Ward, Frank Maxwell as Ian/Dr. Willett, Lon Chaney Jr. as Simon Orne, Leo Gordon as Edgar Weeden/Ezra Weeden and Cathie Merchant as Hester Tillinghast. Schlock-Meter rating: 7 stars out of 10.

This is a better-than-average Vincent Price AIP 1960s offering. It offers chills, atmosphere and good direction from movie legend Corman. The story concerns a mild mannered man (Price), who moves to the mysterious town of Arkham with his wife (Paget) to inhabit a creepy castle, or palace. The townspeople, a forbidding, brooding, suspicious group except for one doctor (Maxwell), react in panic after they discover Price's character (Charles Dexter Ward) resembles an evil ancestor (Joseph Curwen) who was executed by Arkham residents long ago.

It isn't long before Price begins to take on the personality of his evil ancestor, much to the terror of his lovely wife, whom he begins to treat very roughly. With some assistance, the now evil Price (possessed by Curwen) spends much of the film extracting revenge from the descendents of the townspeople who killed him, and trying to resurrect to life a long-dead love (Merchent).
The film boasts a lot of atmosphere. Including aging horror great Lon Chaney Jr. was a casting coup for Corman. As an evil henchman of Price, he doesn't have much to do, but he lends a spooky credibility to the film just with his presence.

The title The Haunted Palace is from Edgar Allen Poe, but there's no resemblance to the story. Indeed the plot is from an H.P. Lovecraft short novel, The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, but even then, the story only touches briefly on Lovecraft's plot. As is often with a Lovecraft tale, the sinister town of Arkham is the setting. Fans of Price will really enjoy this film. He's at his best. Others will find it an excellent sample of AIP's 60s horror offerings. Watch the trailer above.
-- Doug Gibson

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