Haunted Palace, The (1963)

“I’ll not have my fill of revenge until this village is a graveyard!”

Haunted Palace Poster

Synopsis:
In the late 1700s, warlock Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) is burned at the stake by the villagers of Arkham, and vows revenge. More than 100 years later, his great-grandson (also Price) arrives in Arkham with his new wife (Debra Paget), and becomes possessed by a painting of Curwen. With the help of his loyal servant (Lon Chaney), Curwen attempts to raise his mistress (Cathie Merchant) from the dead, and to kill off his murderers’ descendants.

Genres:

Review:
Made as part of AIP’s cycle of “Poe” pictures (but actually based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft ), this Corman-directed flick is a compelling treat for fans of gothic horror. With its opulent sets, fog-drenched cinematography, and brass-heavy score, The Haunted Palace has atmosphere to spare; and Corman-favorite Vincent Price is at his hammy best in dual roles as both Ward and Curwen, effortlessly shifting from hapless husband to malevolent warlock with a simple arch of his eyebrows. Because Curwen is treated so viciously by his neighbors in the opening sequence of the film — his dying screams as he’s burned at the stake are bloodcurdling — we can actually sympathize with his desire for revenge; the snively residents of Arkham (many of whom are mutants) almost seem to deserve their fate. Paget is fine as Ward’s unfairly put-upon wife, and Chaney (in ghoulish-green facial makeup) is appropriately creepy as Curwen’s eternally loyal servant — but this is Price’s show all the way.

P.S. Watch for the final compelling shot of the movie, which takes one by surprise.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vincent Price as Curwen and Ward
    Haunted Palace Price
  • Daniel Haller’s baroque production design
    haunted-palace-production
  • Atmospheric cinematography (by Floyd Crosby) and direction (by Corman)
    Haunted Palace Fog
  • Ronald Stein’s instantly hummable score

Must See?
Yes, for Price’s performance, and as a most enjoyable “Poe” adaptation by Corman.

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One Response to “Haunted Palace, The (1963)”

  1. Agreed – a must if only for Price’s good guy/bad guy performance (he’s clearly enjoying it as he slips back and forth, with the force of good attempting to triumph).

    BUT -
    although this is among the better of Corman’s gothic tales (in his most successful period as a filmmaker), be prepared to suspend your disbelief. In fact, don’t try to think too much outside the main story, give over to the atmosphere, and your appreciation will increase.

    Why?

    Although Charles Beaumont whipped up a decent screenplay for Corman – and Corman has certainly made sure that it all looks and feels spooky as hell (with impressive art direction, photography and score), certain details threaten to throw you: where the hell did Chaney turn up from?; and that other servant guy?; why are the details of the curse on the town not all that clear? – if the curse was placed over 100 years ago, wouldn’t the townsfolk have stopped having (mutant) children long before now?

    These and other points are probably what you don’t want to spend your time thinking about. Just concentrate on ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ (and, boy, was it!), etc.

    Re: the townsfolk – it seems they have every right to treat the evil Price so horribly (i.e., burning him alive). He is, after all, evil, in league with Satan, and has been using young women of the town for his evil ways.

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