For the Love of Price: The Haunted Palace
Hello folks. It's my last respite of the month before I barrel into the last 15 reviews of the month including The Bigger & Badder Halloween Top 13. I hope you've been enjoying what I've been scaring up so far. Today, I have the second of two special For the Love of Price segments from my best pal and yours Fran Goria. Fran's back this time with the Roger Corman/Vincent Price "Poe" entry The Haunted Palace. So read on and find out how Poe and Lovecraft made a baby, what the two sides of Vinny P are all about, and what's at the core of the Corman in this classic 1960s chiller. Take it away Fran.....
The film opens as warlock Joseph Curwen (Price) has just entranced a young girl from town up to his palace. This was just one of several girls bewitched by Curwen. He was using black magic in an attempt to breed the girls with a powerful demon in order to create a superior race. The citizens of the town Arkam decide to take matters in to their own hands to save the town. They assembled an angry mob, storm the palace, sieze Curwen, and burn him at the stake for his crimes. In his dying breath, Curwen curses the town’s people and all of their descendants As a result of either the curse, or the demon breeding attempts, several mutated children were born in Arkam throughout the years.
One hundred and ten years later, Charles Ward (Price), a descendant of Curwen, inherits the former warlock’s palace. When Ward and his wife Anne (Paget) arrive in town, they are immediately snubbed by the fearful town. Once in the palace, the Wards meet the groundskeeper Simon (Chaney). Simon turns out to also be Curwen’s loyal servant still living and awaiting his master’s return. Simon does everything he can to keep the Ward’s from leaving town. Charles Ward seems to be mesmerizes by a painting of the old warlock; the resemblance between the two men is striking. Soon, Ward is overcome by the spirit of Joseph Curwen, and the nightmares of Arkam begin again. Will the town survive the second coming of Joseph Curwen? Will Charles Ward regain control of himself? What will happen to Anne? These questions and more will be answered with a little trip to The Haunted Palace.
The film was directed by Roger Corman, and the production company (AIP) billed it as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Haunted Palace in an attempt to cash in on that sweet sweet Corman/Poe money. However, the story was actually based on H.P. Lovecraft’s 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'. Corman had teamed up with Price on several films (7 to be exact), and most of them had a Poe theme (or title as the case may be). The two men worked well together to bring these stories to life, and Corman took a liking to working with Price. On a side note, Corman directed one of my all time favorite films Death Race 2000, therefore I love him.
Vincent Price was not the only horror icon in this film. Lon Chaney Jr. had a secondary role as Curwen’s manservant. For those who don’t know (haha), Lon Chaney Jr. was The Wolfman. Chaney really brought a professional charm to his character; this is something I have come to expect from him, and he is always a joy to watch. The film’s leading lady was Debra Pagent. This was not the first time Pagent had shared the screen with Price, though, Seven years earlier they were both in The Ten Commandments, then again in 1962’s Tales of Terror. Pagent was talented enough to stay visible while sharing the screen with the other strong actors in this film. I have seen many fail in such situations, but she made the viewer see her. Speaking of strong actors, did I mention that Vincent Price was the star? He delivered a flawless performance. Essentially, his character was very Jekyll and Hyde in nature. Price flowed seamlessly from the Gentleman Ward to the evil warlock Curwen. His entire demeanor changed as the two sides surfaced in the character. Even the little touches were meticulously performed, such as the way Ward looked at Anne with undying love, but when Curwen was at the wheel, there was only hatred and animosity to be seen. Vincent Price truly delivered in this performance, and he carried the story and cast like a pro (obviously).
This was quite the refreshing film for me. With the past couple of reviews being kinda bums for the Price love, but this film gave him the starring role, and he was fabulous in The Haunted Palace. I admit that I chose this one to make up for the last two. I had seen it before, and I knew that it really showcased his talent. His ability to switch characters at the drop of a hat, and make both believable is amazing. This wasn't one of his over the top performances (which I love); it was pure acting ability. The over all spooky atmosphere of the film added to the story, and the entire cast was delightful. The Haunted Palace has cemented itself in to horror movie history, and is one of Price’s defining roles. I have seen it several times, and I’m sure I will see it several more. This is surely a must for any Vincent Price fan.
Yesterday I had no trailer. Today, I got the whole film.... with Spanish subtitles. It's still worth checking out folks so do it!