Wednesday, October 18, 2017
The Haunted Palace (1963)
Who's In It: Vincent Price (House of Wax, House of Usher), Debra Paget (Anne of the Indies, The Indian Tomb), and Lon Chaney Jr (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, High Noon)
What It's About: A married couple (Price and Paget) move into the estate of the husband's ancestors, but the ghost of the last owner isn't done with the place yet... and also has plans for his descendant.
How It Is: Spoilers for my opinion of some of the Corman/Price/Poe movies I watched after this, but The Haunted Palace is my favorite of them. Ironically, though, it's not really a Poe movie at all. The Haunted Palace is just a Poe title slapped on an HP Lovecraft story, complete with the town of Arkham and references to Cthulhu and other elder gods. The title is pure marketing, cashing in on the success of the other Corman/Price/Poe films.
I especially like Price in this one though. He's got a nice, complicated role as a good man who's gradually being possessed by the spirit of his evil ancestor. And Paget is wonderful as the only one who sees what's happening to him.
Frank Maxwell has a significant role as a local doctor who at least wants to believe Ann's (Paget) reports and I like him a lot, too. The film is ambiguous about whether he's attracted to Ann, but if he is, he's never creepy about it. He seems to legitimately want to help the couple, even though it puts him in conflict with the rest of the town and even with Price himself (depending on whether kindly Charles Dexter Ward or malevolent Joseph Curwen is in control).
Chaney gets third billing as basically Curwen's Ygor (or maybe Renfield). Chaney could be unreliable at this point in his career, but he's engaged this time and does a good job alternating between amiable and creepy as needed.
The makeup effects on the various creatures (including deformed townspeople) aren't awesome, but they're serviceable and the sets are all fantastic, from the palace itself to the foggy streets of Arkham.
I'm not crazy about the way everything wraps up, but based on the performances and mood, I'll be wanting to watch this one again.
Rating: 4 out of 5 mutant townspeople.