Found-Again Friday: Weirdness for October! The Haunted Palace

Are you really going to pretend this is “Found-Again” for you? In October?? Nah. Turns out I miss writing about horror movies, and it’s the season, so.

The Premise: Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Ann (Debra Paget) inherit a spooky house in Arkham, complete with undead caretaker and a painting of Ward’s ancestor, the sorcerer Joseph Curwen (played, after his inevitable revival, by Vincent Price looking even hotter).

“Hi! We’re cute and guileless! Which way to the evil old manor, please?”
Curwen, before he was burned to death in his own yard, ran what could euphemistically be called a captive breeding program between hypnotized women and Elder Gods. As a result, the townspeople of Arkham suffer from strange deformities and are understandably afraid that lookalike Ward might be going into the family business.

The Haunted Palace is nominally one of the Poe adaptations Roger Corman made with Vincent Price back in the 1960s, and it does begin and end with readings from the poem. Really, though, it’s H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward novella run through a sort of Poe/Gothic filter of creaky castles, velvet coats and women in distress. It’s also my favorite of those adaptations*—but we all know I’m a little weird.

This movie is so Gothic, even the hero gets a white nightgown.
This movie is so Gothic, even the hero gets a white nightgown.
I vacillate as to which version of this villain is worse: the mad-scientist cannibal necromancer Curwen in 1991’s The Resurrected (which I now own on DVD! One more for Unwanted Eyeball Violence Row…) or this one, who sneers so well and just digs up one old girlfriend and only kills people in a straightforward, laws-of-physics kind of way. But the premise of The Haunted Palace is thoroughly nasty, even though the nastiness is obscured by the lack of gore and the Silly-Puttyesque special effects, so I’m tempted to give 1963 Curwen the advantage.

Though he's quite nice to look at, in a domineering, I'mprobably-cheating-on-you-with-my-dead-girlfriend kind of way.
Though he’s quite nice to look at, in a domineering, probably-cheating-on-you-with-his-dead-girlfriend kind of way.
The Verdict: I’m not going to say that this is perfect: I never make it through the movie without joking that the casting call for the role of Ann should’ve said “Must be able to yell the word ‘Charles!’ upwards of 20 times a minute.” Then there’s the painting, which is supposed to be 18th century but appears to be a self-portrait by Vincent van Price.

Not exaggerating even a tiny bit.
Not exaggerating even a tiny bit.
Also, what kind of stone can be set on fire by angry villagers?

Even so, it’s well-done and genuinely creepy at times, with a great performance from Price in which you can easily tell which character he is at any given moment. Heck, he’s worth watching for the evil Latin recitations alone.

Might go well with: Red wine, The Resurrected, Tales of Terrorthe H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast.

*For those of you keeping track of such things, I’ve seen seven of the eight and would rank them in this order: 2) Masque of the Red Death; 3) Tales of Terror; 4) Pit and the Pendulum; 5) tie between Fall of the House of Usher and Tomb of Ligeia, mainly due to poor Price’s costume in Usher, which is sort of Little Lord Fauntleroy via the ninth circle of Hell; 6) The Raven.

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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