Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13 - Movie 1

Charles Dexter Ward and his wife travel to Arkham to visit the ancestral home he's inherited. The locals are unfriendly, and some of them are horribly disfigured, but that's nothing compared to what awaits him at his new home. Here he finds himself gradually taken over by the spirit of his hated dead ancestor, the warlock, Joseph Curwen who was burned alive for allegedly breeding local women with a monster caged in his basement. As Curwen takes control of Ward's body he takes vengeance on the descendants of the townspeople who executed him and begins his experiments once more.

The Haunted Palace (1963) is part of Roger Corman's cycle of Edgar Allan Poe movies, but is really the first movie based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft (here, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). It stars Vincent Price as both Ward and his ancestor Curwen. Like the Poe films that preceded it, The Haunted Palace is beautifully art directed and filmed in widescreen, giving it a look that transcends its modest budget. The cast is all very good, and there are some genuinely eerie moments, such as the first appearance of the mutant townspeople. Overall, it's a pretty enjoyable film, but it does suffer from extended periods of characters simply strolling through the sets slowly, and a musical motif which is repeated to the point of inciting madness in the viewer. The revelation of the monster in the pit is also a big disappointment. For all the talk of the elder gods such as Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth, when we finally see the monster it looks like a static plastic toy shot through a filter in soft focus. This is not the best of the Corman- Price collaborattions, but it exudes plenty of eerie atmosphere.