The Haunted Palace

The Haunted Palace is currently available on Amazon Prime

The Haunted Palace (1963)

“When a man arrives in the New England village of Arkham to claim the palatial mansion that was once the domain of his great-great grandfather (a black magician who was burned alive 110 years before), he discovers an evil curse. In HD.”

“One becomes accustomed to the darkness here.”

The official title of this movie is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Haunted Palace which is funny because it is not at all based on Poe. Corman takes the title of a Poe poem (Poe-m?) and has Price quote a few lines in voiceover in order to shoehorn this into the Poe series.

In actuality, if the location of Arkham did not give it away, The Haunted Palace is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It is based as loosely as the Poe adaptations before it but the movie captures a wonderful Lovecraftian feel. In addition to Arkham, we get Elder Gods, the Necronomicon, and a pervasive atmosphere of doom. The eyeless, webbed and deformed villagers are sooo creepy.

Once again the script provides Vincent Price the opportunity to play both protagonist (Charles Dexter Ward) and villain (Joseph Curwen). He does a superb job of both, though certainly his villains are more intriguing. Instead of being grandiose (as many of his villains are), Price’s Curwen is icy and menacing.

Price gets an assist here from another legend of horror, Lon Chaney Jr. (here billed as Lon Chaney as if he did not have a separate identity from his silent movie star father – poor Creighton). Chaney plays Simon Orne, the more sensible villain but still second fiddle to Joseph Curwen. Sadly Chaney’s alcoholism was in full swing at this point and he never did another Corman picture. He still had one good role ahead of him – that of Bruno in Spider Baby (1968).

The female lead, Ann Ward is played by Debra Paget in her final film role. She had a wonderful career in the fifties – she rocked with Elvis in Love Me Tender (1956), played Cosette in Les Miserable (1952) and Cecil B. DeMille picked her to play Lilia in The Ten Commandments (1956) without a screen test. She retired after this.

As usual Corman gives us a castle (matte painting), wonderful sets, creeping fog, lots of candlelight and crashing waves. Fire is a recurring theme throughout the film – starting with the burning of Joseph Curwen in the prologue.

People Watch: Look for the instantly recognizable Elisha Cook Jr. as Peter Smith and Micah Smith. He is probably best remembered as Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon. He also appeared in The Big Sleep, Shane, House on Haunted Hill and Rosemary’s Baby.

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