The Comedy of Terrors (1964) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Comedy of Terrors (1964)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Richard Matheson wrote this funny horror spoof about an undertaker who decides to drum up new business. Cinematography by Floyd Crosby; score by Les Baxter.
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Classics , Comedy , Horror
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 limited
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:

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Cast

Vincent Price
as Waldo Trumbull
Boris Karloff
as Amos Hinchley
Peter Lorre
as Felix Gillie
Basil Rathbone
as Mr. John F. Black
Joyce Jameson
as Amaryllis Trumbull
Joe E. Brown
as Cemetery Keeper
Beverly Powers
as Mrs. Phipps
Buddy Mason
as Mr. Phipps
Luree Nicholson
as Black's Servant
Linda Rogers
as Phipps' Maid
Luree Holmes
as Black's Servant
Rhubarb
as Cleopatra
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Critic Reviews for The Comedy of Terrors

All Critics (8)

An all-out horror comedy set in 19th century New England with some of the best names in the business. Besides Price, there's Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and in a small, but funny, segment, Joe E. Brown.

Full Review… | November 1, 2014
Movie Chambers

It's hard to believe, but the horror spoof goes under despite this awesome cast.

Full Review… | January 25, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The film is grand slapstick, and the performances are funnier the more often you see it.

June 15, 2007
DVDLaser

There's some terrific comic interplay, and director Jacques Tourneur (Night of the Demon) keeps it all looking good and moving forward. Nonetheless, this is an 84-minute film spun from 42 minutes worth of material.

Full Review… | April 5, 2006
DVDJournal.com

You can't go wrong with the creepy combo of Price, Lorre, Rathbone, and Rhubarb the Cat!

Full Review… | January 28, 2005
StaciWilson.com

Some of it is a little forced -- all of it is marred by the typically overbearing Les Baxter musical score -- but it's a lot of fun.

Full Review… | July 30, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for The Comedy of Terrors

½

Ello gov'na, what's this then, another bit of vintage tomfoolery courtesy of some classic horror legends? By Jove we'll ave some of that then...what! So this popped up on my radar out of absolutely nowhere, never heard of it before, a complete shock...a complete pleasant shock. Apparently this movie is a follow up of sorts to the classic Poe/Corman 1963 adaptation of 'The Raven', which also had the same trio of greats. That trio of course consisting of Karloff, Price and Lorre, only this time the epic Basil Rathbone joins the fray. Not to mention the fact that Rathbone, Lorre and Price all starred together in another horror comedy called 'Tales of Terror' the year before (milking it much?). Anyways, I say follow up, that's only in terms of the main lead cast, this isn't a sequel or continuation of the 63 Corman picture, merely a new project bringing the classic cast together again. Bloody good show! (no pun intended...wait, yes pun intended). Sooo Vincent Price plays the titular Mr Trumbull, a grumpy, miserable, Scrooge-esque type of rotter. He runs an undertakers business (what else) in New England circa the late 19th century. He has a close personal assistant by the name of Mr Gillie played by the ever kooky Lorre. Gillie is a more submissive, quiet man who tries to stand by his principles and do what is right, alas he is bullied and overpowered most of the time by his boss Mr Trumbull. The dastardly duo con people by dumping their dead loved ones into graves minus their coffin. They then reuse the same coffin over and over for other customers, saving the cost of buying new coffins. Unfortunately business is drying up and Trumbull owes his landlord (Mr Black played by Rathbone) a years worth of rent. So, in order to gain some income, Trumbull decides to start snuffing people out so he can then get the business of burying them. After what promises to be a good start, things start to go awry and the duo end up going after Mr Black. What follows are the humorous complications of Trumbull and Gillie trying to kill off Mr Black whilst not getting caught, trying to keep Trumbull's wife at bay, and hoping ancient Mr Hinchley (Karloff) doesn't dip his little fly in the ointment. So bottom line, is this funny? Errmm...not really, I mean its not terrible or anything, but its just not particularly funny. Was it funny back in the day? errmm...I don't think it was actually. I can't be sure but the film generally didn't do very well on release and a sequel was cancelled, so I must assume the general public didn't think much of it. Dare I say its quite possible that just maybe the general public might have been a tad bored of seeing these old horrors legends doing the same routine? I don't wanna be put up on charges of blasphemy of anything but the films I have already mentioned earlier aren't exactly vastly different in terms of tone. Essentially they could all be the same movie if you really wanted to believe that, or an anthology at least. I mean looking at the film, visually it does look cool and atmospheric for sure. Everything we see is generally sets and admittedly you can easily tell its all sets (nothing unusual), but it all looks quaint and charming in its dusty, olde worlde type way. The main location of Trumbull's rented house is clearly a set on a studio lot with a matte painted background, its obvious but cute. The interiors are also clearly sets and they tend to range in quality. Trumbull's house is easily the best looking with vast array of period pieces, props and a downstairs cellar which houses the coffins, all perfectly creepy and weathered of course. Other sets for other interiors looked OK in places with certain props but for some reason or another would get decidedly more ropy as the scene would progress. For instance, the sequences within a big old mansion (lovely exterior matte painting) were fine on the ground floor, but as the protagonists proceeded upstairs the sets and props became more and more fake looking, to the point where it didn't really look like the interior of a creepy old 19th century mansion at all. It just looked like an average shitty set with not very olde worlde looking props, atmosphere gone! To add to the problems, exterior shots are so very clearly in California it hurts, OK I can't be 100% sure its CA, but its definitely not New England that's for sure. Again this kinda takes you out of the movie, one shot spooky 19th century New England, next shot dusty present day (for the time) Californian countryside. Performance wise again its a bit of a mixed bag really. Lets be brutally honest here, although I love them both and enjoy their kooky talents, both Price and Lorre pretty much do their usual shtick here. Price again plays a total cad and bounder with his famous tash that seems to do half the work for him. Where as Lorre again looks a bit uncomfortable playing yet another whining sidekick that gets pushed around. Indeed his role was actually very physical and demanded a stunt man for many bits of fisticuffs. Alas this was pretty obvious as was the stunt man for Price who was clearly about 20 years younger! Lets not forget Karloff who...well he kinda does nothing really, he plays the old owner of the undertakers and merely dithers around half asleep or deaf. His role feels more like a small cameo just to fit him and make up the grand cast. The stand out performance must go to Rathbone who seriously gets carried away here, he's clearly having a hell of a time and is chewing up the scenery like there's no tomorrow. There are sequences where Rathbone is reciting long pieces of dialog (that I presume are actual pieces from Shakespeare or something...gulp! do I sound ignorant here?) whilst bounding around the sets, fencing, chasing, dying etc...I was genuinely surprised at the amount of energy Rathbone has in this because he's not exactly a young man here, kudos Sir. As I've already said earlier, the main problem here is one, its not really funny, its kinda falls flat. The pratfalls and general capering are dated (probably even then) and routine stuff, its nothing special at all. Watching Rathbone pretend to die in an overly exaggerated way is maybe amusing for the first time, but not for the umpteenth time. Watching Lorre's stuntman slide down a rooftop or roll down some stairs isn't really funny sorry. Karloff raises a few smiles as the bumbling old man and Price's devilish ways are enjoyable but nothing you probably haven't seen before if you're a fan. Although his devilish, fiendish ways are still top notch if repetitive. The other issue here is the plot, which in all essence could so easily have been a short for an anthology, but its clearly been padded out big time here. So really what we have here is a horror comedy starring three blokes, in the same year which there was also another horror comedy starring the same three blokes. The year before that there was another horror comedy starring the same three blokes! (Minus Karloff, enter Rathbone). The theme through all three movies being horror comedy with similar sorts of tales which people will have seen before. So really you can see why this didn't go down too well in its day. Its not a bad film by any stretch, but its not a wondrous piece of cinema either. Like with many of these old horror flicks, the joy comes from seeing the classic stars, at times the films can be fantastic of course, but at other times the films can be bottom of the barrel crapola...but with a star in it. This film comes somewhere in the middle for me, I think its better than the other two movies mentioned here, but only just.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

½

Harmless and silly slapstick comedy bolstered by a who's-who cast of horror legends.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

½

Richard Matheson showing again (after the excellent "The Crow") his talents in comedy, writing for four legends of horror cinema, all members of Roger Corman's troupe of Poe adaptations, but here directed by the other old master Jacques Tourneur.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

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