The Haunted Palace Reviews
But who can blame them? Nearly two centuries earlier, a curse was placed on the city by Joseph Curwen, the warlock owner of the titular complex. Before being dramatically lynched by townsfolk too pissed about his latest sacrifice to Satan (or whomever he worships) to let things go once again, he calls out, by name, the people who have wronged him. They, along with their next of kin, will thus be doomed for an eternity.
Cut to the present of 1875 and we find that Curwen's great-great-grandson (also played by Vincent Price), Charles Dexter Ward, has recently inherited the castle. His wife (Debra Paget) by his side, neither expects to do anything besides imitate an indecisive couple on a particularly good episode of "House Hunters." If the property's nice, they'll stay. But if their intuitions suggest they go in the opposite direction, they'll do as they feel and go back to their normal lives.
Since they're immediately welcomed by a man who warns them that the "town is evil," going with option two seems smarter even before they take a peek at the castle at the first time. But things that would unsettle a person with healthy common sense are cast aside as excusable quirks, and, before you know it, the couple's begun the process of calling the manor home.
Though Charles is feeling it more than his betrothed - she'd do anything to leave, while he's perfectly content staying and utilizing the palace's loyal caretaker (Lon Chaney, Jr.) as a resource and friend. It doesn't help that the spirit of Curwen has coincidentally decided to possess Charles's body shortly after arrival, either. And so the clock ticks as Curwen regains the upper hand and begins the process of trying to continue what he started back in his heyday.
The seventh of the nine Roger Corman directed Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for American International Pictures, "The Haunted Palace" is hardly "House of Usher" (1960) nor 1964's terrific "The Masque of the Red Death," moving along with déjà vu if only because the macabre setting feels so homogenized in comparison to its counterparts. Such could be the result of its not necessarily being based off a Poe work at all - while its title derives from a poem written by the horror maestro, it's more thoroughly lifted from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." And the film's a doozy of black humor interlaced with fantastical terror; if it weren't considered to be part of such a wonderful (unofficial) franchise, it'd be supremely effective in its own right.
But comparison's inexorable, especially with "Red Death" released immediately after. Price is, of course, fantastic - no one plays a Jekyll and Hyde dual role with his brand of mastery - and support from Paget and Chaney, Jr. is convincing. But this time around do the sets look just a little bit cheaper, innovations drier and camp perhaps less purposeful. It very much looks like the work of a filmmaker holding the financial fort down as his next moment of inspiration lifts him into the air and changes his life. Entertainment value is inescapable, as all of Corman and Price's collaborations are. But familiarity is not, and the film is more safe than shocking.
In 1875, Charles Dexter Ward inherits a Gothic castle-like Palace that, about 110 years earlier, had been brought over stone by stone from Europe and re-built overlooking the New England town of Arkham by his great great grandfather, Joseph Curwen. Curwen was effectively burned at the stake by the town's people for being a Necromantic Sorcerer (responsible for the impregnating of local young women by demonic entities) who cursed them all before he died - he vowed to return from death and get revenge on each of those responsible and all their descendants.
Curwen apparently had a back up plan ready to go should an angry mob end up murdering him, using his Necromantic Sorcery he ensured that his disembodied Spirit would remain "vital" within the Palace till he could find a suitable victim to possess and through whom he would be able to exact his revenge. Ignorant of his ancestor's history Ward decides to move to Arkham and into the Palace with his wife Anne, played by Debra Paget... big mistake.
Cue 60s Gothic Horror Movie melodrama hardened by a dark Lovecraftian weirdness. It has a good solid cast, that includes Lon Chaney Jr as Simon Orne - a loyal cultist/servant of Curwen's, and a sumptuous look typical of Roger Cormen's "Poe Cycle" for American International Pictures. The film itself is titled after an Edgar Alan Poe poem and in the closing scenes the final verse of that poem is narrated - '...While, like a ghastly rapid river, through the pale door, a hideous throng rush out forever and laugh - But smile no more'
The Haunted Palace marks the first time actual names of Lovecraftian Monstrosities, such as the Elder Gods Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth, are uttered on celluloid. It is also the first time Lovecraft's legendary black magic book, the Necronomicon, is not only mentioned but also makes its premier appearance in the history of motion-picture tropes as an integral prop and plot-device.
Not one of Cormen's best but certainly his most Lovecraftian. Vincent Price's performance is, as ever, a delight to watch.
It's an unrated film from '64 which is nuts, I'd say it's PG-13 if the film was re-rated. The film has got plot. Typical mediocre acting of the time outside of course, Vincent Price himself. The plot is a direct film adaption of an Edgar Allen Poe tale, like many of Price's films during the era. The film has a twistful ending. The score exists of just one song, but it's just so well used and timed. This is probably one of Price's' lesser known films and I definitely have to recommend it. It contains just the right amount of supernatural horror slasher without compromising on plot and overdoing violence. It's not graphic either.
Vincent Price gives his usual great performance. He was at his best as we slowly see his mind and soul being assumed by his warlock ancestor. Debra Paget is both beautiful and formidable as Price's leading lady; unfortunately, this was her final feature film. The supporting cast was excellent and filled with great character actors, especially Lon Chaney Jr. as Price's henchman and, Frank Maxwell, Elisha Cook, Jr., Leo Gordon, John Dierkes as the villagers.
This film may not be at the top tier of the Corman/Price/Poe batch of films, but it's still highly watchable and eminently enjoyable.