The Comedy of Terrors. Film Review

DIRECTOR: Jacques Tourneur
SCREENPLAY: Richard Matheson
STARRING: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff
FORMAT: Blu-ray

While not part of Roger Corman’s cycle of Poe pictures, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is certainly within spitting distance of them. A follow up to 1963’s THE RAVEN, it reunites Price, Lorre and Karloff for more Gothic comedy capers. When Karloff proved unfit to play the lunatic landlord Price and Lorre can never quite manage to kill, Rathbone was drafted in, Karloff relegated to playing Price’s crumbling ruin of a father-in-law (and playing it charmingly).

While the ceaseless pratfalls prove somewhat draining, there’s little denying the wit of Richard Matheson’s script and Rathbone is joy made flesh when haltingly quoting Shakespeare with what proves to be a succession of dying breaths. That said, when even the cat gets billing in the opening credits — at least it’s not black — you know what kind of movie you’re watching. A pantomime with a pleasingly dark heart.

Rather than Corman, Jacques Tourneur is behind the camera. THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is no NIGHT OF THE DEMON (nothing is) but there are pleasing moments of Tourneur’s visual flair and, if they’re inconsistent that was probably a day when Price and Lorre’s ideas for ‘a funny bit of business we could add in’ had driven the poor soul to despair.

The presentation is in great shape and special features include a commentary from Price historian David Del Valle, who also conducts an archive (naturally) interview with Price. There’s also an archive (naturally again) interview with Matheson and a video essay on the work of Jacques Tourneur.