Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Richard Matheson
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff
Running time: 84 minutes
UK release: Re-released on Dual Format DVD & Blu-Ray 16th February 2015 by Arrow Video
Recently we’ve been lucky enough to get a slew of really good horror-comedys. We’ve had ‘Tucker and Dale vs Evil’, ‘Tusk’ and ‘What we do in the Shadows’(which absolutely destroyed the competition at the festivals) to name but three.
So it’s a good time to look back at the funny-scarys of yesteryear. And what better place to start than the aptly named ‘The Comedy of Terrors’? Vincent Price plays Waldo Trumbell, an unscrupulous undertaker in a town where people are just refusing to die. Now this is a problem for Waldo, because his failed-opera-singer wife (Joyce Jameson) is pestering. And pestering. And pestering. So with the help of his assistant (the inimitable Peter Lorre), Waldo decides to go around town and drum up some business, lining graves as well as their pockets.
Now I’ll hold my hands up and admit it; I’d never seen this movie before. In fact, I didn’t even know that it existed until a few days ago. But I was ec-fucking-static when I realised that, not only did it star Price, Lorre and Jameson but Boris Karloff, Universal’s ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, also had a supporting role.
I almost pissed myself in excitement.
But could any film ever live up to that cast list? Had I finally found the movie that would fill me with that childhood dread, as well as a couple of chuckles? Sadly, no. ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ definitely promotes Comedy over Terror, without so much as a single ounce of the fear factor. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a well written, brilliantly directed film, with guaranteed laughs and crackling dialogue.
Price is on top form as the cantankerous director, ghoulishly plotting his plots with glee. As soon as he opens his mouth it’s to bitch and moan at his wife with a wit and deadpan delivery rarely seen this side of the twentieth century.
Although Price leads, and the supporting cast was excellently chosen, it is Peter Lorre who steals the show. His creeping, inept-but menacing style, mixed with his classic high-pitched drawl is the perfect recipe for a good couple of gags and the romance that he experiences is surprisingly bittersweet, something that’s hard to pull off when you’re trying to be funny.
But this film was released in 1963, which begs the question; why are we reviewing it now?
Well, the answer is simple Ladies and Gents. The original film has been digitally improved by Arrow and re-released on Blu-Ray for the pleasure of your eyes and earholes.
In short, this is a beautifully remastered movie, with a Grade-A cast used by writers and producers who know exactly what they’re doing. If you’re looking to hide behind the throw pillows in abject horror then look somewhere else, but if you want a movie that’s as funny as Vincent Price is charming, then ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ is definitely the movie for you this week.
The Comedy of Terrors is available HERE