Saturday, 9 April 2011

Price, Karloff, Rathbone, Lorre, Embody ...

The Comedy Of Terrors

American International Pictures smartly bring together some of the greatest talent in horror cinema ever, for a comical spin on the genre. Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People 1942 & Night Of The Demon 1957. But two of his masterworks) gets to forge together the classical talents of Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. A positive cornucopia of horror cinemas greats. Bring them together, and invite them to over indulge in their sense of dark humour, and you get the infectious comical horror curio, The Comedy Of Terrors.

Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) is the partner in place of a floundering undertakers. He is married to the business owner, and elder statesman’s daughter, Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson). Boris Karloff is Amos Hinchley, the proprietor, a retired old man reliant on the care of his daughter and the business acumen of Waldo Trumbull. Business is far from thriving, however, and in order to generate income Trumbull, and his introverted underling assistant Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) turn to less than honest means to make money.

The scurrilous undertaker Trumbull constantly recycles his one and only resplendent coffin, turning the bodies of the deceased out into an open grave once those grieving have left the ceremony. Swiftly covering up the body with soil no one is the wiser when they skulk away with the coffin to use again for the next faux service !.

Felix Gillie is kept under Trumbull’s thumb as he is an escaped convict, hiding away under his new identity under the employ of Trumbull. His abilities at breaking and entering locked premises are put to frequent use by the devious undertaker, as another of his irreverent scams is to break into properties and suffocate the elderly and frail in their sleep. The following day he returns to the scene and offers his services to bury the deceased, taken as naturally slipping away in their sleep during the night.

Things become darker and quirkier as Trumbull has to deal with his landlord John F. Black, a terrific turn by Basil Rathbone. Black seeks immediate payment of one years back rent, imposing threat of legal action to turf Trumbull out of the premises. Trumbull has to act quickly and decides to add Black to his list of night time visitations. The evening turns into a farce as the bumbling presence of Gillie alerts Black to the duos intrusion. The outcome, however, ironically delivers the same desired result for the desperate Trumbull, as Black appears to have a heart attack, brought on by the shock appearance of Gillie in his house.

As vibrant in its comic shenanigans as it is in its colourful hues The Comedy Of Terrors is an entertaining testament to the genius’s of the genre. From a time where a low budget still delivered a high quality production, and secured the very best talent to apply their trade in the cause of satisfaction over self gratification.

The final third of the movie is priceless entertainment from its stars. Boris Karloff as the doddery old undertaker, perked up by the elixir of afforded alcohol, is delirious to behold giving a church soliloquy, constantly forgetting the name of the deceased and adlibbing psalms. Basil Rathbone gives a strong performance as a typically pompous aristocrat, duly calling for a pantomime villain like rapport with the audience. Peter Lorre, certainly past his prime performances from earlier in his career, still draws sympathy toward his character as a down beaten underling, stoic in his role and an important and engaging necessity in bringing out the best in those around him. Vincent Price, of course, revels in the lead with a nonchalance that is artful in delivering a likeable villain to put a smile upon viewers faces, aware that he himself behind his on screen countenance is wryly smiling right back.

For Trumball and Gillie to keep Black in a coffin after pronouncement of death is the comical crux of the matter, as this Shakespearian quoting dandy suffers from the rare condition of catalepsy. When all natural signs of life equate to the person being dead, but in fact they are in a deep state of suspended animation. Just goes to show that you can’t keep a good man down, even when he has the obnoxious pomposity of Basil Rathbone’s character.

A fun caper wonderfully played out, and doubtlessly enjoyed by all the participants both in front of and behind the camera. The Comedy Of Terrors will tickle rather than terrorise, but is no less entertaining and once again looks incredible in High Definition, showing on the MGM HD Channel.

The Comedy Of Terrors Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

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