on 2 April 2016
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS [1963 / 2015] [Blu-ray + DVD] Your Favorite Creeps Together Again!
From Jacques Tourneur, director of numerous horror classics including ‘Cat People,’ ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ and ‘Night of the Demon,’ comes ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ is a gleefully macabre tale which brings together genre greats Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff.
Vincent Price plays Waldo Trumbull, a perpetually inebriated, down-on-his-luck undertaker who has struck on an interesting way to boost business – by hastening the deaths of those whom he buries. When landlord Mr. Black [Basil Rathbone] threatens to put him out on the street for falling behind with the rent, Waldo Trumbull, together with his reluctant and bumbling assistant Felix Gillie [Peter Lorre], hatches an ill-advised plan to “kill two birds with one stone”, so to speak…
The penultimate directorial effort from Tourneur, ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ bears many of the hallmarks of the master filmmaker’s earlier works, whilst adding a healthy dash of humour to the proceedings. Careful – you might just die laughing!
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown, Beverly Powers, Basil Rathbone, Alan DeWitt, Buddy Mason, Douglas Williams, Linda Rogers, Luree Holmes, Orangey (Cleopatra the cat as Rhubarb), Paul Barselou (uncredited), Harvey Parry (uncredited) and Charles Soldani (uncredited)
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Producers: Anthony Carras, James H. Nicholson, Richard Matheson and Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay: Richard Matheson and Elsie Lee (novel) (uncredited)
Composer: Les Baxter
Cinematography: Floyd Crosby
Video Resolution: 1080p [Pathecolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Panavision]
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 83 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 2
Studio: M-G-M / American International / Arrow Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Here we find classic old school film actors Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, all in the same horror film. I figured it would be worth it even if the horror film turned out to be a turkey. But ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS,’ directed by Jacques Tourneur, is not a turkey, in large part because of its delightful cast, but also the script by Richard Matheson, who seems to take special joy in a highly extensive vocabulary. It is a black comedy that does not seem to be for everyone’s tastes and some might find it belaboured and it does have a somewhat relaxed pace, but gave me some of the biggest laughs I’ve had all year. The film spoofs everything from grave-robbing, think of Burke and Hare, to William Shakespeare. There are actually a lot of William Shakespeare references, starting with the title of the film, which is based on William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”
‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’  where we find Waldo Trumble [Vincent Price] is the junior partner of Hinchley & Trumble, an undertakers business. But Amos Hinchley [Boris Karloff] is so deaf and senile that he doesn’t seem to be much aware of what is going on, like the fact that Waldo Trumble keeps threatening to poison him. Waldo Trumble has a wonderful collection of memories of how people have been embalmed throughout history, though. Waldo Trumble’s much-abused wife, Amaryllis Trumbull [Joyce Jameson], is also Amos Hinchley’s daughter, who has dreams (or rather delusions) about becoming an opera-singer, which of course she is terrible, and plays the organ when necessary at funeral receptions. And Felix Gillie [Peter Lorre] works for Waldo Trumble as his assistant and secretly adores Amaryllis, who is the love of his life, in this case, is not so much blind as tone-deaf. Completing the household is the cat, Cleopatra [Rhubarb], who gets to watch all the murderous shenanigans going on.
There’s not much SFX to worry about. No blood I can see. It’s more character-driven and dependent on the hilariously morbid dialogue and character interaction, but you might say to yourself, “Sounds very boring.” Well, this is one of those “you just have to see it to get it” type of gothic horror film. Based on the packaging description, I wasn’t in a rush to see this one but, after five minutes into it, I was glued to the screen! Not much else to say. Simply put, this is a MUST SEE film for horror gothic fans! Fans of other genres will love it as well, as long as they aren’t completely and anally serious about death and funerals.
‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’  was not one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films but has enough in common that it could easily have been. It has more or less the same credits as Roger Corman’s comedic Edgar Allan Poe effort ‘The Raven , including stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price, who is playing essentially the same part that Peter Lorre did in the similarly comedic ‘The Black Cat’ episode of Roger Corman’s ‘Tales of Terror’ , screenwriter Richard Matheson, production designer Daniel Haller, musician Les Baxter and cinema photographer Floyd Crosby.
‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’  was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who a couple of decades earlier had made distinction with two of Val Lewton’s finest psychological horror films ‘Cat People’  and ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ . Here Jacques Tourneur is in broad burlesque mode and the film is aimed at a frequently buffoonish level of knockabout comedy. What saves ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ from total silliness is a witty and adept script from Richard Matheson who wrote most of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films. All the cast are on fine form; especially Vincent Price is in full fruity flight with some hilarious scenes threatening to poison Boris Karloff off, while Peter Lorre does his craven cringing thing with equally hilarious regard. There are some mercilessly funny scenes with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre trying to force Basil Rathbone to stay in his coffin. The film reaches an especially hilarious ending with Basil Rathbone maniacally quoting William Shakespeare, everybody being killed off, sometimes multiply so, and an especially droll final scene where Boris Karloff feeds Vincent Price some ‘medicine.’
But could any film ever live up to that cast list? Had I finally found the horror film 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. Vincent 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 Vincent 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 the real scene-stealer, if there can be one with such a cast, is Basil Rathbone as the William Shakespeare quoting landlord who will not die. He especially likes to quote from Macbeth. He gets more returns from the dead than a cat. Every time he wakes up from a fit of catalepsy, he asks “What place is THIS?” which sounds impressive when coming from within a coffin. The poor cemetery keeper (played by Joe E. Brown) is frightened out of his wits when he hears, issuing from within a crypt, a hollow voice, because the reason it is hollow because it’s coming from the coffin, asking “Is this a dagger which I see before me?”
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 Video and re-released on Blu-Ray for the pleasure of your video and audio pleasure. In short, this is a beautifully remastered horror film, 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 Blu-ray to add to your Vincent Price Collection.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Arrow Video has presented us with this brilliant 1080p encoded image Blu-ray disc that has been sourced from M-G-M via Hollywood Classics, and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio transfer here has a few more dust spots than we're used to seeing on Arrow Video Blu-ray discs of past cult favourites, but in all other respects this is a lovely job. The detail is crisp, the pitch of the contrast sublime, and the colours have a richness that makes you ache for the beauty of film in a predominantly digital age. The only negative aspect of this print is that you get a lot of speckles appearing at the start of the film, but as you gradually get into the film the speckles slightly diminish and you stop noticing them after a while. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Arrow Video has presented us with this brilliant and superb 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio soundtrack that is in really good shape, and boasting quite a richer dynamic audio range than I was expecting, impressive clarity and only a faint trace of background hiss. Amaryllis's singing is appropriately eardrum-busting, but never distorts. But overall for the age of the film, the audio presentation holds up well.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
High Definition Blu-ray [1080p] and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by M-G-M.
Original Uncompressed 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio on the Blu-ray.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with author and film historian David Del Valle and cult director David DeCoteau: Filmmaker David DeCoteau plays host to film historian David Del Valle, who does the lion's share of the talking here. As fans of the film and experts in their field, the pair delivers a truckload of information on the actors, the filmmakers, and American International, a lengthy section that sees discussion on the film put temporarily on hold. But before we get into the main bulk of this audio commentary, we first here camp sarcastic David DeCoteau sat, “Oh! American International, the sign of quality.” But they both inform us that they are looking forward to viewing this film, which they have not seen since viewing it for a long time and praise the quality of the film they are viewing, compared to when they viewed it on a small TV screen in a pan-and-scan format. When we see the funeral at the start of the film, we are informed that the film set was also used previously in the film ‘The Haunted Palace.’ When you see the hearse driving away from the cemetery, it is not Peter Lorre driving the hearse, but an extra wearing a Peter Lorre mask, which I have never noticed until now viewing the film with the audio commentary, which now is very noticeable that the extra is wearing a Peter Lorre mask, which happens a lot in other very physical scenes in the film with the extra wearing the mask, because at the time of filming Peter Lorre was very seriously ill, because he was addicted to morphine at the age of 59 year of age and unfortunately three months after the release of this film, Peter Lorre passed away. It's just possible that some may be irked by the number of times David Del Valle references an actor or filmmaker as "my friend [guess who]," and I certainly took issue with his claim that ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ is a better film than ‘The Raven’ and was actually ahead of its time, can they be really seriously? But there's too much good stuff here to gripe about a couple of small irritations, and the duo score big points with me for remarking that Basil Rathbone was "the definitive Sherlock Holmes, until Jeremy Brett came along." They also mention Rhubarb the cat, who won two “PATSY Awards,” which was originated by the Hollywood office of the American Humane Association in 1939, so they could honour animals and it was equivalent to the Oscars for animals, and we also find out that Rhubarb the cat appeared in the film ‘Breakfast in Tiffany’s’ and also appeared in the film ‘This island Earth’ and also appeared in loads of television programmes. They talk about Boris Karloff when he made the film ‘Frankenstein,’ but was always missing his beloved England and longed to go home, but while filming in Hollywood he rented a place out in Cold Water Canyon, where he had a small farm with loads of animals, which he loved, but especially his favourite pig that loved Boris Karloff and would not eat until Boris came home for the days shooting. So all in all this audio commentary is okay, but a lot of it is well over the top of camp inference and got quite boring and self-obsessed, and especially again irked me by the number of times the camp over the top David Del Valle references an actor or filmmaker as "my friend [guess who]," which started to bore me to tears and I hope I don’t have to listen to another of this over the over the top David Del Valle references, he started to act like Liberace and I suspect he was a friend of Dorothy?
Special Feature: Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes  [489i] [1.33:1] [51:38] Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes is the hitherto unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle/Vincent Price interview which was previously released on a DVD in 2002 under the title of “The Sinister Image.” The audio and video quality is as per the source material, which is of a very grainy quality. Here we are told Vincent price was a renaissance man with a very wry sense of humour, and was also an actor, author, father, and an art collector who saw art in everything; he was also a gourmet cook who loved hotdogs. His career spans seven decades in every media, especially radio, television, the Broadway stage, one man shows, animated cartoons and rock ‘n’ roll, but movie goer’s remembers Vincent price as the “Master of Menace.” From the beginning of his career at the age of 39, his cultured voice and impressive bearing, signified a nefarious activities, and this warm gentle and gracious man, suffered in his last years, a very debilitating illness that finally claimed him, especially on the night before Halloween in 1993 and the sad death of his wife Coral brown in 1991 and Vincent Price left his testament to terror and here in this special in 1987 we have David Del Valle with Vincent price in a studio discussing his legacy and of course he was renowned for his sinister smile, but not with this interview, he seems to have a twinkle in his eyes especially talking his amazing career. With David Del Valle sitting opposite Vincent Price start to talk about his early romantic films with Gothic overtones, like ‘The Invisible man.’ Vincent Price also talks about his long standing acting career with his fellow thespians Boris Karloff and basil Rathbone that he first met in the film ‘Tower of London’ . David Del Valle wants to know more about John P. Fulton, A.S.C. who was an American special effects supervisor and cinematographer, who was legendary on working on the films ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Mummy,’ and to see him at work was a very unassuming person and looked more like a businessman, but Vincent Price says that behind-the-scene he was a genius at special effects and when Vincent Price appeared in the film ‘The Invisible Man,’ where it took 8 hours to film a scene where he takes clothes off a scarecrow. Vincent price then goes onto to talk about his other films he appeared in, especially ‘LAURA,’ which he felt was a really great film and enjoyed appearing in it. But at the start of his career he was always playing nice men, so decided he wanted parts in films where he is the villain and the film that kicked started this direction was the film ‘House of Wax’ in 3D, which Vincent Price really enjoyed that part in the film, but really laughed at the fact that the Director only had one eye and was always asking people if the shot went well and was glad he didn’t at that moment in time take up the stage career on Broadway. We then move onto the period where Vincent Price worked with the true master of spine tingling horror films and that person was the direct William Castle, which Vincent Price really enjoyed working someone who was called “Mr. Showbiz.” Then they turn to the other big hit film ‘THE FLY’ that again Vincent price really enjoyed working on, but at certain times when filming certain scenes they would have hysterical laughing fits. Then we hear about Vincent Price wanted to go into the realms of Gothic Horror films and felt so lucky to work with the legendary director Roger Corman and of course all those Gothic Horror franchise films were a huge box office success. Vincent Price also talks about his fellow actors and friends Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing he enjoyed working with and also had a great long term friendship with them. We then move onto the two Dr. Phibes films that Vincent Price relished that part in those films, because it was a great honour to work the director Robert Fuest and felt he was one of the best directors he ever worked with. But the film for Vincent price that was the icing on the cake and one of the funniest is ‘Theatre of Blood,’ as Vincent price had a wild time and especially working with all the brilliant British actors. So all in all this has been a really nice special feature in hearing about the fantastic and fascinating career as an actor and was also a joy to listen to and so pleased it was included in with the extras.
Special Feature: Whispering in Distant Chambers: The Nightfall of Jacques Tourneur  [1080p] [1.78:1] [16:57] A specially-commissioned video essay by David Cairns looking at the various recurrent themes and stylistic motifs which reappear throughout Jacques Tourneur director’s work. We hear that Jacques Tourneur was born a filmmaker, and his French name Tourneur means “turning,” but the word is also used for the shooting of film, so his name can be said to mean “one who films.” His father Maurice Tourneur was also a great French director, but mainly in silent films and especially right up until the 1940s. We find out that Jacques Tourneur actually appeared in a lot of films as an actor, but when Jacques Tourneur first started to work with his father, he was employed and a Film Editor, it was his way of getting into the process of filmmaking, but his main interest was to get into directing films and finally got a job with Pathé-Natan, one of France’s biggest film company. Jacques Tourneur first two films he directed were ‘Tout Ça Ne Vaut Pas L’Amour’  and ‘TOTO’  and both were his first foray into comedy. Jacques Tourneur moved to America and worked on some low budget films for M-G-M entitled ‘The Face Behind The Mask;’ ‘The Jonker Diamond;’ ‘What Do You Think?’ and an M-G-M cartoon entitled ‘Killer-Dog.’ Jacques Tourneur hated big budget bloated films he had to work as a 2nd Assistant Director and decided to move onto to directing films that had a much more subtle substance like ‘Master Detective;’ ‘Phantom Raider’ and of course the classic film ‘Cat People’ . Jacques Tourneur loved doing films in deserted houses, and especially quoting, “I believe great things come from that great reservoir we have within u, of past experiences, which is all available.” Jacques Tourneur went onto hopefully make much better films like ‘Days of Glory;’ ‘Berlin Express’ and ‘Appointment in Honduras,’ but sadly they were box office poison and faded without trace. But then Jacques Tourneur turned his attention to the black-and-white “film noir” genre with film like ‘Out of the Past’ . But then went onto other types of films like ‘Stranger on Horseback;’ ‘Experiment Perilous;’ ‘The Flame and the Arrow;’ ‘Stars In My Crown;’ ‘Les Flibustiers des Antilles;’ ‘WICHITA’ and ‘Nighfall’ . But then moved onto direct the brilliant British Gothic Horror film ‘Night of the Demon’ . But in his later years, especially when he was totally disillusioned with filmmaking and moved back to France to retire and as we get to the end of this special feature on Jacques Tourneur, we hear the personal prophetic words, where Jacques Tourneur says, “Nothing is more effervescent than an image in celluloid. I am a very average director, I did my best work the best I could, we’re all limited.”
Special Feature: Richard Matheson Storyteller  [1080p] [1.78:1] [9:36] This is an archive interview with ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ screenwriter, where we are introduced to the legendary Richard Matheson with PIP’s inserts dotted around the screen, while PIP’s of ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ film clips are dotted around the screen, where Richard Matheson informs us that the studio soon realised that comedy and horror combined in the film ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ did not work and was a box office flop, but feels they should of chosen a better film title. But after the initial introduction the screen resumes the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Although Richard Matheson was billed "an associate producer is someone who associates with the producer," he didn’t really have to do much with that side of the business, he instead was more involved as the screenwriter, and all the main three actors like Vincent price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone loved Richard Matheson’s script, and said he had a blast in being involved with most of the actors in the film. Richard Matheson told the studio that he should hire Jacques Tourneur to direct the film ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ as he would be so ideal and knew his craft back to front and Jacques Tourneur and informed Richard Matheson that he really had a wonderful and enjoyable time directing the film. Richard Matheson wanted to make a follow up film to ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ with the four male actors Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, because he had written a very funny script for a Gothic Horror Comedy film entitled ‘Sweetheart and Horrors,’ which sounded absolutely fantastic, and especially the way Richard described the outline of the film sounded also totally brilliant and would of indeed been a very funny film and a big hit, but sadly the studio turned him down and thought it would be a failure like ‘The Comedy of Terrors,’ because the film script for ‘Sweetheart and Horrors,’ would have been totally brilliant and what a shame some other studio will not take up Richard’s script and set the wheels in motion to make the film. Richard Matheson tells us that he has done loads of screenplays, especially for Vincent Price, which included ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ ; ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ ; ‘Master of the World’ , ‘The raven’  and was honoured to give scripts to Vincent Price that were real sharp and on the ball. Although Richard Matheson profession was not all about scripts, he has produced several novels of the suspense genre, in making metaphysical points, which interest him more today, and a previous novel Richard brought out was entitled “The Path: A New Look At Reality”  and is a work of inspirational fiction, this story describes one man's encounter with a mysterious stranger, who imparts ten lessons about the true reality of the soul. It is all about recharging our souls, it also asks us, “why are we here” and “the meaning of life,” which is Richard’s idea on life in general, and the cause and the effect syndrome. As we come to the end of this totally fascinating special feature, Richard Matheson gives us some words of wisdom, by saying, “the sooner people understand life, the sooner they will change their lifestyle and realise that they are not getting away with anything and I believe that strongly.” To sum up this interview with Richard Matheson, wow he is such a fascinating and interesting person, as well as a very likeable person and someone I would of liked to have met, as Richard is a very engaging and fascinating person to listen to and it was a shame this was not longer, as I am sure there was a wealth of information on his work as a screenwriter and I am so pleased they included this is with the rest of the special features. This was an M-G-M Home Entertainment production.
Theatrical Trailer  [2:34] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS.’ A slightly busy, but misleading ineffective theatrical trailer that fails to sell the film successfully as either comedy or horror and will likely to leave newcomers to this film wondering just what the hell they are in for.
PLUS: Beautiful designed reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper. Paul Shipper was born in Manchester 1976, Paul Shipper lives and works from his home studio in South-West England. He is an illustrator renowned for producing imagery for film, entertainment and advertising properties.
BONUS: A brilliant illustrated collector’s 24 page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of “Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall,” whose main feature is a fantastic essay entitled “Outsider Spirits: Jacques Tourneur, Richard Matheson and The Comedy of Terrors” by Chris Fujiwara. It is a visually lovely informative booklet, as well as a solid informative read and nowhere else in this essay is it revealed that Jacques Tourneur wasn't happy with the film and that he later declined to discuss it. It also contains some fantastic rare images from the film, also brilliant illustrations, plus other items that include “ABOUT THE TRANSFER;” “PRODUCTION CREDITS” and “SPECIAL THANKS.”
Finally, ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ is one of the breeziest Vincent Price entries from this period, and it's obvious that Vincent Price, along with Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre, are having unbridled fun in this totally lunatic romp. Technical merits here are very strong, the supplementary package is decent and ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ comes with great praise from me. This time around, ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS’ did not feel quite as funny or smart compared to the other Vincent Price films, but obviously it still had some great deal of funny energetic fun along the way. Arrow Video has delivered another lovely professional transfer here, despite not being able to get rid of those horrible speckles, but at least it has a wealth of brilliant fine collection of extra features. By the way, if you like the film ‘THE COMEDY OF TERRORS,’ then you absolutely has to purchase this Blu-ray disc. Once again Arrow Video has done another fantastic professional job. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom