Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

31 Days of Halloween: The Comedy of Terrors

Where would I be without A.I.P.?

That's American International Pictures, not the Afghan Islamic Press. A.I.P. was a film studio that existed between the '50s and '70s, and was helmed by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson. Roger Corman was also heavily involved in a lot of A.I.P.'s productions. None of those three enter into this story, except to set the stage; all three were masters of turning a profit on low-budget schlock, and the modern sci-fi and horror film genres owe a great debt to all three of them. More specifically, my fondness for the genre owes a great debt to them. It would be interesting to discuss this here, but uh, I have a subject to get back to...

...on Tuesday nights I get together with defaultlisa, physorg, theenigma42, and a few other people who don't have LJ accounts to watch movies of all kinds, and this week I was invited to choose because I'm doing this project. I was looking through the instant offerings on Netflix for something that wouldn't bore or disgust everybody, and Comedy of Terrors jumped out at me. I've seen this one before, but so long ago that I barely remembered it.

The Comedy of Terrors was made in 1963 for A.I.P. by Jacques Torneur, and was written by Richard Matheson. That's a damned impressive pedigree: Torneur was a veteran director with several big horror pictures under his belt, and Matheson was a promising young author and screenwriter who would go on to write (among other things) I Am Legend, Stir of Echoes, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and What Dreams May Come (impressive, huh?). Finally, A.I.P. was in the middle of making a lavish cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring the Big Names in American horror movies, and they assembled four of the biggest for Comedy of Terrors: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone.

Price plays Waldo Trumbull, an undertaker, and Lorre plays his cowardly assistant, Peter Gillie. Trumbull is an abusive drunk who lives with his wife and her senile father (Karloff). He despises them both, and his mood is worsened by the fact that business has been lousy, and their landlord, Mr. Black (Rathbone) has come around demanding a year's missed rent. How to drum up a little business? Why, murder, of course. This is a Vincent Price movie, after all.

It's a very funny film, and the kind of thing Mel Brooks might have made if he'd ever worked with Vincent Price. The dialogue is wonderfully quotable, and I honestly didn't know Dick Matheson had it in him. Oh, he's a clever writer with a mind like a steel trap, but I had no idea that he could do such good comedy. In all other respects, the film is as good as any other A.I.P. affair from the time. They'd gotten very good at making low-budget gothic horror films, and Comedy -- like their Poe adaptations -- looks great. Vincent Price might be my favorite actor of all time, and A.I.P. is responsible for the films that most shaped his career, but this one tends to get overlooked because it's a comedy. That's a real shame because it's so well executed and the ensemble cast is fantastic. This is the first movie I've watched for this project which I can recommend without reservations.

You'll get a better idea of what the movie's about by watching the trailer. But then go and watch the movie. As I said, it's instant on Netflix.
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