Lovecraftian Horror Movie Review: The Haunted Palace (1963)
Posted by Harbinger451 on March 30, 2016
Although marketed as Edgar Alan Poe’s The Haunted Palace this movie, directed by Roger Cormen, is actually based on H. P. Lovecraft‘s short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward with the screenplay adapted by Charles Beaumont. It’s not an entirely faithful adaptation of the short novel but it does have Vincent Price in dual roles as Joseph Curwen and Charles Dexter Ward.
In 1875, Charles Dexter Ward inherits a Gothic castle-like Palace that, about 110 years earlier, had been brought over stone by stone from Europe and re-built overlooking the New England town of Arkham by his great great grandfather, Joseph Curwen. Curwen was effectively burned at the stake by the town’s people for being a Necromantic Sorcerer (responsible for the impregnating of local young women by demonic entities) who cursed them all before he died – he vowed to return from death and get revenge on each of those responsible and all their descendants.
Curwen apparently had a back up plan ready to go should an angry mob end up murdering him, using his Necromantic Sorcery he ensured that his disembodied Spirit would remain “vital” within the Palace till he could find a suitable victim to possess and through whom he would be able to exact his revenge. Ignorant of his ancestor’s history Ward decides to move to Arkham and into the Palace with his wife Anne, played by Debra Paget… big mistake.
Cue 60s Gothic Horror Movie melodrama hardened by a dark Lovecraftian weirdness. It has a good solid cast, that includes Lon Chaney Jr as Simon Orne – a loyal cultist/servant of Curwen’s, and a sumptuous look typical of Roger Cormen’s “Poe Cycle” for American International Pictures. The film itself is titled after an Edgar Alan Poe poem and in the closing scenes the final verse of that poem is narrated – ‘…While, like a ghastly rapid river, through the pale door, a hideous throng rush out forever and laugh – But smile no more’
The Haunted Palace marks the first time actual names of Lovecraftian Monstrosities, such as the Elder Gods Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth, are uttered on celluloid. It is also the first time Lovecraft’s legendary black magic book, the Necronomicon, is not only mentioned but also makes its premier appearance in the history of motion-picture tropes as an integral prop and plot-device.
Watch the trailer here:
The Haunted Palace Tagline: A warlock’s home is his castle…Forever!
Runtime: 87 min – Colour – English.
The Lovecraftian’s Rating: 7/10 (Good) – not one of Cormen’s best but certainly his most Lovecraftian. Vincent Price’s performance is, as ever, a delight to watch.
Please feel free to comment on this review – or, if you’ve seen the movie, add your own review – by replying to this post.
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For the uninitiated:
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an influential and prolific American writer of early twentieth century cosmic horror fiction who saw himself chiefly as a poet – though many believe that it is his immense body of often literary correspondence that is in fact his greatest accomplishment – he wrote over 100,000 letters in his lifetime. He inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world.
The Cthulhu Mythos: Lovecraft, somewhat light-heartedly, labelled the “Mythos” that he created in his body of work Yog-Sothothery – and also, on rare occasions, referred to his series of connected stories as the Arkham Cycle. It was his friend August Derleth who coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos” (named after one of the monstrous beings that featured in Lovecraft’s tales) to encapsulate his epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror.
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