‘What was the hideous thing in the PIT that wanted women?’
The Haunted Palace is a 1963 horror American film released by American International Pictures (AIP), starring Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., and Debra Paget in a story about a village held in the grip of a cult. The film was directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay by Charles Beaumont and is often regarded as one in his series of nine films purportedly based on the works of American author Edgar Allan Poe.
The Haunted Palace actually derives its plot from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a novella by H.P. Lovecraft. The only connection of The Haunted Palace to Poe is its title, which comes from a poem by Poe published in 1839 and later incorporated into his horror tale, The Fall of the House of Usher.
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In 1765, the inhabitants of the New England town of Arkham are suspicious of the strange goings-on up in the grand ‘palace’ that overlooks the town. They suspect its inhabitant, Joseph Curwen, of being a warlock.
One stormy night, a young girl from the town wanders up to the Curwen palace in a trance-like state and is led by Curwen and his mistress, Hester, down into the dungeons of the palace. The girl is then subjected to a strange ritual, where an unseen creature rises up from a covered pit below her, in wreaths of green smoke.
The townspeople, however, observe the girl wandering off into the night, and storm up to the Curwen palace to confront its mysterious owner. Though the girl appears unharmed, the townspeople deign that she has been bewitched to forget what happened to her, and drag Curwen out to a tree where they intend to burn him.
However, the leader of the mob, Ezra Weeden, insists that they do not harm Curwen’s mistress Hester (to whom Weeden was previously engaged to be married.) Before dying, Curwen puts a curse on Arkham and its inhabitants, saying he will rise from the grave to take his revenge on the descendants of the five men who burned him…
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” …every penny sunk into the set designs here was very well spent … Another thing that adds tremendously to the impact of the film is the mutant makeup, especially that of the eyeless girl. And since both Poe and Lovecraft were authors whose works stood or fell on the basis of atmosphere, the approach Corman took here was definitely a smart move…” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
” …long on atmosphere but a bit short on substance. There is too much to-ing and fro-ing, leaving and staying; too many scenes of people wandering around in the dark; while Joseph Curwen’s revenge upon the descendants of his killers is disappointingly prosaic. It is a film that works better in its small moments than its big ones. In the end, The Haunted Palace seems to function chiefly as a dry run for The Tomb of Ligeia...” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
“This was Corman working with his biggest budget and proving that he was never a bad director, simply a constrained one. I adore the visual look of these films—like Hammer’s movies of the same period they’re grandiose and gothic and absolutely beautiful. Plus they have the talents of Vincent Price as the descendant of a notorious madman—but how much evil runs in the family blood? It’s got all the great clichés, including a mob of villagers with torches and pitchforks.” Jim Vorel, Paste magazine
On 23 February 2015, The Haunted Palace was released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements
- Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio
- Optional isolated music and effects track
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by Vincent Price’s biographer David Del Valle and writer Derek Botelho
- Kim Newman on H.P. Lovecraft, a look at the relationship between Lovecraft and the cinema, and the challenges of adapting his work
- A Change of Poe, an interview with Roger Corman
- Stills and Poster Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
- Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Roger Luckhurst, illustrated with original archive stills
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“Corman also opens up the film a bit with several scenes taking place on village streets crawling with mutants (remnants, some say, of Curwen’s mad experiments or of his dying curse), in addition to his typically deft widescreen handling of lavishly appointed interiors. The dungeon beneath the Curwen estate rivals the similar chamber in The Pit and the Pendulum, and while it always looks like a set more than an actual underground cavern, it’s still stylish and spooky.” Teleport City