THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) Reviews of Roger Corman’s H.P. Lovecraft horror

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‘What was the hideous thing in the PIT that wanted women?’
The Haunted Palace is a 1963 horror American film about Charles Dexter Ward who arrives at a small village to visit the palatial mansion he inherited from his ancestor who died there a hundred years previously.

Directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay written by Charles Beaumont with additional dialogue by Francis Ford Coppola. The movie stars Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr and Debra Paget.

The soundtrack score was composed by Ronald Stein.

Despite being pitched by distributors American International Pictures (AIP)as part of their Edgar Allan Poe cycle, The Haunted Palace actually derives its plot from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a novella by H.P. Lovecraft. The only connection between The Haunted Palace to Poe is its title, which comes from a poem 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 march up to the Curwen palace to confront its mysterious owner. Though the girl appears unharmed, the townspeople decide 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

“With a handful of dark scenes (one in particular, where Curwen, having taken over Ward’s body, gets his revenge on an Arkham resident named Leech, is especially cold-blooded) and a production value that rivals his previous Poe adaptations, Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace is yet another fine entry in a series that has produced its share of horror classics.” 2,500 Movies Challenge


“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!

“The atmosphere is equally as downbeat as Corman’s Poe movies, but with a few too many horror cliches. Corman’s eight-minute rule means cheap scares appear like clockwork – like a huge snake in a cupboard (in New England?), and crash zooms in on scary uplit faces… These undermine the slow reveals of the story, the effective chills of Dexter’s slow takeover of his descendant, as well as the secret of the pit and the village mutants.” Black Hole

” …the general ambience here is quite similar to many of the other Corman Poe films. Price is once again wonderfully compelling, especially once Curwen starts to reassert his presence (aided by some changes in make-up coloring which cast Price in a ghoulish green light). This may not be at the top tier of this particular batch of films, but it’s still highly watchable and eminently enjoyable.” 7.1 out of 10,

“The interiors of the castle itself as appropriately eerie and the scenes in which we see the deformed townsfolk are surprisingly creepy, the camera work doing an interesting job of highlighting what are obviously the effects of Curwen’s final curse. As a Poe adaption, there’s not much here, but judge The Haunted Palace on its own merits and you’ll find that this is a very enjoyable and well-made slice of vintage gothic horror…” DVD Talk

“Actually, this is perhaps my favorite of the few cinematic attempts at Lovecraft from the sixties; it actually has some moments that give me that sense of queasy horror that I always felt was a hallmark of Lovecraft; the scene where the couple are approached by several deformed people in the town is the most striking example.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“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.” Paste magazine

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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

“As with nearly all of Corman’s exemplary Poe adaptations, Palace exhibits surprisingly solid production standards, expert narrative and good performances. Excellent fare for either a rainy Sunday afternoon or your own private Vincent Price retrospective!” The Terror Trap

“With some over-abrupt editing, the rush of action sees Curwen’s coven fellows disappear without explanation – this doesn’t seem to be a deliberate ambiguity – and the admirably constructed tension let down by the rush to get it all over with, not usually a fault with Corman […] The film as a whole has the most promise of Corman’s horror films and some of his best work, but it finally doesn’t match the evocations of the cycle’s immediate follow-up.” This Island Rod

“Even when things are slow-going, Corman heaps on tons of gothic atmosphere to keep you watching.  The magnificently atmospheric shots of foggy graveyards and creepy castle corridors are all elegantly filmed and make a perfect setting for Price to go absolutely insane.  The excellent score by Ronald Stein enhances the mood perfectly…” The Video Vacuum

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