THE COMEDY OF TERRORS
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is one heck of a funny movie that offered horror titans Vincent Price and Boris Karloff the opportunity to deliver the most hilarious performances of their careers. On top of that, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS also allowed Peter Lorre a number of wonderfully amusing moments, as well as providing Basil Rathbone with a scene stealing turn that had this reviewer howling with laughter. The macabre comic plot of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS concerns an unsuccessful mortuary business being run into the ground by Waldo Trumbull (Price), an inebriate, who has taken to manufacturing new clients, much to the horror of his assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre). Preventing Gillie from walking out on his murderous boss is the presence of Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), Trumbullís lovely wife, whom Gillie secretly loves. Also in the household is Amaryllisí dotty old father Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff), who Trumbull repeatedly tries to poison in the guise of giving the old man his "medicine." The story takes the expected twist when landlord John F. Black (Rathbone) threatens Trumbull with eviction, thus earning Mr. Black the top spot on the Trumbullís potential clients list.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THE COMEDY OF TERRORS in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. No question about it, this is a glorious looking transfer. The image is sharp and very well defined, which shows off Floyd Crosbyís fine cinematography and makes this low budget affair look like a million bucks. Colors appear pretty vibrant, with red appearing especially pleasing. Flesh tones have all the naturalness one would associate with the name Max Factor, especially the odd pallor applied to Karloff. One will marvel at the cleanness of the film element used for the transfer, which is virtually pristine. Blacks are accurately rendered and contrast is just fine. Digital compression artifacts are a non-issue. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is crisp sounding, as well as being relatively free background hiss and other audio anomalies. Fidelity is a bit limited, but Les Baxterís music holds up well enough. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.
THE RAVEN is another comic horror hoot- starring many of the same players. In this outing, Vincent Price portrays Dr. Erasmus Craven, the son of a legendary magician, who has managed to quietly maintain his own superior sorcerer skills. One evening a raven appears on Cravenís doorstep claiming to be Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre), who has been placed under an enchantment by a powerful Magician named Scarabus (Boris Karloff). After restoring the raven to human form, Craven learns that Bedlo has seen a woman resembling Cravenís supposedly deceased wife Lenore (Hazel Court) in Scarabusí castle. Wanting to determine if his wife is alive or dead, Craven sets out to confront Scarabus, which leads to a duel pitting each magicianís prowess against the other. THE RAVEN also features an early performance by am up and coming Jack Nicholson. Although not quite as funny as THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, THE RAVEN uses low-key humor to charm its audience into a continuous smile and repeated chuckles.
THE RAVEN comes in a rather nice looking 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Visually, THE RAVEN isnít quite as attractive as THE COMEDY OF TERRORS; with the film elements displaying more age related blemishes and a bit less definition. Colors arenít as snappy in appearance as they are on THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, but they hold their own. Of course, I donít want to give the impression that THE RAVEN looks bad or merely average, the presentation is actually quite nice for a low budget affair; however, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS is a better looking film with a decidedly better looking transfer. Blacks are fairly accurate and the whites appear stable. Contrast is good and shadow detail is respectable. Digital compression artifacts are usually well concealed. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is free from exaggerated hiss and other audible anomalies, although the fidelity is limited, which leaves the music sounding a bit flat and uninspired in places. Fortunately, the dialogue is usually crisp and always fully understandable. English, French and Spanish subtitles are included with the feature.
Each film is offered on a separate side of the DVD, with the basic interactive menus offering access to the standard set up and scene selection features, as well as some nice extras. Each film comes with a newly produced featurette with screenwriter Richard Matheson sharing his memories of each production. Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy Of Terrors runs nine minutes, while Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven is six minutes in length. Cormanís Comedy Of Poe runs six minutes and features director Roger Corman talking about THE RAVEN. The complete content of a promotional recording for THE RAVEN (courtesy of private collector Greg Krieger), plus theatrical trailers for each film close out the extras.
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS and THE RAVEN is a genuinely delightful double feature that every horror fan will want to add to their collections just for the simple pleasure of seeing these genre icons strutting their comic stuff. MGM has done a great job with the DVD, offering terrific presentations for both films, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS especially. If you love Price, Karloff, Lorre or Rathbone, this is a must have DVD- especially at a bargain asking price of $14.98. Highly recommended.
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