THE HAUNTED PALACE
Although THE HAUNTED PALACE is considered to be part of the American International Pictures/Edgar Allan Poe horror cycle of the 1960’s, its inclusion is something of a cheat. In actuality, little more than the film’s title comes from the works of Poe, with the film really being an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. By the time the film that would ultimately be called THE HAUNTED PALACE went into production, director Roger Corman expressed an interest in doing something other than another Poe adaptation, and decided to take a stab at a Lovecraft story, for which he had studio support from American International Pictures. However, prior to the film’s release into theaters, the studio had added a few lines from Poe’s poem to the ending and changed the title to THE HAUNTED PALACE, thus making it possible for them to market the movie as another entry in their successful Poe series.
THE HAUNTED PALACE stars Vincent Price as Charles Dexter Ward, who has recently inherited a moldering mansion outside a small New England village, which once belonged to his ancestor Joseph Curwen. Upon their arrival in the village, Ward and his wife Ann (Debra Paget) find themselves unwelcome by most of the locals; however, after being befriended by the town’s physician, Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell), do they learn why. As it turns out, Ward bears an uncanny resemblance to his ancestor Joseph Curwen, who was burned alive by the villagers for his demonic practices. Unfortunately for all concerned, Ward begins to fall under Curwen’s influence, and even takes up with his ancestor’s old associates- restarting the dark works they began more than a century earlier. The cast of THE HAUNTED PALACE also features Lon Chaney Jr., Leo Gordon, Elisha Cook Jr., John Dierkes, Cathie Merchant and Milton Parsons.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THE HAUNTED PALACE in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a really nice looking presentation that benefits from Floyd Crosby’s fine cinematography, which gave this modestly budgeted film a genuine sense of atmosphere and made the production look more expensive than it actually was. The image on the DVD appears rather sharp and provides a good level of detail. There are some fogged and filtered sequences that appear a bit softer, but even they are rendered well. Colors generally appear fairly vibrant, although the flesh tones are purposely less than natural on a good deal of the cast. Blacks are pretty inky and the picture produces good contrast and shadow detail for a low budget sixties production. The film element used for the transfer has some minor blemishes and an occasionally noticeable grain structure. Digital compression artifacts maintain a very low profile. THE HAUNTED PALACE features a good sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Dialogue is crisp and there are no significant occurrences of background hiss or other audible anomalies. Fidelity has some limitations, but it holds up well enough with a bit of amplification. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.
TOWER OF LONDON is a very intriguing production for the simple fact that it takes the premise of Shakespeare’s Richard III and plays it as though it were a horror movie. Vincent Price gives a great performance as Richard of Gloucester, the hunchbacked noble, who schemes and murders his way onto the throne of England. With the death of his brother the King, Richard begins to systematically eliminating all of his family members (and anyone else) that stands between him and the crown. However, TOWER OF LONDON quickly turns into a ghost story, with Richard being haunted by the spirits of every person he dispatches. The cast of TOWER OF LONDON also includes Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Bruce Gordon, Joan Camden, Richard Hale, Sandra Knight, Charles Macaulay, Justice Watson and Sarah Selby.
MGM Home Entertainment has made TOWER OF LONDON in a 1.66:1 wide screen presentation that has NOT been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Watching this film on a wide screen monitor requires digitally enlarging the image to the necessary dimensions, which renders it softer and magnifies video artifacts. All things considered, TOWER OF LONDON has a fairly solid black and white presentation, with a reasonably crisp and detailed picture. The film element used for the transfer is in good shape, with minor blemishes and very little apparent grain. Blacks appear solid and inky, while the whites are crisp and stable. Contrast is good, as is the grayscale. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is free from hiss and distortion, plus it boasts good dialogue reproduction that allows Price’s distinct voice to resonate effectively. English, French and Spanish subtitles are included with the feature.
Each film is presented 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 extra features. A Change Of Poe is an eleven-minute interview program with director Roger Corman, who discusses his aspirations for a Lovecraft film adaptation, and how this movie would differ from the Poe pictures. Additionally, Corman talks about working with Price and the other actors on the production. Producing Tower Of London runs fourteen minutes and features an introduction by director Roger Corman, but is primarily an interview with his brother Gene Corman, who produced the film and chose Roger as the director for this project. A theatrical trailer for THE HAUNTED PALACE closes out the extras.
THE HAUNTED PALACE and TOWER OF LONDON make for an enjoyable double feature for Vincent Price fans. THE HAUNTED PALACE is a really enjoyable Lovecraft adaptation, while TOWER OF LONDON gives Price a role that he can sink his teeth into. As for the DVD, THE HAUNTED PALACE looks great, while TOWER OF LONDON is merely good, since MGM has failed to produce a presentation that is enhanced for 16:9 displays. However, Price’s performances, the quality THE HAUNTED PALACE and the bargain SRP of $14.95 make this a must have DVD for genre fans. Recommended.
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