Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"The Haunted Palace - " Thrills and Chrills With Lovecraft | "Tomb of Ligeia - " A Story of Which Poe Would Be Proud

First off, happy Christmas. I'm not gonna tell you much about it. Poe always said that a story should be aimed at one effect or theme, and although that does not apply to blog posts, this is what this is doing.

Last night (among other things) I got Tales of Terror (a Poe Cycle film). Then, this morning, Santa gave me (among other things) the rest of the series - so I have the entire Poe collection.

"The Haunted Palace - " Thrills and Chills With Lovecraft

I started off with The Haunted Palace. As some Poe/Corman/Price/horror aficionados may know, this was the only film in the Poe Cycle that did not feature any particular theme in a Poe story. Yes, they quote "The Haunted Palace" poem, but the story is based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It strays from that storyline, but not terribly - the basic theme of possession by ancestor and many characters are present. It's even set in Arkham!

American International Pictures (AIP) decided to say "Hey, let's put a Poe title on it! People will think it's part of the Poe Cycle, and more people will come!" Which is fair, I suppose. It does say in the credits that it is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story (and the Poe poem).

It stands out as different from the other Poe films. Instead of corny music from David Lee (Masque of the Red Death) or classics from B-movie composer Les Baxter (House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum) we have a newcomer. Ronald Stein steps up to the conducting stand (in this case, Erich Zann's. Hah! Lovecraft jokes), and creates an unusually haunting waltz for the film, featured most prominently in the main titles (that spider spinning a web ROCKS!). It is strange and eerie.

The look of the film is different, too. Roger Corman (in his interview) said that he wanted it to look starker and more down-to-earth, while, in the other Poe films, it looked a bit more otherworldly (Corman had a working knowledge of Freud and felt Poe looked forward to the unconscious mind).

Vincent Price is, as always, astounding and amazing. His two roles - Joseph Curwen and Charles Dexter Ward - and Joseph Curwen possessing Charles Dexter Ward - are challenges to play. But it still must be fun. Vincent pulls it off very well and looks like he's enjoying his work. He took acting very seriously, and that is one of the reasons he is great.

All good and well in The Haunted Palace, which is a must-see for fans of Poe, Lovecraft or Price.

"Tomb of Ligeia - " A Story of Which Poe Would Be Proud

I then moved on to Tomb of Ligeia, based on Ligeia.

This is infamous for three reasons.
  • It was the last in the Poe Cycle.
  • It was the only one filmed on location (at the Castle Acre Priory), and features many outdoor scenes.
  • It wasn't particularly successful.
I would disagree with this last statement. Masque of the Red Death had come just before, and a horror movie full of evil energy is going to push your expectations higher. Tomb is very slow paced (more akin to The Premature Burial except with Vincent Price) and people were expecting something as good or better than Red Death.

I mean; Corman liked it. He said it was the biggest (true) and most exciting (eh...) movie in the series.

The story has all the main events of the Edgar Allan Poe tale (adding a few characters and including a possessed-reincarnated-whatever cat). It is pretty good, and the screenplay (written by Robert Towne - newcomer!) features quotes from Joseph Glanvill, whose quotes are used in epigraphs for the original tale and who Ligeia attributes to greatly. Towne has clearly read the story well, brushed it up for cinema, and turned in a decent screenplay.

I hardly need to speak on the acting. Price is very good as usual, and Elizabeth Shepard as Ligeia/Rowena is impressive.  

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