Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 8th, 2015
BluRay released: February 16th, 2015
Approximate running times: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: An alcoholic undertaker who has spent the last year mismanaging his business is forced to take drastic measures when his landlord demands that he pays last year’s rent within the next twenty four hours. With his back to the wall and business all but dried up the undertaker devises a plan where he and his assistant go out in the middle of the night and kill their next clients.
The Comedy of Terrors was directed by Jacques Tourneur whose other notable films include, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and The Leopard Man. Key collaborators on The Comedy of Terrors include screenwriter Richard Matheson (‘The Twilight Zone’, I am Legend), Composer Les Baxter (Black Sabbath, Baron Blood) and cinematographer Floyd Crosby (House of Usher, The Haunted Palace).
The Comedy of Terrors reunites all the main players from The Raven and adds few more into the mix for good measure. And though the tone of the two films are the same. Where The Raven had the burden of being adapted from the literary works of Edgar Allan Poe, an author who is known for his tales of Macabre. The same cannot be said for The Comedy of Terrors a film that was crafted with the intent of being humor, albeit dark humor.
Another area where this film differs from the aforementioned The Raven is that this time around the director is Jacques Tourneur, a filmmaker who is most known for his low budget Horror film that he made with Val Newton and his work within the Film Noir which includes Out of the Past and Nightfall. Surprisingly despite a lack of background within the Horror film genre Tourneur proves to be a quick study as he delivers a first rate film that does not miss a beat in regards to the comedy.
The film’s narrative is tightly constructed and when it comes to humor there is never a shortage of one liners or pratfalls. The film is wonderfully paced as it lets the comedy bits linger just long enough before moving onto the next moment mirth. A few of the more amusing moments in this film include, the numerous times where Peter Lorre’s character leers at Joyce Jameson’s character. And another standout moment includes the scene where the cemetery keeper portrayed by Joe E. Brown (Some Like it Hot) discovers that Basil Rathbone’s character awakens in his grave and escapes the mausoleum where he was buried.
Performance wise there is not a performance that disappoints as the entire cast are delirious in their respective roles. With the chemistry between Vincent Price and Peter Lorre (M, Mad Love) being this film greatest asset. Price portrays Waldo Trumbull an alcoholic undertaker, while Lorre plays his assistant a wanted criminal named Felix Gillie. Another performance of note is Joyce Jameson (The Apartment, Tales of Terror) in the role of Waldo Trumbull’s neglected wife.
The Comedy of Terrors comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in very good shape. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, details generally look crisp, black and contrast levels look very good. Print debris is minimal, grain look natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have also been included. There are no issues with background noise or distortion. Dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Rang wise things sound good considering limitations of the mono source and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 34 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an interview with screenwriter Richard Matheson (9 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a video essay with David Cairns titled ‘Whispering in Distant Chambers: The Nightfall of Jacques Tourneur’ (16 minutes 57 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an archive interview with Vincent Price (51 minutes 40 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and an audio commentary with Price historian David Del Valle.
Topics discussed in interview with Richard Matheson include, how the success of The Raven lead to him being asked to do another horror comedy which became The Comedy of Terrors, the cast, Jacques Tourneur and how he was a meticulous filmmaker, how he had an idea for a third comedy horror film and why it didn’t get made.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with David Del Valle include, how AIP recycled sets from previous films, Richard Matheson, Jacques Tourneur, the screenplay and some of its in jokes, the look of the film, AIP, the score and the cast. This is a lively audio commentary which also contains many great stories about the cast members, other projects they worked on and personal moments that David Del Valle shared with many of the cast are remembered in great detail.
The extra titled ‘Whispering in Distant Chambers: The Nightfall of Jacques Tourneur’ is a well-rounded overview of Jacques Tourneur’s career as a director, while the archive interview with Vincent Price is a career overview that covers the beginning of his acting career through Theatre of Blood.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and twenty four page booklet with cast & crew credits, an essay titled ‘Outside of Spirits: Jacques Tourneur, Richard Matheson and The Comedy of Terrors’ written by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall The Comedy of Terrors gets a solid release from Arrow Video.