Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 31st, 2014
BluRay released: February 23rd, 2015
Approximate running times: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £13.99 (UK)
Though The Haunted Palace is officially considered one of the eight films which make up Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Cycle. It is a Poe film in name only, with the plot being adapted from several stories written by H.P. Lovecraft.
Key collaborators on The Haunted Palace include screenwriter Richard Matheson (‘The Twilight Zone’, I am Legend), Composer Ronald Stein (Premature Burial, The Terror) and cinematographer Floyd Crosby a frequent collaborator of Roger Corman’s.
Reportedly The Haunted Palace began as a H.P. Lovecraft adaptation and it was not until very late into the production that Corman realized that AIP (American International Pictures) were going to brand the film a Poe film. And though this film has long had its admires, it is a shame that it was not released as a H.P. Lovecraft film that could have perhaps started a new cycle of films from Corman.
Though Poe and Lovecraft have long been linked due to the bulk of their output being tales rooted in the macabre. Prose wise they are like night and day, with Lovecraft’s work being more cerebral of the too. Also were the majority of the horrors depicted in Poe’s literature are visually crystal clear, the same cannot be said for Lovecraft who often creates entities that mere words cannot describe.
The thing that immediately grabs you while watching The Haunted Palace for the first time is the look of the film. Not wanting to simply recycle what he had already done before with the Poe films, Corman creates a visual tapestry has a deliberately different look then the Poe films.
Narrative wise, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ serves as the shell for this Lovecraft adaption. Which content wise is actually more of a melting pot of Lovecraft’s literary works, then one singular story being adapted into a film. And just like the Poe films with this film, Corman wisely chooses to take bits and pieces from various stories instead of trying to do a straight forward adaption.
Returning once again in the role of the protagonist is Vincent Price and this time around he gets to opportunity to play a dual role of Joseph Curwen and Charles Dexter Ward. Price gives a solid performance that is head and shoulders above the rest of the performances in this film. Besides Price it should be noted that several other actors have dual roles in this film. Another performance of note is Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man) in the role of Simon Orne, the man in charge of getting Ward’s family estate reading for his arrival.
When this film was released in 1963 there were no other Lovecraft adaptions to compare it too. Since then the tide has turned and in recent years there has been an influx of films adapted from or inspired by the literary works of H. P. Lovecraft. Unfortunately despite this influx, the end results far too often fail to capture the essence of what makes Lovecraft’s stories so enthralling. With that being said, The Haunted Palace remains one of the strongest Lovecraft adaptions and it is a pity that Corman would never return to Lovecraft’s universe.
The Haunted Palace comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The sources used for this transfer is in excellent shape. Colors look vibrant, flesh tone look healthy, black and contrast levels look very good throughout. Details look sharp, grain structure looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. Overall another first rate transfer from Arrow Video that once again is superior to Shout! Factory’s transfer.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. The more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well rounded, the score sounds appropriately robust, dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. This releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release is removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include a stills and poster gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 14 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an interview with director Roger Corman (11 minutes 18 seconds – 1080 Progressive), a featurette titled ‘Kim Newman on H.P. Lovecraft’ (27 minutes 59 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and an audio commentary with Vincent Price s biographer David Del Valle and author Derek Botelho.
Topics discussed in the interview with Roger Corman include, adapting H.P. Lovecraft and how AIP later changed the film into a Poe film, working with screenwriter Charles Beaumont, the look of the film and how it differs from the look of the Poe films, the cast, the film’s score, make-up and special effects work and his thoughts on the final product.
The Featurette with Kim Newman gives a well-rounded overview of the film adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s literature. He also touches upon how there are numerous instances where elements from Lovecraft’s literature has made uncredited appearances in numerous films over the years. Other areas which are touched upon include how Lovecraft’s disciples have expanded upon his universe and how this has helped keep alive Lovecraft’s literature for future generations. The two most successful film adaptions, Re-Animator and From Beyond.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with David Del Valle and Derek Botelho include, how The Haunted Palace was the first theatrical film adaption of a H.P. Lovercraft story, how The Haunted Palace is not a faithful adaption of Lovecraft’s ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ and how other Lovecraft stories were used to help flesh to film’s narrative out, the cast, set design and the look of the film, films Lovecraft adaptions and which ones were the most faithful, problems with the screenplay and David Del Valle throughout the commentary retells many personal recollections that were told to him by Vincent Price.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and content pertaining to The Haunted Palace in the limited edition 200-page collector’s book includes, original archive stills, cast & crew info, an essay titled ‘Strange Echoes and Fevered Repetitions’ written by Roger Luckhurst, an excerpt written by Vincent Price from the chapter ‘Ghoul Days’ from the book ‘Vincent Price, His Movies, His Plays, His Life’, David De Valle’s text based interview with Roger Corman titled ‘Roger Corman: Better to be on the Set Than in the Office’ and information about the transfer.
The Haunted Palace is also part of a box set entitled Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales which also includes the following films, The Fall of House of Usher, The Pit and The Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia. Contents of this box set also include a limited edition 200-page collector’s book containing new writing on all films, an interview with Roger Corman, extracts from Vincent Price’s autobiography and full reproductions of tie-in comic books for Tales of Terror, The Raven and The Tomb of Ligeia originally published in the sixties. Overall The Haunted Palace gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: The Haunted Palace is currently only available via Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales and a stand-alone Blu-Ray on February 23rd, 2015.