Friday, April 08, 2011

The Haunted Palace

The women of Arkham have been behaving strangely. In the wee hours of the night, they wander to Joseph Curwen’s house. They slink home hours later, dazed, with no memory of their visits. The men of the village don't know what's going, but they're sure it's the work of the devil. So they storm his house and drag Curwen (Vincent Price) out to his doom. But before he’s burned at the stake, he curses Arkham, vowing he’ll someday return and exact his revenge.

110 years later Charles Dexter Ward (also played by Price) arrives to lay claim to his uncle's house. The townsfolk are none too happy to see him: they’re convinced Ward is the reincarnation of Curwen. Things around Arkham haven’t been so pleasant since Curwen's time. The birth defect rate has gone through the roof. Everyone in town suffers some sort of affliction, or is kin to someone who does.

The town is crawling with the mutated offspring of Curwen's visitors. Some born without eyes, or mouths, they shamble through the foggy streets, a reminder of Curwen’s evil deeds. The only person willing to befriend Ward and his wife is Dr. Willett, but he doesn’t put much stock in the whispered rumors about the Necronomicon, Cthulhu, or the weird experiments Curwen performed.

That is until he notices a change in Ward. His kindly and gentle manner slowly gives way to violent, wild-eyed demeanor, one like that of old Curwen himself. Is Ward really losing himself to Curwen’s spirit, or merely suffering delusions brought on by the mood of Arkham’s citizens, and the strange new house?

This movie certainly owes much to the Hammer films of the same era. Arkham is awash in thick fog, and the Curwen Mansion is a Gothic beauty rivaling anything Christopher Lee ever slept in. But Corman throws a definite American spin on the genre, casting Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr. in the leads, and basing the story on stateside author H.P. Lovecraft's book. This may look like London, but it's pure Rhode Island; the English may have Dracula but we have Yog-Sothoth.

Directed by Roger Corman • Unrated • 1963 • 87 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment