Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown, Beverly Powers, Alan DeWitt, Buddy Mason, Douglas Williams, Linda Rogers, Luree Holmes, Rhubarb the Cat
Written by: Richard Matheson
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 84
Date: 01/22/1963

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

3 Stars (out of 4)

What Place Is This?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This all-star comedy/horror hybrid has so many great people working on it that it's difficult to admit that it all feels just a little busy and a little tired. Yet it's also hard to hate, given that everyone seems to be having a wonderful time, and some of the silly dialogue can stick in your head. Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay, Jacques Tourneur, who made three of the greatest horror films of all time with producer Val Lewton in the 1940s, directs. Vincent Price leads the cast, as Waldo Trumbull, a rotten drunk who has taken over a funeral business by marrying the owner's daughter, Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson). He verbally abuses her with hate-filled venom, tries to poison her father (Boris Karloff), and bosses around fugitive thief Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre). He runs the crooked business by burying clients in a single coffin, and then digging up the coffin to be re-used, while dumping the bodies back in the hole. When the landlord (Basil Rathbone, who regularly recites Shakespeare) threatens to evict this unhappy little family, Waldo kicks it into high gear and tries several more illicit schemes to raise some cash. Most of the cast had been in Matheson and Roger Corman's anthology film Tales of Terror a year earlier. This was the final film of Joe E. Brown, who appears in a small role as the cemetery keeper. Kino Lorber released it on Blu-ray in 2021, with a fine transfer and 2.0 audio track. The brilliant Tim Lucas provides another of his rich, detailed commentary tracks, and there are a few older extras, including interviews with Matheson, and a batch of trailers.

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