Looking back at The Haunted Palace

Charles Dexter Ward?Mention director Roger Corman and horror fans immediately and correctly¬† start thinking about the late Vincent Price. Together they gave us such Sixties cult classics as The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, The Tomb of Ligea, and of course, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Haunted Palace.

Wait. Weren’t all those aforementioned films loosely based on short stories by Poe? Wasn’t The Haunted Palace a poem by Poe?

Yes. And yes. However, the script of The Haunted Palace, penned by Charles Beaumont, a wonderful author of short dark fiction as well as a writer for film and television (many of his episodes of The Twilight Zone are classics) relied on Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward for its inspiration, and is perhaps the first film adaption of Lovecraft’s work.

The plot? The film begins with the villagers of a New England town of Arkham destroying the warlock Joseph Curwen. From there the story jumps forward a hundred years to 1875, as Curwen’s descendent, Charles Dexter Ward (Price) comes to town with his wife to look after his inheritance of the Curwen estate. Many of the locals, believed to suffer from Curwen’s curse, are physically deformed and morally corrupt.

Somewhere along the lines, there are splashes of Lovecraftian Mythos mentioned. The Elder Gods, The Necronomicon, and the idea of the local creatures breeding with humans to create a new race to take over the world. Throw some water in, and we might have called them Deep Ones.

And Charles Dexter Ward? He becomes possessed by his ancestor, determined to carry out his nefarious deeds.

The Haunted Palace is worth a peek if you haven’t seen it and you consider yourself a fan of Lovecraft. This is a film meant to be watched with a bucket of popcorn while settling back in an easy chair. It is atmosphere over gore, stylishly directed by Corman (a genius at squeezing the most out of a budget) and a sincere Vincent Price enjoying himself in a dual role. This is double-feature fare and Saturday afternoon matinee fodder.

1 comment to Looking back at The Haunted Palace

  • Considering most of Corman’s films had very little to do with Poe’s work, it doesn’t surprise me with the wholesale switch of subject matter.

    And hey, mob with torches. Who can resist a movie with fainting women, mobs with torches, and frilly shirts. Mmm, popcorn.