Review: The Comedy of Terrors (1964)

>> Thursday, February 1, 2007

USA/C-84 m./Dir: Jacques Tourneur/Wr: Richard Matheson/Cast: Vincent Price (Waldo Trumbull), Peter Lorre (Felix Gillie), Boris Karloff (Amos Hinchley), Joyce Jameson (Amaryllis Trumbull), Basil Rathbone (Mr. Black)

Vincent Price has one of his funniest roles as Waldo Trumbull, a perpetually pickled undertaker with a nasty disposition, in the AIP horror farce, The Comedy of Terrors. When Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone) threatens to shut down Trumbull’s funeral parlor due to unpaid rent, the wine-sodden mortician hatches a proactive plan to increase business. With the questionable help of his accident-prone assistant (Peter Lorre), Trumbull puts the murderous enterprise into action, dispatching townsfolk while simultaneously killing a bottle. Eventually, the pair target Mr. Black when Trumbull realizes he can funnel all his profits into booze rather than paying off the old skinflint. Unfortunately, the landlord proves harder to kill than Rasputin.

Price gets to play drunk for nearly the entire running time of the film, and what a marvelously loathsome, acid-tongued alky he makes--insulting his wife (Joyce Jameson), barking orders at Lorre, and offering “medicine” (actually poison) to his doddering father-in-law (Boris Karloff). The rest of the all-star cast is also in fine form. Lorre is at his cuddly, pug-puppy cutest; Karloff is note-perfect as a semi-senile old coot; and Rathbone is hilarious as the murder victim that refuses to stay stiff.

Occasionally Richard Matheson’s witty script is undermined by ham-fisted direction that overplays the slapstick with under-cranked, fast-motion photography (look for the stuntman in the Peter Lorre mask), but overall The Comedy of Terrors is an amusing, surprisingly smart little movie.
Drinks Consumed--Wine and brandy

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, staggering, stumbling, harmonizing, belching, bickering, and physical violence

Potent Quotables--AMARYLLIS: Only a man who drinks could talk like that.
WALDO: We escape the unendurable however we can.
AMARYLLIS: How I despise you!
WALDO: (Belch)

Video Availability--Available as part of a Midnight Movies Double Feature DVD (MGM), paired with the 1963 Price/Lorre/Karloff vehicle, The Raven

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Peter Lorre plays a souse who challenges a vino connoisseur (Vincent Price) to a wine tasting duel in Tales of Terror (1962).

Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (Paperback)


Anonymous February 10, 2008 at 8:44 AM  

I have never seen that...Is that a really funny comedy?

garv February 10, 2008 at 8:58 AM  

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS isn't funny on the same level as BAD SANTA or a W.C. Fields film. However, it does have some very witty lines and a handful of laugh-out-loud moments. It's more of a "smile" comedy than a "guffaw" comedy. Overall, I found it much more enjoyable than I expected.

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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