The name Vincent Price is synonymous with horror films. He was the master of everything from the grotesque HOUSE OF WAX (1953) to the subtly chilling LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) and the nightmare-inducing THE FLY (1958). His name was so tightly tied to the genre that he often played homage to himself, in everything from Alice Cooper’s TV special, THE NIGHTMARE (1975) to TINY TOON ADVENTURES (1991). One of my favorites included, not just him, but a slew of other horror icons. I’m speaking of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963).
Price stars as Waldo Trumbull, the owner of a failed mortuary. He and his assistant (Peter Lorre, himself a creepy film icon) are so broke they recycle their coffin from one burial to another. Trumbull married the annoying Amaryllis to get to her father’s (the legendary Boris Karloff) burial business. With neither his marriage nor his company anywhere near a success, Trumbull buries himself in booze.
We quickly find out that Trumbull owes a year’s worth of rent to John Black (Basil Rathbone, another horror legend). Trumbull and his assistant decide murder would be the best way to supplement their failed death industry. One misstep leads to fifty others. Soon people are dying but not really dying, others have to be offed to cover for the ones who didn’t really die, and failures mount. COMEDY OF TERRORS truly is a comedy of errors.
What makes this movie work is that none of the actor play it as if it were a comedy. They all performed their roles as seriously as they do their most terrifying films. The situations and the dialogue are what elicits the chuckles. These come courtesy of a screenwriter I’ve featured in many a Friday Movie Night Owl–Richard Matheson. This makes three of his movies featured for the Owl. I’ll be honest–that doesn’t surprise me. I have yet to watch a movie he wrote or read a story of his that was less than great. This even includes his dabbling into philosophy–but that’s an Owl for another time.
For now, enjoy THE COMEDY OF TERRORS:
Question of the night: What’s your go-to when you need a laugh?