The elders of Arkham Village are just about fed up with all the nubile young women in town sleepwalking into Curwen House, only to return the next morning with no memory of the night before and a little memento of the excursion growing in their wombs. The town fathers (ahem) determine to put a stop to it in the time-honored way: a torch-bearing mob storms the castle, drags its sinister master out into the forecourt, and puts him to the flames. They make the mistake, however, of allowing Joseph Curwen enough time to vow vengeance from beyond the grave upon the good citizens of Arkham, and he curses several of the elders by name.
One hundred and ten years later, Curwen’s great-great-grandson, the affable Charles Ward, arrives in Arkham Village to claim his inheritance. Arkham’s not the kind of village to take kindly to outsiders in the best of circumstances, but Ward’s case is severely undermined by the fact he’s the spitting image of his reviled ancestor. No, Arkham hasn’t forgotten Joseph Curwen; how could they, when nearly every family in town has a horribly-mutated reminder of his depredations locked up in the attic or cellar?
I fully expected Saturdays with Vincent to include Edgar (Poe) and Roger (Corman). They’re somewhat inseparable, and anyway, what I want from a B-grade Gothic horror picture lies right at the intersection of their talents. Today, however, it suddenly became Saturdays with Vincent, Edgar, Roger, and Howard, and I really must protest. One simply doesn’t bring H.P. Lovecraft along to a party without some warning to one’s hostess. It isn’t done! After last week’s experience, I was prepared for The Haunted Palace to have only tangential relation to the Poe work of the same name (which turns out to be a brief, impressionistic poem that hardly seems suitable as script-fodder.) But for it to also be a wholesale retelling of Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, with a bit of Poe set-dressing…honestly, I’m at a loss. I suppose Poe was a much bigger name in cinema at the time, and the studio didn’t trust crowds to flock to Corman/Price/Lovecraft film, but old H.P. is a big enough name in his own right nowadays that it’s really odd to see him treated this way.
Authorial discrepancies aside, this is, again, exactly the sort of movie I hope for on rainy autumn Saturdays: all fog and gloom and cursed villages and secret chambers and, okay, the Elder Gods down the well were a bit of a surprise, but there has to be some kind of oogie-boogie in the basement, right? And Cthulhu and his ilk are the oogie-boogiest. Also, I gather that Pit and the Pendulum, released two years earlier, must have performed to expectations, given the clunky efforts to tie this movie to it. Note the, er, ‘subtle’ reference on the movie poster, plus the reveal in the movie that Curwen House was actually Torquemada’s palace, dismantled, shipped to Massachussetts, and rebuilt with torturous attention to detail. You may be assured that although we aren’t shown it, the pendulum is gleefully swinging away somewhere in the Curwen House dungeon!
This review is for the Peril on the Screen challenge of RIP V.