Sadly, for all Shakespeare pastiche fans, Comedy of Terrors isn’t all about two sets of twins attacking each other with chainsaws.
Instead, the 1963 comedy horror, which has just received a new release on Blu-ray, is a macabre, absurd tale which features horror legends Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff together in one household.
It’s a pretty standard comedy horror, with no real surprises. Like most ‘60s horrors, you’ve got the obviously studio street sets, the badly filtered “night” scenes, and the unintentional comedy effect of portraying wind by throwing a bunch of leaves into someone’s face. Rather than going for subtle comedy, this delves headlong into farce. In the first five minutes alone, we’re treated to a fast motion graverobbing scene, complete with Benny Hill-style music. That’s accompanied in the rest of the film by plenty of prat-falls, catchphrases, and that old faithful joke about how when a bad singer sings a high note, everything explodes.
But you wouldn’t be watching Comedy of Terrors just for its plot – it’s a chance to see some of the greatest horror actors of the early 20th century in a film together! Vincent Price is as sneering and mean and brilliant as he ever is. Peter Lorre gets to play the romantic hero, for once. Boris Karloff is sadly underused, mainly sitting there and complaining about his medicine, but at least Basil Rathbone gets to wander around quoting Macbeth even as Price tries to murder him.
Special features-wise, the Blu-ray features the standard original theatrical trailer, as well as an audio commentary from film historian David Del Valle and David DeCoteau. There’s also a 51-minute TV spot from 1987, with Vincent Price discussing his long, distinguished career with Del Valle. And a video essay about the career of director Jacques Tourneur, who’s probably most famous for Cat People (which made the Lewton Bus iconic, the trope horror directors use to subvert a jump scare). Oh, and an interview with writer Richard Matheson, whose long career spanned writing for Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, writing the short story that inspired robot fighter Real Steel, and writing the novel I Am Legend, adapted for the screen four times (five if you count Night of the Living Dead).
Overall, the film is pretty forgettable, but for fans of vintage horror, it could be the perfect thing to add to their collection, featuring legends both in front of and behind the camera. And this is a really good release, combining a well-restored film with a good selection of special features.
The Comedy of Terrors is available on Blu Ray release now!