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Comedy of Terrors, The

Kino // PG // August 31, 2021
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted August 5, 2021 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:


Made shortly after The Raven and directed not by Corman but by Jacques Tourneur, The Comedy Of Terrors was once again written by Richard Matheson with Price, Karloff and Lorre in the lead roles. Set in Victorian era New England, Price plays an undertaker named Waldo Trumbull. While he's not above simply burying bodies after taking them out of coffins already paid for, his business is still struggling. Yet Trumbull has expenses, not just his lodging, but there's his wife, Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) and the alcohol needs to deal with her as well! Not to mention the matter of her old, deaf father, Amos Hinchley (Karloff). He simply must do something about this, and so he does.


As he owes a large amount in back rent to his Shakespeare-obsessed landlord, John Black (Basil Rathbone), Trumbull and his assistant, Felix Gillie (Lorre) attempt to kill off the old man completely unaware that he suffers from a bizarre medical condition that often puts him in a state very close to death.


Very snappy in its pacing and really benefitting from Tourneur's assured skills behind the camera, The Comedy Of Terrors understandably has a lot more in common with The Raven than with the horror classics the director made for producer Val Lewton and for which he remains best known. Matheson's script allows for the cast to play towards high camp, and they do, particularly Price, but the performances are excellent across the board.


Price really shines here in one of his best comedic outings, displaying the eloquence for which he was known and filtering it through his character's acerbic wit, particularly in how he deals with his wife. Lorre's work alongside him is an interesting point of contrast, he's the simple man compared to Price's intelligent lead and some of their banter and back and forth is quite hilarious to watch, especially once Lorre's Felix starts making advances towards the lovely Mrs. Trumbell! Karloff is great here too but it's Rathbone, not an actor particularly known for his comedy work, who really steals the show. His performance here is a perfect mix of just the right style of line delivery and a physical, body language intensive acting and he's a kick to watch.


Like The Raven, the actors all seem to be really enjoying themselves on this film and again, it is infectious. Visually this film has much in common with the Poe films while obviously the tone is much lighter. It works, and it gives the leads, all icons of horror, a great chance to show their lighter sides.


The Video:


The Comedy Of Terrors is presented in AVC encoded 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen. The transfer takes up 27Gbs of space on the 50GB disc. Small specks and scratches can be spotted here and there but they aren't particularly distracting. This doesn't look like a new scan was used and it seems very close, if not identical, to the Shout! Factory Blu-ray release from a few years ago, but the colors look very good and detail isn't bad at all. Skin tones look nice and black levels are fine. Compression isn't an issue and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. A new scan would have yielded better results, sure, but this looks decent.


The Audio:


The English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds good. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems here, the audio sounds nice and clear, very clean. The track is properly balanced and free of any noticeable hiss, distortion or sibilance. Range is a bit limited due to the original elements but overall it sounds just fine.


The Extras:

Extras start off with a new commentary track from film historian Tim Lucas that is as detailed as you'd expect if you're familiar with his work. He notes how you know you're in AIP territory as soon as the movie starts before then going on to talk about Daniel Howard's art direction and Les Baxter's score. Of course, he offers lots of tidbits about the fantastic cast assembled for the picture (noting that a short time later Price would deliver the eulogy at Lorre's funeral), the screen career of the cat featured in the film (!!!), the quality of the dialogue in the film, observations about the different characters that populate the film, the film's budget and shooting locations, who was responsible for the effects in the movie, Richard Matheson's script, how the film compares to other horror comedies and lots more. Great stuff.


Carried over from previous releases is a nine-and-a-half minute piece with the writer in the form of Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy Of Terrors (carried over from the past DVD release). Here get some welcome input from the late writer in regards to why he was credited as an associate producer on the film, his thoughts on the performances delivered by all of the principal actors involved in the film and a sequel to the film that never happened.


The disc also includes a trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for The Raven, Master Of The World, The Last Man On Earth, The Tomb Of Ligeia, Scream And Scream Again, Theater Of Blood and The House Of Long Shadows. Menus and chapter selection are also offered and this release comes packaged with a slipcover.


Overall:

It's hard not to have a lot of fun with The Comedy Of Terrors. The film has a great script and an even better cast and it boasts strong production values throughout. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds decent enough and the commentary from Lucas is very strong. Recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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