Joshua Koppel | Chicago, IL United States | 10/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD contains two movies with similar casts and similar black humor.In Comedy Of Terrors, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone team up in a tragi-comedy of an undertaker who decides to increase business through murder. Many wonderful scenes and plenty of Shakespearian references (not just the title), my favorite being Karloff enacting the poison scene from Romeo and Juliet with Price. Well done.In the Raven, Price, Karloff and Lorre are joined by Jack Nicholson. The film opens with Price reading a tome of forgotten lore when there is a rapping at his chamber door. The rapping is a raven at the window. It enters and lands on a bust. Price asks it if he shall ever again see Lenore (his dead wife) and the raven responds, "How the hell should I know!" And thus the tone is set.Price is a wizard and must confront an evil wizard (Karloff) which, after many plot turns, results in one of the finest magic battles ever filmed.Dark comedy and excellent acting abound in both of these films. A wonderful disk."
Quoth The Big Budget...Nevermore!
Shaun333 | 11/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, not to mention Poe, so I was certainly looking forward to watching these.
The first movie is The Comedy of Terrors and it really is quite funny. Since you've read the plot a million times on these reviews, I'll cut to the chase. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre try to drum up more business for a funeral home through murder, hence more customers. Vincent Price is laugh out loud funny, and really does have a talent for comedy, as does Peter Lorre. The facial expressions of Price are fantastic, as they were in Tales of Terror and it's an enjoyable film to watch. Watch for the actress called "Beverly Hills" in this one. (You'll recognize her by her, uh, name.) On a last note with this movie, Joyce Jameson, sexy as always, plays the wife of Vincent Price in this, and it's just so nice to watch a film where you know that all the women involved have natural figures from the waist up. No guessing here. This era has passed.
The second film was pretty good, which is The Raven. Based on Poe's poem, The Raven, is named as a "comedy" and has its moments, but I enjoyed it more as a fun drama than a straight ahead gag reel. Price and Lorre are good as always and Jack Nicholson even pops up here as the son of Peter Lorre, which is odd enough. The movie is basically about a couple of powerful wizards (Price and Boris Karloff) who end up fighting each other for supremecy. A big budget film this is not, which is funny, considering that Corman says in one of the special features that this is one of the highest budget films in the Poe line. The ending battle between Price and Karloff is hysterically bad (in a good way). It is so utterly cheesy, you just have to laugh. I believe a Godzilla sound effect even makes itself known somewhere in the sequence.
Both of these movies are brilliant....brilliantly bizarre, especially Comedy of Terrors. You really have to have a certain type of black humor to enjoy these, which I do, so it worked out well. I would recommend buying this. Also, the transfers are very good, in widescreen, anamorphic format, which is cool."
A pair of Richard Matheson written comedy thrillers
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Roger Corman figured that the Poe adaptations he had been making at American International starting with "House of Usher" had pretty much run its course, so in a final masterstroke he decided to start playing up the humor. The result might be more like "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" than "The Pit and the Pendulum," but you have to admit "The Raven" is one of the best comedy-thrillers ever made. Even though Corman did not do "The Comedy of Terrors," it is a fitting counterpart to "The Raven" because not only do you have the same veteran horror actors in both films, but because writer Richard Matheson wrote both scripts. Matheson wrote the best of the AI films and deserves to be considered one of the best scripters of horror films of all time.
"The Comedy of Terrors" has a very simple premise. Vincent Price plays Waldo Trumbull, an undertaker who has not been getting any business so he decides to make some for himself by bumping off rich people. Also along for the fun are Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone, who tend to throw in a lot of Shakespeare quotes in the proceedings (Matheson wrote the whole script in blank verse). Lorre is Price's assistant and Karloff plays the senile father of Price's wife (Joyce Jameson). Joe E. Brown shows up to play the cemetery keeper as well (anybody remember when he played Shakespeare in 1935's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?).
The film, also known as "The Graveyard Story," is directed by Jacques Tourneur, who first made a name for himself with "Cat People" when he headed the horror unit at RKO. Still, many viewers will be surprised that this was not a Corman film and, indeed, he seems to be the only one of the usual cast of suspects not involved in the film. The end result is pretty funny, especially when the boys are trying to keep Rathbone's "MacBeth" quoting John F. Black in his coffin. Some people will be grossly offended by these comic hijinxs, but those people should already know that going in and can just avoid this DVD.
"The Raven" begins "straight" with Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) intoning Poe's poem, to an actual raven. But then the raven responds on cue...with Peter Lorre's voice! It turns out the raven is really another magician, Dr. Bedlo, who has been victimized by Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). Craven turns Bedlo back into a human, and Bedlo agrees to help Craven find his beloved Lenore (Hazel Court). Going along on the journey are Craven's daughter (Olive Sturgess) and Bedlo's son (Jack Nicholson--this explains a lot, huh?). The film's climax is an epic magical duel between Price and Karloff (why even bother with the characters' names anymore?), where the two sorcerers keep trying to top each other.
Ultimately the credit for this one goes mainly to the script from Matheson. This is another one of those early films with Nicholson that must have been a great source of embarrassment to him once upon a time, but Price, Karloff and Lorre are having so much fun hamming it up in this one that you have little choice but to enjoy the indignities heaped upon the future Oscar winner. This 1963 film, which came out a year before "The Comedy of Terrors," should not be confused with the film with the same name Karloff made in 1935, although they would certainly make a rather obvious double-bill for a Saturday night.
THE RAVEN (USA - 1963): During the 15th century, an evil sorceror (Boris Karloff) lures his arch rival (Vincent Price) to a lonely castle where they fight a magical duel to the death...
Handsomely mounted on some of the most lavish sets ever created for AIP's Poe series, THE RAVEN toplines Price, Karloff and Peter Lorre for the first time in their careers, alongside a very young Jack Nicholson (making the most of a juvenile supporting role). Richard Matheson's clever script turns the faux seriousness of earlier Poe pictures on its head, countering Price's overwrought histrionics with a series of rude rejoinders from Lorre, who relishes his role as a cowardly magician whose divided loyalties place everyone around him in danger. The movie's visual impact is inevitably diminished on TV, but Price and Karloff are worthy adversaries, and their climactic duel is one of the most celebrated set-pieces in horror movie history, despite some fairly obvious trick-work. Floyd Crosby's expansive cinematography and Daniel Haller's 'olde worlde' set designs conspire to render a suitably Gothic atmosphere, though the movie derives most of its strength from the quality of its dialogue and performances. Directed by Roger Corman.
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (USA - 1963): The proprietor of a debt-ridden funeral parlor (Price) seeks to drum up a little business by resorting to murder, but one of his 'victims' (Basil Rathbone) turns out to be cataleptic and refuses to lie down and die...
Eager to re-team their 'triumverate of terror' following the unexpected commercial success of THE RAVEN, AIP assembled Price, Lorre and Karloff for this second helping of macabre black comedy, adding Rathbone to an already potent brew and hiring much of the same creative personnel behind the camera, including Crosby and future director Haller (THE DUNWICH HORROR). In fact, Rathbone - who must have been insulted by his 'also starring' credit way down the cast list (behind even fleeting guest star Joe E. Brown and 'Rhubarb' the cat!) in the opening titles - steals the picture from his high-profile co-stars, playing the dotty, Shakespeare-spouting owner of Price's funeral parlor whose verbal gymnastics alone are worth the price of admission (he warns Price and his cohorts they "face the incommodious prospect of taking up residence in the street" if they don't pay their hefty rent arrears!).
In fact, Richard Matheson's tongue-in-cheek script is a marvel of wordplay, though the comedy is fairly bleak in places: Price plays a sarcastic, bad-tempered drunk who lords it over his hapless assistant (Lorre) and treats his untalented, opera-loving wife (Joyce Jameson) with open contempt, whilst also relishing the various murders he's committed over the years in order to sustain his fortunes. Karloff sits on the sidelines for the most part, consigned to a chair due to ill health, but he makes the most of what he's given, and he plays a crucial role in the climactic sequence, which closes proceedings on a note of pitch black humor. Fans of lowbrow comedy will be especially amused by the devastation wrought whenever Jameson launches into one of her operatic arias! An ultra-professional production team - under the direction of Val Lewton protege Jacques Tourneur - performs minor miracles on a clearly impoverished budget, and Crosby's gleaming cinematography makes a virtue of Haller's minimalist production design. Watch out for Rathbone's scene-stealing catch-phrase: "What place... is this?!"
NB. A disclaimer on the DVD packaging suggests THE RAVEN has been 'musically edited', though this appears to be untrue (MGM made similar claims on several other discs which were completely intact, such as DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN). However, part of THE RAVEN's soundtrack is muffled by an audible hissing sound, beginning about fifteen minutes into the picture and lasting for some time afterward. Also, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS has lost a crucial shot at 49:17 - accidentally omitted during the DVD mastering process - which spoils the climax of a gag involving Price, Lorre and the indignant occupant of a coffin! "
Laugh Yourself To Death
Bruce Rux | Aurora, CO | 09/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A wonderful AIP double-feature comedy bill, starring some of horror filmdom's most colorful and famous names. Veteran horror screenwriter Richard Matheson scripted both of these comic gems, enabling Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone to display their lesser-seen funnier sides.The Raven is the lesser of the two, but none the less enjoyable for that. Price plays retired 15th Century sorceror Erasmus Craven, whose lost love - "that rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore (Hazel Court)" - is being held in the clutches of evil old rival sorceror Dr. Scarabus (Karloff). The alcoholic Dr. Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre) has been transformed into a raven by the selfsame Dr. Scarabus, and tips off Craven as to Lenore's whereabouts in hopes of a little personal revenge. Bedlo's inept nephew, Rexford (Jack Nicholson), comes along for the ride.Lorre improvised a great deal of his dialogue, bringing an added freshness to the already sparkling script. Price was always at his best in comedy, and it shows here. Nicholson is fairly sappy and silly in his role, which is no offense to him since the character is supposed to be those things. Karloff plainly had a ball, like the others, satirizing his own cinematic image. The production is colorful tongue-in-cheek fluff, and well worth the time, especially for horror fans.The Comedy of Terrors is simply brilliant, Matheson's revamping of real old-school meller-drammers like "The Drunkard." Price is alcoholic funeral director Waldo Trumbull, who with blackmailed bankrobber assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) adds to the family coffers by occasionally drumming-up his own business - by means of suffocating some of the older townspeople with a pillow while they sleep, and then being Johnny-on-the-spot to offer his funeral services. Trumbull seized the undertaking business from senile aging old fool Mr. Hinchley (Karloff) by marrying his talentless aspiring operatic singer daughter Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), and then proceeded to run it into the ground ("Where else?" as he wryly observes). He's so cheap that he's used the same coffin for thirteen years, simply dumping the bodies in their graves after every service and taking the box back home with him after. Now, having drunk-up the business profits for the umpteenth time, and finding himself about to be evicted for a year's rent in arrears, Trumbull has induced Felix to assist him in getting rid of the rich landlord (Basil Rathbone), who madly quotes Macbeth while being dispatched. Unfortunately for Trumbull and Felix, Rathbone is a cataleptic, who keeps coming back no matter how many times they "kill" him. Making already absurd situations all the more ridiculous - and laugh out loud funny - Felix is secretly madly in love with blonde bombshell Amaryllis, and wants her to run away with him.Every line in Comedy of Terrors is imminently quotable, and very funny. The script is tight, sharp and clean. The production is very theatrical and quite gorgeous, coming off as an especially good stage play. The music score is excellent, and Jacques Tourneur's direction superior. The cast obviously had a ball doing this one, and it's fortunate they all got a chance to get it on film before most of them died. This script is so good, anyone could do it - but of course it's all that much better because of the personages involved.These two are winners, Comedy of Terrors especially, and well worth the "Price.""