Plot: Arkham villagers, suspecting Joseph Curwen of being a Warlock, burn him alive. With his dying breath, he curses the town resulting in his old palace being abandoned for over 100 years. Suspicion and hatred resurface as his great great grandson Charles Ward and his wife return to claim the castle. Along with the hatred of the villagers, Anne must deal with her husband’s strange and increasingly erratic behavior. Is it due to the villager’s influence, or is something more sinister at work?
Review: Back to the standard format, and away with the comedic elements. This does bring a new twist to the table, one that’s a bit more tentacly and abstract. This film claims to be based on Poe, but is more Lovecraftian in nature, which will be made evident rather shortly. Does this new combo work? Or does it deserve a place in the attic next to the cuthuluian love child? Let’s take a look.
Price returns as both Jonathan Curwen and Charles Ward. Along for the ride is Lon Chaney Jr, playing the creepy caretaker who is clearly in on the entire thing. Both provide excellent roles and the villagers are suitably angry and paranoid ( on account of the whole curse thing resulting in half fish offspring.) Anne has little to do and Hester even less, but they serve their part well enough.
As usual backgrounds are nice looking and suitably creepy when called for. The shots of the town, engulfed in fog as ominous noise plays are really nice. I expected to see Guy’s mausoleum in the background of the graveyard scenes.
How does Price fair? Quite well actually. No melodramatic speeches here, instead we get to see a purely evil sorcerer out to get revenge and continue his human-eldritch crossbreeding. Not that his hammy nature is reduced, its just got an evil tint to it. Before that, however, we get to see his performance as Charles, a nonbeliever in the silly superstitions of the fish villagers. Along with this comes an air of snark which got a chuckle or two out of me.
Despite all signs pointing to get the hell out (abandoned town, judgemental fishmen, a crazy Ralph cameo), they decide to stay anyway. Influencing this decision is the doctor, who appears to be one of the only sensible men in town, unlike the angry mob with an itchy match hand.
The weirdness continues once they reach the house and meet Lon Chaney Jr as the creepy caretaker. Who is in on the entire thing. One glance at a painting of Joseph Curwek, and Charles is instantly possessed. He doesn’t make it subtle either, not that Anne seems to notice. It makes a nice break from the melodramatics however.
One full possession later, and Charles has gotten ahold of the Necronomicon in an attempt to resurrect Hester, who kinda dissapears until 40 minutes in. This leads into an ending that is really well executed, aswell as an obvious twist ( it was fresh back then).
One of the major issues here is the attempt to replicate the sheer terror that is Lovecraft’s work. Lovecraft is all about the fear of the unknown and how man’s pursuit of knowledge beyond his comprehension leads to sheer madness . This is hard enough to do in film, but tossing in the work of Poe and blending them together is a difficult task on its own. The ingredients are there , they just need more work.
Highlights: The physical effects for the fish people are really good, as are the corpse effects for Hester. The eldritch beast is suitably trippy looking and also not something I’d want to mate with. The elements are there for a good story, but it just needs more work.
Recommendations: If you want to see the first adaptation of Lovecraft’s work on screen or love Vincent Price, give it a shot. If you want a lot of action, I’d find something else.
Next week we continue the Poe-A-Thon with something actually Poe related. I’ll also be changing the format up a bit from now on.