1964 (August 31, 2021)
American International Pictures / MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film / program rating: B +
- Video quality: B
- Audio level: B
- Category of extras: B +
The third consecutive horror comedy with Richard Matheson in place of the screenwriter (and the second directed by Jacques Tourner), The comedy of terrors is arguably the best collaboration of the three. Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre return after appearing together in The crow the year before, but this time around they’re given entirely different characters and dynamics to work with. Vincent Price is at his funniest as a hateful, bossy man who will do anything for profit while Lorre is his set-up assistant. Karloff is relegated to a predominantly non-speaking role as the woman’s almost deaf father, although he was originally intended to take on the role played by Basil Rathbone, Vincent’s pragmatic owner. The real star of the film is the dialogue, which is sumptuously witty and cutting edge, the kind that gets fans quoting wars. Incredibly funny and sometimes even macabre, the critics didn’t like The comedy of terrors but the public was doing excellent business when it was first released. Today, it remains a favorite among genre fans.
Trumbull (Price) and Gillie (Lorre) run the local funeral home, doing anything and everything to scratch, even toss bodies in graves and retrieve coffins for reuse when no one is looking. Trumbull is also a drunkard, constantly berating and verbally assaulting his wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), whom Felix longs for. His father, Amos (Karloff), lives with them and is the former head of the funeral home, but pays no attention to them as he is advanced in years with very little hearing. Even with their money-saving tactics, it’s not enough to pay the rent back to their landlord, Mr. Black (Rathbone), who gives Trumbull twenty-four hours to find the money. Either way, Trumbull and Gillie will either get it or kill anyone to keep them from paying for it.
The comedy of terrors arrives on Blu-ray for the second time in the US from Kino Lorber Studio Classics sporting what is supposed to be the same master used for the Shout! Factory outlet from The Vincent Price II Collection. Although this is a stable transfer, it has a plethora of dirt and scratches with some sections of the film more littered than others. The grain fluctuates slightly, although it is generally heavy. The color scheme is almost monochromatic most of the time, but elements of saturation shine through, like the funeral home pieces and the red robe that adorns Basil Rathbone later in the film. The contrast is a bit uneven, leading to gray blacks in some scenes. The majority of the presentation is intentionally softer than Price’s other films around this time, judiciously using fog and darkness as part of his look. A fresher, cleaner scan of the hardware would likely fix minor issues, but even as it is, it’s still nice. Like previous US domestic video presentations of the film, this presentation also lacks a second of missing footage at 00:49:31.
Soundtrack is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It is a relatively calm track. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, and the sound effects range from bold and heavy to thin and weak. Les Baxter’s score has decent depth and is mixed well with the soundtrack without overloading it. It’s a satisfactory track overall without any hissing, cracking, stalling or distortion.
The following extras are included:
- Audio commentary by Tim Lucas
- Richard Matheson Storyteller: Comedy of Terrors (Enhanced HD – 9:35)
- Theatrical trailer (HD – 2:33)
- Tales of Terror Trailer (HD improved – 2:21)
- The Raven Trailer (HD improved – 2:29)
- Master of the World Trailer (HD improved – 2:31)
- The Last Man on Earth Trailer (HD – 1:51)
- Tomb of Ligeia Trailer (HD improved – 2:31)
- War-Gods of the Deep Trailer (HD improved – 2:21)
- Scream and Scream Again Trailer (HD – 2:22)
- Blood Theater Trailer (HD improved – 2:31)
- House of Long Shadows Trailer (HD – 2:28)
Author Tim Lucas provides another stellar audio commentary (a new addition, though not advertised as such), often stopping and apologizing to admire the film’s dialogue and delivery. He discusses many facets of the production, its cast and crew, even going so far as to detail the film’s feline star, Rhubarb. His blatant love for the film makes this in-depth, fact-driven thesis the shining star of the Extra Disc. Richard Matheson Storyteller is another DVD-era featurette (more can be found on other Blu-ray releases by Kino Lorber) dedicated to the screenwriter briefly discussing the film, albeit with a little more enthusiasm than habit. The rest of the extras consist of nine trailers for the The comedy of terrors and other Vincent Price films released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case with the original American theatrical artwork. Everything is housed in a limited edition case with the same illustration. Not included in the Shout! The Factory Blu-ray version is an introduction by Vincent Price and a gallery of still images. Not included in Arrow Video’s UK Region B Blu-ray release is audio commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau; Vincent Price: My life and my crimes, a slightly cropped interview with the late actor from 1987; and Whispering in distant rooms, a video essay on Jacques Tourner by David Cairns. It’s also worth noting that the movie’s Arrow Video presentation restores the missing second of footage.
The comedy of terrors The strictly Gothic horror crowd may not appeal, but for fans of its four main stars, this is pure candy. Fun, funny, and even insane, it’s a wonderful film that wasn’t as enjoyed as it perhaps should have been. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray offers the film in a beautiful presentation with excellent commentary from Tim Lucas, although it lacks a few elements from previous releases. If anything else, it keeps the film printed on the format from the Shout! The factory set is basically sold out and expensive.
– Tim Salmon