THE HAUNTED PALACE
H.P. Lovecraft is a cult horror writer. Writing between 1922 and his death in 1937, Lovecraft created an extraordinary body of work, centred around cosmic nightmares of ancient gods waiting beyond the abyss of time to return and wreak havoc, of blasphemous rites, abominable experiments in miscegenation and people driven insane by contact with the elder forces. Roger Corman and his team originally started out making a straight adaptation of H.P. Lovecrafts novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (published posthumously in 1941) but then had the Edgar Allan Poe title forced on them by AIP who were seeking to exploit a connection with Cormans Poe films. The Edgar Allan Poe connection is tenuous to say the least there is no palace in the film, nor any haunting or anything to do Poes 1839 mood poem, although Vincent Price gets to quote a couple of lines from it to justify the connection. What the film does trade on is the redolent, oppressive atmosphere of Roger Cormans Poe films. As it transpires, H.P. Lovecraft and (at least the filmic) Edgar Allan Poe make strangely congruous bedfellows.
The Roger Corman production team are on good form. There is a fine brooding Ronald Stein score. Cinematographer Floyd Crosby and production designer Daniel Haller make particularly good usage of drowned-out colour contrasts the house in muted browns, the town in greys, being strikingly lit up by the occasional flash of a red gown. The sets that Daniel Haller builds so that Floyd Crosby can with raw effect crank the camera right up to the ceiling over the sacrificial altar, or breathtakingly pan through the cavernous hallway of the house are excellent. There is a classical elegance to Roger Cormans direction like the strangely ritualistic scene in the streets where the mutants surround Vincent Price and Debra Paget and move off at the tolling of a bell; or a sadistically nasty scene where Vincent Price douses Elisha Cook in fuel and then coldly tosses a match at him. Vincent Price overdoes his familiar craven, cringing thing as Ward but the sinister smile as Curwen takes over has a potency. What The Haunted Palace principally lacks though is something to do once it has gotten its warlock back to life, thereafter only circling around cliche warlocks revenge and sacrificial virgin plots.
Roger Cormans other Edgar Allan Poe films are:- The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was later remade by Dan OBannon as the also worthwhile The Resurrected (1992). This films production designer Daniel Haller would also go onto direct two further H.P. Lovecraft adaptations in the same style as Roger Cormans Poe films with Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965) and The Dunwich Horror (1969).
Roger Cormans other genre films as director are: Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), War of the Satellites (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Not Of This Earth (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Tower of London (1962), The Terror (1963), X The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Trip (1967), Gas; or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Cormans World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Cormans career.
Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965), The Shuttered Room (1966) and The Dunwich Horror (1969). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordons splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordons subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Necronomicon (1993), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Gordons Dagon (2001), and other works such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2009), Pickmans Muse (2010), The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) and The Haunter of the Dark (2015). Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simons cheap and loosely inspired Cthulu Mansion (1992); John Carpenters Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parodies The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu (2009) and Call Girl of Cthulu (2014); even an animated childrens film Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) in which a young Lovecraft encounters his own creations; while the Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Lovecrafts key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Francos surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.