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The Comedy of Terrors [UK] Blu-ray Review

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The Film

[Rating:3/5]

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The second to last film for director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People; I Walked with a Zombie) is one that emphasizes more comedy than his usual horror and also brings together a powerful cast of horror stalwarts including Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff. The Comedy of Terrors for all intents and purposes is a comedy horror film. The emphasis on slapstick can be a bit overwrought, but to see these actors loosen up, especially Price and Karloff remains a treat.

Vincent Price plays destitute undertaker Walter Trumball whose business is in a slump, so he spends his days drinking, quarreling with his wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), and trying to poison his father-in-law who owns the undertaking business. Meanwhile, Walter’s sniveling assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) has a crush on his wife and she begins to taking a liking to him. When Walter is on the verge of losing everything, Walter devises the ultimate money making scheme for a person in the business of burying the dead, he’ll help the local wealthy old men along their way by sneaking into their homes and suffocating them and then collect the exorbitant fees for the services afterwards. He inveigles his assistant Felix in these endeavors, but things go awry when one mark refuses to stay dead.

Visually, The Comedy of Terrors falls in line with many of the other Gothic horror films that Vincent Price and Co. were known for, such as The Fall of the House of Usher, for example, but thanks to Tourneur’s desire to break out of the mold, at least on this particular film, it has a more lighthearted, whimsical feel. It may most closely resemble The Raven in that regard, although hear there is a heavier dose of slapstick than even The Raven allowed for.

Boris Karloff is only briefly used, but it is still fun to see him appear, while Peter Lorre perhaps garners the easiest laughs with his overeager, lovesick assistant trying to romance the fetching Joyce Jameson’s Amaryllis.

Ultimately, there isn’t much “terror” in The Comedy of Terrors outside of some visual cues, but if one views the film as a mere lampooning of the Gothic genre, overacting and overworking for laughs notwithstanding, it is a satisfyingly humorous affair with a strong cast.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

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Arrow lists The Comedy of Terrors as a “High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM”. The film appears on Blu-ray in an AVC encodement, and while it looks reasonable, it does not reach any level of reference quality by any means. There are many instances of dirt and debris that can be spotted, the midrange and background details are fairly soft, and grain is a bit on the coarser side. Generally, however, Comedy does look natural and does not suffer from noise or any unnatural processing, although colors don’t look as natural as they could. Indoor scenes come across the best, with the strongest color reproduction, although black crush remains an issue throughout the transfer.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

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The monaural soundtrack comes in an acceptable LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) configuration that provides clear dialogue and sufficient breathing room for the sound effects despite the limited frequency range and boxiness.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

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We get a typically robust package from Arrow for this release, packed with featurettes, interviews, and a booklet with new essay.

  • DVD
  • Audio commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCocteau
  • Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:51:40) – The hitherto unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle/Vincent Price interview which was previously released on DVD in 2002 under the title of The Sinister Image.
  • Whispering in Distant Chambers (1080p/24; 00:16:57) – A specially-commissioned video essay by David Cairns looking at the various recurrent themes and stylistic motifs of director Jaques Tourneur’s work.
  • Richard Matheson Storyteller (1.78:1; SD; 00:09:37)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; SD; 00:02:34)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall


The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

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The Comedy of Terrors may not leap to the top of one’s mind when thinking of the top classic horror films, but the rich production design, assemblage of veteran actors, and unusual comedic atmosphere make for a pleasant viewing experience.

Additional Screen Captures

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[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B00Q4Y3C6A[/amazon-product]

 

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