The Haunted Palace (1963)

This is more like it! Colour, widescreen, blatant studio exteriors dressed up with liberal amounts of fog… this is how you let Roger Corman make a film, Edward Small! Part of his Poe cycle, it is in fact an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story (and, according to Corman, never originally intended, at least by him, to be a “Poe” film). Much bastardised in the transition to the screen, of course, but the same can be said of practically any Lovecraft-derived film (the “silent” Call of Cthulhu from a few years ago being a notable exception); but, as Tim Brayton observes in his recent reappraisal of the Poe cycle, this doesn’t affect the film negatively. He’s right, too, to single out cinematographer Floyd Crosby and designer Daniel Haller, cos this is fucking beautiful to look at. I’ve only ever seen this panned and scanned, and the print Channel 7 showed then was probably a fairly ho-hum 16mm job, so seeing it now on an anamorphic DVD was like a first viewing (especially since it must be nearly 20 years since I did last see it). And it is beautiful. Just look at how those flames (and there are many flames) appear on the screen. Those false-perspective sets filmed with wide-angle lenses to make them look bigger. The palace itself. And, of course, the fog. The whole thing fairly brims with atmosphere, thanks to the efforts of these two, but thanks also to another factor Tim’s piece picks up on, i.e. the seriousness with which the film takes itself, particularly when it comes to Vincent Price’s performance. As I said, it’s probably the best part of 20 years since I last saw this (I still have my tape of that Channel 7 showing but can’t play it without a working VCR, obviously), and it was a pretty happy reacquaintance.

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