Release Date(s)1964 (August 31, 2021)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
The third straight horror comedy with Richard Matheson in the writer’s seat (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 Raven 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, overbearing man who will do anything for a profit while Lorre is his put-upon assistant. Karloff is relegated to a mostly non-speaking role as the wife’s nearly deaf father, although he was originally meant to inhabit the role played by Basil Rathbone, Vincent’s no-nonsense landlord. The real star of the film is the dialogue, which is sumptuously witty and sharp, the kind that spurs quoting wars among fans. Incredibly funny and at times even macabre, the critics weren’t keen on The Comedy of Terrors but the public was, doing excellent business upon its initial release. Today it remains a favorite among genre fans.
Trumbull (Price) and Gillie (Lorre) run the local funeral parlor, doing anything and everything to scrape by, even dumping bodies into graves and retrieving the coffins for reuse when no one’s looking. Trumbull is also a drunkard, constantly berating and verbally abusing his wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), whom Felix yearns for. Her father, Amos (Karloff), lives with them and is the former head of the funeral parlor, but pays them no heed as he’s advanced in age with very little hearing left. Even with their money-saving tactics, it isn’t enough to pay back rent to their landlord Mr. Black (Rathbone), who gives Trumbull twenty-four hours to come up with the money. One way or another, Trumbull and Gillie will get it, or kill whomever to keep from actually paying it.
The Comedy of Terrors comes to Blu-ray for a second time in the US from Kino Lorber Studio Classics sporting what is assumed to be the same master used for the Shout! Factory release of The Vincent Price Collection II. While it’s a stable transfer, it features a multitude of dirt and scratches, some sections of the film more littered with it than others. Grain fluctuates slightly, though it’s generally heavy. The color palette is nearly monochromatic most of the time, but bits of saturation shine through, such as rooms within the funeral parlor and the red robe that adorns Basil Rathbone later in the film. Contrast is a bit uneven, leading to gray blacks in certain scenes. The majority of the presentation is intentionally softer than other Price-lead films from around this time, judicially using fog and darkness as part of its look. A fresher and cleaner scan of the material would likely iron out minor issues, but even as is, it’s still enjoyable. Like previous US home video presentations of the film, this presentation also lacks the one second of missing footage at the 00:49:31 mark.
The soundtrack is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It’s a relatively quiet track. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise and sound effects range from bold and heavy to thin and weak. Les Baxter’s score has decent depth to it and is mixed into the soundtrack well without overcrowding it. It’s a satisfactory track overall without any leftover hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
- Richard Matheson Storyteller: Comedy of Terrors (Upscaled HD – 9:35)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:33)
- Tales of Terror Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:21)
- The Raven Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:29)
- Master of the World Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- The Last Man on Earth Trailer (HD – 1:51)
- The Tomb of Ligeia Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- War-Gods of the Deep Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:21)
- Scream and Scream Again Trailer (HD – 2:22)
- Theater of Blood Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- House of the Long Shadows Trailer (HD – 2:28)
Author Tim Lucas provides another stellar audio commentary (a new addition, although not advertised as such), often pausing and apologizing to admire the film’s dialogue and its delivery. He discusses many facets of the production, its cast, and its crew, even going into detail about the film’s feline star, Rhubarb. His blatant love of the film gives this deeply-researched and factoid-driven dissertation the disc’s shining star extra. Richard Matheson Storyteller is another DVD-era featurette (others can be found on other Kino Lorber Blu-ray releases) dedicated to the screenwriter discussing the film briefly, though with a tad more enthusiasm than usual. 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 US theatrical artwork. Everything is housed within a limited edition slipcase featuring the same artwork. Not included from the Shout! Factory Blu-ray release is a Vincent Price introduction and a still gallery. Not included from the Region B UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is an audio commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau; Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes, a slightly trimmed interview with the late actor from 1987; and Whispering in Distant Chambers, a video essay about Jacques Tourner by David Cairns. It’s also worth noting that the Arrow Video presentation of the film reinstates the one second of missing footage.
The Comedy of Terrors may not appeal to the strictly Gothic horror crowd, but for fans of its four main stars, it’s pure candy. Fun, funny, and even demented, it’s a wonderful film that wasn’t nearly as appreciated as it perhaps should have been. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray offers the film in a fine presentation with an excellent Tim Lucas commentary, even if it misses a few things from previous releases. If anything else, it keeps the film in print on the format since the Shout! Factory boxed set is essentially out of print and going for a hefty sum.
- Tim Salmons