Good evening horror fiends! If you did not imagine that said in the voice of the one and only iconic Vincent Price, then get ready because this Cineray is perfect for you. But this is not a double feature recommendation; no, today I have decided this is a triple feature of my three favorite Price films. The reason for this is I could not settle on just two of his movies, and I feel like three is the limit for suggestion all in one sitting. Also, it’s been a bit since I suggested an excellent triple feature, and what better excuse than to watch the films of one of the great actors of horror. So today’s recommendation is The House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and The Comedy of Terrors.
House on Haunted Hill is a campy horror classic directed by William Castle and filled with gimmicky scares but also a fun watch. Frederick Loren is a wealthy man who has invited five strangers to a haunted house with an offer to pay each of them $10000 (it was 1959, and just for some perspective, a gallon of gas was $.25) if they spend one night in the house. They all show up because they all need the money. Other than that, they are all strangers. Among them is Watson Pritchard, the house’s owner. Watson says the spirits in the house killed his brother and is solemn in his belief someone to use will be following that night. Annabelle, Frederick’s wife, is there as well, and who Frederick swears tried to poison him for his money. Their relationship is tense, and they do not mind making a grand display of how rocky the relationship is in front of everyone. At first, it seems like an easy $10K, but soon spooky stuff starts to happen, and everyone is ready to leave. Unfortunately, when the maid and butler leave earlier, they trigger the door locks, and everyone else becomes stuck in the house for the night. Needless to say, not all of them are going to survive.
House on Haunted Hill is very schlock but still entertaining, which probably speaks to the acting talent of Price and the cast. Not going to lie; some of the effects in this movie are incredibly cheesy. There is a legitimately scary old lady moment, but instead of having her walk out or float out on wires, it looks like they placed her on a wheeled plank and rolled her out of the scene. It’s also in the way she scares a character and then just leaves. It makes even less sense that she rolls out when you find out she is the blind maid and living. William Castle, the director, also set up skeletons on wires to float over the audiences during the film’s showings. But despite the carnival ride nature of a lot of the effects, the way the cast is still playing it straight helps a lot. And Price is fantastic, equal parts charming and sinister; he makes you question his motivations and what his plans may be for everyone.
The Tingler is a monster movie with a pretty original concept when for today. Pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin has discovered a parasite that exists in the human body. It lives along the spine and grows and gets stronger from the pheromones created by human fear. It can kill a person by curling the spine and crushing it but can be counteracted by screams which cause the tingler paralysis. It can also only act with enough strength to kill when a person is frightened. After his wife’s friend passes away mysteriously from fright, he performs an autopsy and finds and removes her finger. Still alive, it escapes his lab and invades his friend’s movie theater.
The Tingler works as a film because of the concept and Price as the lead. The idea of a parasite already in the human body that can kill you is pretty original. At first, I thought the premise might be that it spreads or breeds inside a person, but that’s not the case. The Tingler is explained as a parasite every person has in them already. And once you see what one looks like. In the film, it was sure to cause the ick factor to go up for the viewers. Just the idea of a parasite like that existing in the body is nasty to imagine, and that it could kill you because you have gotten far too scared is frightening. Add in that the director William Castle, a consummate showman, spent money wiring seats randomly in theaters with electric buzzers called Percepto to shock audience members at a particular moment to enhance the scares. Unlike House on Haunted Hill, Price is charming as the film’s protagonist. It’s one of the few examples wherein Price is not a villain of some kind and, instead, a character to root for.
And our last film, The Comedy of Terrors is a fun horror-comedy with an all-star cast. Waldo Trumball is a funeral homeowner at the end of the 19th century, and he is a scoundrel. He married his elder business partner, Amos Hinchley, daughter Amaryllis to take control of the business. He does not love the beautiful woman and typically threatens to poison her senile father. He also has a worker named Felix Gillie, who he abuses but takes it because he is a wanted thief and Felix is also in love with Amaryllis. Business is terrible despite the dirty tricks Waldo uses to cheat families burying loved ones. One of his typical tricks is dumping the body into the ground after the funeral and burying the body without the coffin which has been reusing for many years.
Things gets worse for Trumball when his landlord John F Black shows up with a threat to repossess the funeral home if he does not pay the long-overdue rent. Desperate, Trumball concocts a plan to break into the wealthy Mr. Phipps’s home and smother him in his sleep. The next morning, with Felix he is there to pick up the body. But his plan is spoiled when Mr. Phipps’s young wife runs away with all his money, leaving Trumball high and dry. Frustrated and growing angrier with Black’s continuing threats, Trumball decides to just kill Black. But doing that is going to prove a lot harder and funnier than he is expecting.
This movie is just a lot of fun. It has the charm and zany nature of The Munsters and The Addams Family tv series. And despite its heavily comic nature, it is about a villainous funeral. Homeowner killing people to turn a profit after all. It has a definite Disney-like early film charm to it. Fans of the Don Knotts’ classic The Ghost and Mr. Chicken will love this film, and if you have not seen it and enjoy The Comedy of Terrors, it’s another recommendation.
Besides the acting talents of Price, this film is a who’s who of classic horror films. Price stars as Waldo with Peter Lorre as Felix. His awkward kindness and meek nature in the film pairs well with Price’s mean narcissist, who can’t see to do anything right. Boris Karloff is Amos Hinchley, and he is excellent. You would think he made his fame as a comedic actor and not as a horror icon. Finally, the cast also includes Basil Rathbone as John F. Black. He is famous for early horror films as well for portraying Sherlock Holmes. Lastly, the director Jacques Tournuer is renowned for several films, among them Leopard Man and the original Cat People.
On a final note deciding on these particular films is not in any way a comment on Price’s total body of work. He had too many great films to list. Some of my other favorites are the original The Fly, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and The Pendulum, and many more. Another of my favorites is The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Giallo fans should love that one. House on Haunted Hill is available to stream on a lot of services, including Shudder, The Tingler is about the same and free on Hoopla, and finally, The Comedy of Terrors is free on Prime Video as well available for rent.