“It isn’t a house it’s a mad man’s palace, as old as sin.”
Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) is burned at the stake for being a warlock. Before he dies he curses the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. 110 years later Curwen’s great, great, grandson Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Anne (Debra Paget) arrive in Arkham. He is there to claim his inheritance. He gets a chilly reception from the people in town. It appears that since that night when Curwen was killed many people in town have been born with severe deformities.
Right away Charles seems to know his way around the palace, and the picture over the fire place of Curwen looks exactly like Charles. While walking around the palace they come upon Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr.) the caretaker. Anne wants to leave but Charles decides to stay for a while. He says to fix up the house to sell. Charles begins to become obsessed with the portrait of Curwen. His personality begins to change.
Doctor, Marinus Willet (Frank Maxwell) is the only resident in town that befriends the couple. At dinner one night He tells the Wards about the death of Curwen and the curse. He also tells them about a book of black magic called the Necronomicon. He says the town believes that Curwen and two other warlocks were trying to summon the Elder Gods. The dark ones from beyond who once ruled the world. Their plan was to mate these gods with humans to create a race of super-humans.
Slowly Charles is possessed by the spirit of Joseph Curwen. Curwen reunites with two other warlocks, Simon and Jabez Hutchinson (Milton Parsons). They have also been possessed by their ancestors. They decide to pick up where they left off and get a little revenge in while they are at it.
“The Haunted Palace” was released in 1963 and was produced and directed by Roger Corman. Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson were also producers. The screenplay was written by Charles Beaumont and the music score was done by Ronald Stein. The movie is labeled as the sixth movie in the Corman-Poe-AIP series. While it does have the title of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, the actual story is loosely based on one written by H.P. Lovecraft called “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Some of the sets were also used for “The Terror” 1963. Frances Ford Coppola provided some additional dialogue for the movie. Clips of the movie are used as stock footage for some of Corman’s other movies.
The movie itself is actually darn good. The cinematography is wonderful, as is the music score. The sets look as lavish as anything Hammer ever did and the story is quite creepy and spooky. This is one Roger Corman movie that was done exceptionally well. It is dripping with gothic atmosphere. Price is excellent as the possessed heir flowing seamlessly from one character to the other. The story unfolds at a good pace with much of the Lovecraftian touches weaving in and out. Even Chaney does a good job as the oily servant and side kick Simon Orne. To me it was the best of the series.