While this American International Pictures horror classic was released in the US in the summer of 1963, it wasn’t until 21 February 1966 that UK cinemagoers got to enter The Haunted Palace.
In 1875, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Ann (Debra Paget) inherit a mansion in the New England village of Arkham, where they find themselves shunned by the local townspeople who live in fear of a curse placed on them by Charles’ great-great-grandfather Joseph Curwen, a necromancer and warlock, who was burnt at the stake for practising witchcraft 110 years previously.
But, just as the Ward’s decide to pack their bags, Charles is taken over by the spirit of his evil ancestor who then sets out to wreak revenge on those who stopped his ‘work’…
Roger Corman’s sixth Gothic horror in his Edgar Allan Poe cycle, borrows its title from an 1839 poem by the macabre writer, but owes a huge debt to the nightmarish Cthulhu-verse of HP Lovecraft, as it is loosely based on the 1927 novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
With suitably atmospheric cinematography from Floyd Crosby, and probably one of the best film scores ever from Ronald Stein, this entry in the Corman/Price/Poe cycle is a true classic, while the restrained performance by Price in the dual role of the evil Curwen and the ineffectual Charles adds to the sense of underlying horror.
Along for the ride are some genre favourites, Lon Chaney Jr and Elisha Cook Jr (who adds being burnt alive to his many screen deaths), while this was the last film of Debra Paget, who quit acting soon after.
Over the years the 1970 sci-fi horror conspiracy thriller Scream and Scream Again has aged surprisingly well. Its seemingly unnconnected plots actually look quite hip in today’s channel hopping, attention deficit, age. And the horror thriller was certainly hip in its day, earning big at the box office for its producers, Amicus and American International Pictures.
Vincent Price gets top billing as cancer scientist Dr Browning, conducting mysterious research in a rural Surrey mansion; while Alfred Marks’ London detective is tracking down a homicidal sex maniac dubbed, The Vampire Killer, who is targeting girls in local nightclubs. Meanwhile, in some unspecified Eastern European totalitarian state, Peter Cushing gets bumped off by Marshall Jones’ Konratz (though everyone calls him Konrad in the film) as part of his climb to the top job, while back in Blighty, Christopher Lee’s British Intelligence official is trying to secure the release of a lost British pilot.
Vincent only really gets to shine in the film’s final reels – for a quick tour of his modern Frankenstein-styled lab – before an undignified acid bath death at the hands of Lee’s man from the ministry.
Still, Scream and Scream Again is one of the most unusual and unique British sci-fi’s ever made, and now that its available in HD on Blu-ray and DVD, with the restored the original soundtrack, including Amen Corner’s eponymous theme tune – its one to watch again and again…
To celebrate the film’s original cinema release in the UK on 8 February 1970 (it went on general release in the US on 13 February), check out our gallery of original US Lobby Cards from my own collection. CLICK HERE
To celebrate our Poe, Price and The Core live music and screening event in central London this coming Saturday, here’s a selection of vintage publicity stills from the acclaimed 1970 TV special in which Vincent Price played Poe unplugged.