I made a decision to tackle the bulk of films out there adapted from HP Lovecraft’s work. Why, you ask? 1, because Lovecraft is one of my favourite authors. He created a far-reaching fictional universe that started an entirely new genre of horror. Many only know of Cthulhu, and many don’t even know that part. I’d like to shed a little light in that darkness. And 2, think of it as my tantrum or protest of sorts that Mountains of Madness has still never been made into a major movie. Bring on the Elder Things, dammit!
My first entry is a 1963 horror flick, The Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price, Debra Paget and Lon Chaney Jr (yes, that Lon Chaney Jr, The Wolfman himself)
The interesting thing here is that The Haunted Palace actually refers to a piece of work by Edgar Allan Poe, not Lovecraft. Producer Roger Corman had done a few Poe adaptations prior to this, and wanted to move on to Lovecraft. But the studio wanted to retain the Poe connection so they used the title, while the actual plot of the film is in fact an adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by Lovecraft..
Vincent Price does his admirable Vincent Price-type of work here, playing the protagonist Ward, a man who’s body is being taken over by his sorcerous ancestor via an old painting in a castle he inherits, but it just doesn’t ring as true as in the written work. In the book, Ward was a teenager, or at least a young man. When he gradually gets taken over by his ancestor, it has a more body-horror element to it, not to mention the horror his parents must endure through the process. Having Price play the character, who is basically the same age as his ancestor and therefor not as much of a change occurs, just isn’t as impactful.
Also, Lon Chaney Jr is downright wasted in this film….
Production design is great through. The recreation of the old castle and town, on what is obviously the studio lots, is quite endearing.
All in all, not one of the stronger Lovecraft adaptations out there.