The Comedy of Terrors (1964)

88 mins | Horror, Comedy | 22 January 1964

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HISTORY

The 17 Oct 1962 DV announced that, upon completing their current film, The Raven (1963, see entry), actors Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre would begin work on The Comedy of Terrors. Both were American International Pictures (AIP) productions. The 12 Jun 1963 Var noted that the film was one of twenty-four productions financed by AIP’s 1963 budget of $24 million. A news item in the 6 Feb 1963 Var revealed that Peter Lorre had signed “an exclusive four-year pact” with AIP, requiring him to appear in eight horror-themed films, and preventing him from participating in any similar productions for other studios. Principal photography began 4 Sep 1963 at Producers Studio (later known as Raleigh Studios) in Hollywood, CA, as stated in that day’s LAT and DV.
       The 5 Dec 1963 DV reported that studio executive James H. Nicholson was leaving for New York City to preview the film. Pre-release screenings were planned for selected theaters, prior to general release in Jan 1964. As noted in the 1 Jan 1964 Var, the film’s 25 Dec 1953 Detroit, MI, premiere was a financial success.
       Although critical notices were mixed, public response was positive, garnering the picture $133,000 during its opening week at twenty-four Los Angeles locations.
       The Comedy of Terrors marked actor Basil Rathbone’s first screen appearance since 1946. Rathbone complained to the 22 Sep 1963 LAT that, despite his thriving career, several of his colleagues assumed he was dead.
       Casting announcements during production included Joi Lansing (5 ... More Less

The 17 Oct 1962 DV announced that, upon completing their current film, The Raven (1963, see entry), actors Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre would begin work on The Comedy of Terrors. Both were American International Pictures (AIP) productions. The 12 Jun 1963 Var noted that the film was one of twenty-four productions financed by AIP’s 1963 budget of $24 million. A news item in the 6 Feb 1963 Var revealed that Peter Lorre had signed “an exclusive four-year pact” with AIP, requiring him to appear in eight horror-themed films, and preventing him from participating in any similar productions for other studios. Principal photography began 4 Sep 1963 at Producers Studio (later known as Raleigh Studios) in Hollywood, CA, as stated in that day’s LAT and DV.
       The 5 Dec 1963 DV reported that studio executive James H. Nicholson was leaving for New York City to preview the film. Pre-release screenings were planned for selected theaters, prior to general release in Jan 1964. As noted in the 1 Jan 1964 Var, the film’s 25 Dec 1953 Detroit, MI, premiere was a financial success.
       Although critical notices were mixed, public response was positive, garnering the picture $133,000 during its opening week at twenty-four Los Angeles locations.
       The Comedy of Terrors marked actor Basil Rathbone’s first screen appearance since 1946. Rathbone complained to the 22 Sep 1963 LAT that, despite his thriving career, several of his colleagues assumed he was dead.
       Casting announcements during production included Joi Lansing (5 Sep 1963 DV) and Tudor Owen (13 Sep 1963 DV). The 18 Dec 1963 Var noted that a special coffin, equipped with a hydraulic lift, was built for the production at a cost of $9,300.
       Copyright length: 83 minutes. Rereleased in Mar 1965 as The Graveside Story . One source credits Luree Holmes in place of Luree Nicholson. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1963
p. 9.
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1963
p. 3, 8.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1963
p. 13.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1964
p. 7.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1964
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
4 Sep 1963
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
22 Sep 1963
Section E, p. 4.
Variety
6 Feb 1963
p. 17.
Variety
12 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Variety
18 Dec 1963
p. 11.
Variety
1 Jan 1964
p. 5.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod-screenplay
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir-prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod asst
Scr supv
Prop master
Stills
Dial dir
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Graveside Story
The Comedy of Terror
Release Date:
22 January 1964
Premiere Information:
Detroit, MI, premiere: 25 December 1963
Los Angeles opening: 22 January 1964
Production Date:
began 4 September 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Alta Vista Productions
Copyright Date:
1 January 1964
Copyright Number:
LP27172
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
PathéColor
Duration(in mins):
88
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the 1890's, the small New England funeral business of Hinchley and Trumbull is in difficulty because of the laziness and drunkenness of Trumbull, who married the 92-year-old Hinchley's daughter, Amaryllis, to gain control of the business. Trumbull works only at moments of financial crisis, "creating" new customers with the help of Felix Gillie, whom Trumbull blackmails into being his assistant. Amaryllis is unhappy about her husband's abusiveness, his destruction of her hopes of becoming an opera singer, and his threats to kill her senile father with poison kept in a bottle which the old man thinks contains medicine. She and the sympathetic, tone-deaf Felix fall in love. Trumbull's landlord, John F. Black, threatens to evict him unless he pays a year's back rent, and Trumbull decides to get the money by providing an expensive funeral for a wealthy man whom he and Felix murder. Their plan backfires when the man's widow skips town without paying for the funeral. Trumbull next decides to kill Black. During the attempted murder, Black, a catalepsy victim, has what appears to be a fatal stroke. When his "corpse" stirs just before the funeral, Trumbull knocks him out and ties and gags him. According to the terms of Black's will, he is interred in a mausoleum, where he revives once again. The cemetery keeper, hearing his pounding, releases him; the now-maddened Black goes to the funeral parlor seeking revenge; but Trumbull finally kills him. Trumbull then turns on Amaryllis and Felix, rendering them unconscious. When the police arrive, Trumbull feigns unconsciousness to escape the blame for Black's death. Hinchley sees him and, thinking him ill, pours the poisoned medicine down his throat, killing him. ... +


In the 1890's, the small New England funeral business of Hinchley and Trumbull is in difficulty because of the laziness and drunkenness of Trumbull, who married the 92-year-old Hinchley's daughter, Amaryllis, to gain control of the business. Trumbull works only at moments of financial crisis, "creating" new customers with the help of Felix Gillie, whom Trumbull blackmails into being his assistant. Amaryllis is unhappy about her husband's abusiveness, his destruction of her hopes of becoming an opera singer, and his threats to kill her senile father with poison kept in a bottle which the old man thinks contains medicine. She and the sympathetic, tone-deaf Felix fall in love. Trumbull's landlord, John F. Black, threatens to evict him unless he pays a year's back rent, and Trumbull decides to get the money by providing an expensive funeral for a wealthy man whom he and Felix murder. Their plan backfires when the man's widow skips town without paying for the funeral. Trumbull next decides to kill Black. During the attempted murder, Black, a catalepsy victim, has what appears to be a fatal stroke. When his "corpse" stirs just before the funeral, Trumbull knocks him out and ties and gags him. According to the terms of Black's will, he is interred in a mausoleum, where he revives once again. The cemetery keeper, hearing his pounding, releases him; the now-maddened Black goes to the funeral parlor seeking revenge; but Trumbull finally kills him. Trumbull then turns on Amaryllis and Felix, rendering them unconscious. When the police arrive, Trumbull feigns unconsciousness to escape the blame for Black's death. Hinchley sees him and, thinking him ill, pours the poisoned medicine down his throat, killing him. Felix and Amaryllis find love together, and Hinchley goes on his merry, innocent way. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.