Comedy of Terrors, The (1963): Jacques Tourneur’s Horror Comedy, starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Joe E. Brown in Final Film

Jacques Tourneur directed The Comedy of Terrors, an American International Pictures (AIP) horror comedy, starring an illustrious and iconic cast, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and in a cameo Joe E. Brown, in his final film.

Grade: B- (*** out of *****)

The Comedy of Terrors

US poster by Reynold Brown

A blend of comedy and horror, which not always works, the movie uses some cast members from Tales of Terror, made by AIP the year before.

In New England town of New Gilead in the late 19th century, an unscrupulous drunkard named Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) runs the funeral parlor he acquired from his former business partner Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff) after marrying his daughter Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson).

Trumbull enlists the assistance of fugitive picklock Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) in conducting his business cheaply by reusing the firm’s only coffin to unceremoniously dump the deceased while arranging the murder of wealthy clients.

Emotionally abusive to Amaryllis while attempting to poison the now-senile Hinchley under the guise of giving him medicine, Trumbull ultimately wastes his money on alcohol as clientele is dwindling.

Vincent Price as Waldo Trumbull
Peter Lorre as Felix Gillie
Boris Karloff as Amos Hinchley
Basil Rathbone as John F. Black, Esq.
Joyce Jameson as Amaryllis Trumbull
Joe E. Brown as the Cemetery Keeper
Beverly Powers (credited as Beverly Hills) as Mrs. Phipps
Alan DeWitt as Riggs
Buddy Mason as Mr. Phipps
Douglas Williams as the Doctor
Linda Rogers as Phipps’ Maid
Luree Holmes as Black’s Servant
Rhubarb the cat as Cleopatra

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Produced by James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Cinematography Floyd Crosby
Edited by Anthony Carras
Music by Les Baxter

Production company: Alta Vista Productions

Distributed by American International Pictures (AIP)

Release dates: December 25, 1963 (Detroit); January 22, 1964

Running time: 84 minutes