What would you do if you found out that you inherited a haunted palace? Would you keep it? Sell it? Would you gamble to spend even a single night there? I’m not sure I would but I might be curious to see how haunted it actually is. For Charles Ward and his wife Anne they had no clue. They ignored dire warnings from the locals and decided to see the place for themselves. After all they now owned it. Can you blame them? Well we can pity them. In this gothic horror tale, Vincent Price plays dual roles as the original owner of the haunted palace and the unlucky descendant who inherits it.
The Burning Man Tavern
Charles Ward (played by Vincent Price) and his wife Anne (played by Debra Paget) inherit an old palace. As they arrive in Arkham, Massachusetts the townspeople are immediately suspicious. Typical of small towns right? They walk into a bar called Burning Man Tavern and as they enter everyone gives them the cold shoulder. Crazy thing is this is the same exact scene from An American Werewolf in London. You know the part where the two backpackers make fun of the name of the English tavern, The Slaughtered Lamb? They walk in and are immediately given the cold shoulder by the patrons. They are even warned to leave asap! In both movies the warnings are ignored leading to grave consequences.
Are those raviolis on this man’s eyes? He’s not the only one in town with this weird affliction. After leaving the tavern a group of similarly deformed people emerge from the shadows. The town creepies surround the Wards. Just when you think something is about to happen, the creepies slink away back into the shadows. Another obvious warning ignored.
The Haunted Palace
The Wards arrive at the palace to check things out. There is a legitimate jump scare and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I actually got startled enough to spill water all over my couch. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me while watching a movie! The set design of this classically gothic palace is actually pretty cool. Ornate furniture, giant carpets, stone walls, secret chambers and red candles! Yet nothing is creepier than the portrait that hangs over the fireplace. As Charles gazes at the painting he begins to slowly loose his mind.
What a coinkidink! This painting of the original owner of the haunted palace, Joseph Curwen, bears an uncanny resemblance to Charles. There must be some seriously strong DNA in that family. Just look at those eyes! Don’t they just draw you in? They quickly drew in Charles Ward and caused a sort of hypnosis over him. And here is yet another coinkidink. This part of the plot is similar to another Edgar Allan Poe inspired Vincent Price movie. Read my writeup on House of Usher (1960) to see what I mean.
The Caretakers and the Curse
Of course, our friends are not alone in this giant palace. Who should emerge from the shadows with a sullen face that looks like death is near? None other than Lon Chaney Jr. as Simon the caretaker! What a cool surprise! Remember he was the original Wolfman, one of my favorite Universal classic horror films.
Anne wants nothing more than to leave this town immediately. I mean who can blame her. The palace has rats, snakes and god awful spiderwebs. She can’t seem to convince her husband to abandon this foolish pursuit. Little does she know that he is being controlled by his ancestor the evil warlock Joseph Curwen. That’s right! The same guy in the painting.
110 years earlier, Joseph Curwen, the original owner of the palace was suspected of being a warlock. Before being burned alive he put a curse on the town of Arkham and vowed to someday return from the grave to seek his revenge. Could all the deformed villagers be the result of the curse? The local doctor Marinus Willet seems to think otherwise. Get ready for the Lovecraftian horror explanation. Seems Curwen had a copy of the Necronomicon, that’s right…the famous magic book that is used to raise the dead. His plan was to mate women with the evil beings summoned from this book to create a race of super humans. That explains all the deformed people that hide away like dark secrets throughout the village.
The Warlocks Revenge
The longer Charles stays in the palace, the more he is being controlled by Curwen. He is now ready to carry out the curse and resume his evil work. One by one he begins to kill the descendants of Arkham and with the help of two other warlocks attempts to continue his evil plan. Will Curwen succeed or will Charles Ward be spared? Watch the film to find out. Another great Vincent Price film! The art direction is fantastic with all the right elements to set the spooky scenes. If you’re an HP Lovecraft fan then you’ll definitely like this story!