Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Comedy of Terrors commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau | It's well worth checking out!

Film historian David Del Valle is the go-to guy when it comes to doing commentaries for these Vincent Price Blu-ray re-releases (his commentary for the Shout! release of The Return of the Fly is up for a Rondo Award this year), and he's always entertaining, with lots of candid stories about the cast and crew, many of whom he has interviewed and become friends with over the years. Rapid Heart TV's David DeCoteau, who is best known for making cheap and cheerful homoerotic teen horrors, is hugely knowledgeable about the old Hollywood days. Together they make a camptastic team on Arrow’s audio commentary about the 1963 classic, The Comedy of Terrors.
Del Valle dedicates the commentary to Joyce Jameson (1932-1987), who regarded The Comedy of Terrors as the crowning achievement of her career (she often held parties with her gay friends where she’d show the film). The actress, a favourite of Clint Eastwood, tragically took her life at the age of 54, and was also the subject of a chapter in Del Valle's memoirs, Lost Horizons Beneath the Hollywood Sign (a must-read btw). 

The cast, crew and the film’s history are all covered in great depth, with particular emphasis on Peter Lorre, whose last film this was. Del Valle relates how the acclaimed actor was dying while making the film, which required a stunt man wearing a look-a-like mask to stand-in for him. Lorre, who can be seen struggling during a dance sequence, died two months after the film was released (23 March 1964), and it was Price who delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

Unlike The Raven, whose success was based on the surprise that it was a comedy and not another Gothic horror, The Comedy of Terrors was a flop (though it didn’t lose any money for AIP). Del Valle relates how veteran director Jacques Tourneur was disappointed that no one got his ‘homage to RenĂ© Clair’, despite it being a better made film than The Raven.

Advancements in digital technology have given AIP’s 1960s Poe/Price films a new lease of life on HD and Blu-ray. Closely observed, the imperfections really stand out, but they possess a nostalgic charm; while the talented artists involved have made them unique, especially art director Daniel Haller, whose deceptively opulent sets breathed lush, vivid, intricate life into AIP’s cobweb cinema. Haller gets a big thumbs up from the boys in the commentary.

Also discussed is how these 1960s AIP films weren't highly regarded by Hollywood, but are now part of film history as they marked the final curtain call for iconic horror stars like Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who all got to act together in an era undergoing great change.

Del Valle’s stories about Vincent are always priceless, and he supplies one that's particularly personal to me – and I'm sure also to lots of other fans: how Vincent believed that if people started reading Edgar Allan Poe after seeing one of his films, then he felt he had done his job as an actor. I’m one of those, so thank you Vincent.

This commentary is just another reason why you need to add Arrow's Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors to your VP library. [Read my full review, here]

* For more cult film news and gossip from David Del Valle and David DeCoteau, check out: The Del Valle Archives and Rapid Heart TV.

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