Saturday, October 24, 2015

13 Films Of Halloween:


Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone. Written by: Richard Matheson Directed by: Jaques Tournier Produced by: James H. Nicholson (American International Pictures)

This was one of my favorites as a kid, not based on a Poe story but an original screenplay by Richard Matheson. It was not a big hit like the previous Price AIP movies, and the blame always seems to land on having the word “comedy” in the title... but unlike THE RAVEN, here the comedy really works because the whole story is played straight. The characters are all “serious” and it’s their reactions to the ghoulish situations which are funny. The line from this film I use in real life every once in a while is “What place is this?” After seeing the film, you may, too!

Spooky graveyard opening scene... a funeral in the fog. Undertaker Trumbull (Vincent Price) and his assistant Gillie (Peter Lorre) wait until the funeral ends and the friends and family of the dearly departed have left before lifting the coffin over the hole... and dumping the body from the coffin into the hole! They clean out the coffin, fill in the hole, take the coffin back to their horse drawn hearse, and take off into the fog!

Rhubarb The Cat scurries down a Victorian street, through a doorway, and down to the basement of the funeral parlor where Mr. Gillie works building a crappy coffin, trying to ignore the marital spat from upstairs...

Trumbull and his wife (Joyce Jameson) are arguing at the dinner table, her deaf father Hinchley (Boris Karloff) continues eating. She accuses Trumbull of being a drunk, he says she’s a shrew, she says he only married her for her father’s funeral business, he says who else would have her? Domestic bliss. Old Hinchley keeps mis-hearing what is said and responding inappropriately. Trumbull suggests he give Old Hinchley some “medicine” and shows his wife a bottle of poison he keeps in his pocket. He pours it into Old Hinchley’s milk, and Mrs. Trumbull snatches the milk away before Hinchley can drink it - Old Hinchley complains that she keeps taking away his medicine before he can drink it... she doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. The poison in the milk becomes a running gag throughout the story. The Trumbull & Hinchley Funeral Parlor is having serious financial problems - only one customer in the past 9 months. And Old Hinchley (Mrs. Trumbull’s father) spent his fortune on junk Nic-knacks filling up shelves throughout the house. Trumbull hurls a final insult at his wife and leaves.

On the street outside he bumps into Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone) his landlord who reminds him that his rent is late again, and threatens eviction if he is not paid within 24 hours. Trumbull will have to take up residency in the streets... unless he can drum up some business.

When Trumbull returns to the house, he has a meeting with Gillie about drumming up some business. At midnight they take the hearse out to a mansion on Winkle Road where they break in, and in trying to be quiet manage to make all kinds of noise, at one point causing a domino run of famous people’s plaster busts crash into each other on the way to the floor. While opening upstairs doors trying to find their victim, Trumbull stumbles on his sleeping wife (stripper Beverly Hills) - a real hottie. He finds Phipps’ bedroom and smothers him with a pillow. A new customer! The next morning, they hear the maid scream and show up to help them in their time of need.

Funeral for Phipps, Gillie secretly admires Mrs. Trumbull as she plays the organ... but the widow hasn’t shown yet. In fact, she doesn’t show at all, so Trumbull head to her house... where the Maid is leaving. The house has been cleared out and the Widow Phipps has moved to Boston without paying the Maid, let alone leaving behind any money to pay for the funeral.

They must find another customer...

A knock at the door - the eviction notice from Mr. Black.

Hey, a perfect customer! They can kill two birds with one pillow.

That night they ride out to Mr. Black’s house... but have trouble breaking in. The doors are all bolted from the inside as are all of the windows. But are the upstairs windows bolted? One window way at the top of the house seems to be open. Trumbull forces Gillie to climb the wall of the house... and he bumbles his way up to the window and into the house. Where Mr. Black is reading Macbeth in bed... outloud. Not asleep. He grabs a sword from his wall and begins *performing* the play! Spots Gillie and... has a heart attack!

The Doctor pronounces Mr. Black as dead, but his servant mentions that Mr. Black suffers from catalepsy. The Doctor runs a couple more Victorian era tests - and says Black is quite dead. Trumbull gets a customer without having to use the pillow. Trumbull and Gillie bring the dead Mr. Black back to the funeral parlor and lay him out...

And Gillie sees Mr. Black *move*! “What place is this?” Black says as he sits up. Trumbull explains that it’s the funeral parlor and *everyone* has seen that he’s dead, so... Mr. Black gets up and runs like hell! They catch him, but before they can kill him... he drops dead on the floor. They check him - dead - put him in the coffin (they only have the one) and head to the door to go to sleep when...

The coffin lid creaks open. “What place is this?”

Gillie and Trumbull rush back in and struggle with Mr. Black, trying to get the coffin lid closed. Eventually Trumbull hits him in the head with a hammer. They gag him and chain him inside the coffin...

The funeral for Mr. Black...

Black is laid out in his coffin as Mrs. Trumbull sings a funeral dirge “He is not dead, but sleeping”... Then Hinchely gives an amazing rambling eulogy for the crowd in the funeral parlor... forgetting the word “coffin” until he has a coughing fit. Just as the funeral ends, Mr. Black’s hand moves...

The bigger problem is that Mr. Black is not being buried, but put in the family crypt at the graveyard... which means that one coffin that Trumbull and Gillie have been using for the past 13 years will be locked inside the crypt’s gates and they will have to buy a new coffin... that may eat up much of what they made from this funeral! The crypt is locked, everyone leaves, and a voice from within the coffin asks: “What place is this?”

Celebration at Hinchley and Trumbull as they are paid... Trumbull tears up the eviction papers and fondles the stacks of silver coins in front of him, while Old Hinchley plays the fiddle and Mrs. Trumbull and Gillie dance together... Gillie has always had a crush on big bosomed Mrs. Trumbull. Mrs. Trumbull rejects his advances and goes to her husband... who would rather count his money than go up to bed with his wife. So she goes back to Gillie, and tells him that she will run away with him.

Meanwhile, at the graveyard (at the 60 minute mark) the Caretaker (Joe E. Brown) hears moaning and screaming in the night! He follows the sounds to Mr. Black’s crypt... and the lid pops open and Mr. Black gets out! The Caretaker faints, and Mr. Black is unleashed upon the world, seeking vengeance!

Mrs. Trumbull and Gillie prepare to run away together...

Mr. Black grabs an ax on the way to the funeral parlor...

Trumbull wakes up (drunk) after hearing a noise down in the basement and explores the dark and spooky room. Suspense builds as he pokes around - we know that Mr. Black and that ax are *somewhere* in the house. Trumbull is startled by a mirror, a painting of Hinchley, and even Rhubarb the cat... but the basement is empty. He goes back into the living room and his bottle... not seeing the muddy footprints on the stairs which lead up to the bedrooms.

Mrs. Trumbull is just finishing packing when the door handle to her bedroom begins to turn. She hears it, thinks it is Gillie, and prepares to welcome him to her ample bosom... but it’s Mr. Black and his ax! “Blood will have blood, they say!” She screams.

Both Trumbulll and Gillie race upstairs (separately) bumping into each other as they reach Mrs. Trumbull’s door. They break it open to find Mrs. Trumbull on the floor and Mr. Black swinging his ax down at her head! But the noise of the door causes him to miss her head by a fraction of an inch. He turns, raising the ax at the two men! Races at them! They both trip and his ax misses them. They run down the hallway into a spare bedroom, lock themselves inside. Before you can say THE SHINING, Mr. Black uses the ax on the door, punching a hole in it. Trumbull and Gillie find a hiding place as Mr. Black enters with the ax, and begins searching for them. At one point, Trumbull sees that Black has his back turned and races out of the hiding place. Gillie hears feet running down the stairs, comes out of the hiding place and says to Trumbull, “Thank heavens he has gone.” But it is *not* Trumbull on the other side of the room, it is Mr. Black with his ax!

Gillie races downstairs - tripping and rolling most of the way. Mr. Black moves down to where he is sprawled on the floor, lifts the ax and...

Trumbull shoots him.

Which only makes Mr. Black angry - he charges Trumbull with the ax!

Trumbull shoots him again.

Mr. Black goes down, dead.

Then stands up... quoting Shakespeare.

Then falls down dead.

Then stands up... more Shakespeare!

He keeps dying and then getting back up... until he finally seems to actually die. But who can really tell?

Mrs. Trumbull comes downstairs, finds Gillie at the base of the stairs and accuses Trumbull of killing him. She says she’s going to the police... and Trumbull strangles her. She falls to the floor, dead. When Gillie comes to, he sees her dead and attacks Trumbull with the sword which has been on the wall since Ac t 1. They get into a sword fight, ending with Trumbull hitting him on the head with the sword, and he falls to the floor, dead. Trumbull is surrounded by bodies, when there is a knock at the door.

The door opens - one of the Mourners from Mr. Black’s funeral says that Mr. Black has escaped from his crypt... he wasn’t dead after all!

Then looks down to Trumbull’s feet to see Mr. Black shot several times - dead now. And the bodies of Mrs. Trumbull and Gillie. He says he’s going to the police as he backs out the door. Trumbull has gone crazy and killed everyone! Trumbull passes out from all of the booze he’s consumed...

And Mrs. Trumbull wakes up - not quote dead - and sees Gillie laying near her, and then he wakes up... and they fall into each other’s arms. Each thought the other was dead. They leave in each other’s arms - to start a new life together.

Old Hinchley wanders downstairs wondering what all the racket is about, finds Trumbull passed out and prods him with a finger... Trumbull groans, and Hinchley says he must be feeling poorly. But wait - Trumbull always keeps that vial of “medicine” in his pocket! Hinchley takes out the vial, pours most of it into Trumbull’s mouth, sees that there are a few drops left and drinks it. Trumbull wakes up, discovers what Old Hinchley as done... poisoned him! Old Hinchley says he’s going back to bed and climbs back up the stairs as Trumbull dies from the poison below.

Rhubarb the cat wanders into the room, sits on dead Mr. Black’s chest...

Just as Mr. Black’s eyes pop open - sees the cat looking at him, and says: “What place is this?”

Fade out.


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