This sixties slice of gothic garishness masquerades as an adaption of E.A. Poe in name only, when in reality, it's a loose adaption of Howard Phillips' own The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, as realized for the silver screen by such genre heavyweights as Lon Chaney, Jr. and the inimitable Vincent Price in the title role, with Debra Paget, who you'll recall from The Ten Commandments or Love Me Tender opposite Elvis, as his faithful spouse. My current copy is an MGM dvd double bill with another Price favorite, 1962's Tower of London, for those collectors out there that might give a damn about such things. Anyway...Onward!
Mrs. Ward (Debra Paget) is surely a dime piece of early sixties arm-cake, dads.
100 years after being burned alive for sordid warlockery and young maiden-based Necronomicon rites by the inhabitants of Arkham, placing a wicked curse of rotten luck upon them for this thing they're now guilty of, Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) is given a living vessel of reincarnation in his own great grandson, Charles Dexter Ward (Price), who's arrived in town with his beautiful young wife, Ann (Debra Paget), to assess the value of his grandfather's estate, which he's recently inherited. He's instantly recognized as a descendant of the male witch by a descendant of one of the men who condemned him to death, Edgar Weeden (Leo Gordon), and treated with much prejudice and scrutiny on account of this, by the townsfolk who've seemingly sired a weird sub-race of mutants that they lock away like wild animals. Then there's Simon (Lon Chaney Jr), a servant that suddenly turns up out of the darkness at the estate, to generally assist the warlock's spirit and creep everybody out.
"I shouldn't have displayed my 'Trump 2016' badge in front of this unreasonable gaggle of social justice warriors..."
Naturally, Ward is hypnotized by a portrait of his ancestor, which leads to spiritual possession, further Necronomicon spells in the estate's secret witchcraft chamber, handily equipped with it's own multi-armed and budget-shabby demi-god at the bottom of a well, and Ten Little Indians-style retribution upon those specifically responsible for his death over a hundred years earlier. For Ann, it's no picnic either, as she's projecting her husband's sudden transformation into an abusive heel, into attention from the town doctor, Willet (Frank Maxwell) who tries to help her free her husband from the clutches of the vengeful ghost, before he can resurrect his lost love from her current status of long dead, and rotting in a coffin. If all of that doesn't interest you, perhaps there'll be a twist ending of sorts to win you over in the final reel. Perhaps...
I had a rubber Kresge's bought one just like this that Big Jim and G.I. Joe had to combine resources to defeat in the killing fields of my backyard.
You'll recognize Elisha Cook, Jr. from his memorable roles in genre-stuffs like Blacula (1972), Dead of Night (1977), Salem's Lot (1979), and Messiah of Evil (1973). Frank Maxwell showed up in Corman's own The Intruder (1962) as well as the Bronson vehicle, Mr Majestyk (1974). Arguably the last decent thing Lon Chaney Jr was ever to appear in, I'd wager. The participation of Price alone, with his masterfully theatrical take on duality of character, complete with the full range of exaggerated facial expressions we came to recognize and love to watch, elevates this one into intermediate levels of watchability, and would've been a hoot to see at the drive-in of the period, I'd imagine. Two Wop respectability here, one of the better Corman films of the era. Snag a copy.
"Not good enough for Instagram, not even good enough for a FaceBook selfie, as it were, my dear..."