Directed by Roger Corman [Other horror films: The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), The Wasp Woman (1959), A Bucket of Blood (1959), House of Usher (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), X (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)]
Being the second time now I’ve seen this, The Haunted Palace is a good example of a Corman-Price movie, with a great setting, quality atmosphere, nice color, all the works. I have to admit, though, that I just think it’s a good movie, and not much more.
You’ve gotta love the setting – the New England town of Arkham (H.P. Lovecraft influenced obviously), and of course, once a husband and wife seek out an ancestral palace they inherited, the townspeople react just as warmly and cuddly as you’d expect (pretty much as they did in The Gorgon). There’s also an influx of mutated people roaming around town, which leads to some pretty creepy scenes.
Vincent Price gives a solid performance, but this is Vincent Price we’re talking about (House on Haunted Hill, Pit and the Pendulum, Theatre of Blood, and The Tingler, among many others), so that can’t come as a surprise. Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolfman) is nice to see, but his character doesn’t really have much in the way of agency. Elisha Cook Jr. (House on Haunted Hill and Blacula) was nice to see, but like Chaney, his character wasn’t really given much to do. Others such as Milton Parsons, Frank Maxwell, and Debra Paget were all good also.
These elements (and the fact the film is in beautiful color) should lead to a great movie, but I think it’s only okay. I can’t entirely say why – the story isn’t my favorite, but it’s still decently creepy (it helps that the titular palace is a pretty stellar setting), and seeing Price’s character being taken over and becoming a cruel warlock is good stuff, but I just don’t love this the same way I did, for instance, The Pit and the Pendulum.
None of this is to say that The Haunted Palace isn’t a movie worth seeing, because it’s still a fine slice of 1960’s horror films. And I know others who rank this quite highly among the Corman-Poe cycle, so perhaps you’ll love it, but for me, I think it’s just around average.