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The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

aka The Comedy of Terrors

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 84 mins · English


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Small Waldo Trumbull
Small Felix Gillie
Small Amos Hinchley
Small Amaryllis Trumbull
Small Cemetery Keeper
No_movie_poster Mrs. Phipps
Small Mr. John F. Black
Small Cleopatra (as Rhubarb)


No_movie_poster Floyd Crosby Director of Photography
Small Jacques Tourneur Director
No_movie_poster Richard Matheson Screenplay
No_movie_poster Daniel Haller Production Design
No_movie_poster Harry Reif Set Decoration
No_movie_poster Samuel Z. Arkoff Producer
No_movie_poster Anthony Carras Producer
No_movie_poster James H. Nicholson Producer
No_movie_poster Les Baxter Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Pat Dinga Special Effects
No_movie_poster Marjorie Corso Costume Design


Set sometime in the mid- to late 19th century in New England, the film tells of unscrupulous undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Price) and his assistant, Felix Gillie, Peter Lorre, who make a habit of re-using the coffins of the people they are supposed to bury.

One night, after the widow of the last person he inters absconds to Europe without paying the fee, Trumbull and Gillie decide to murder their money-grubbing landlord, Mr. Black (Rathbone), who is said to have bouts of death-like sleep, something that Trumbull and Gillie are unaware of.

Black seemingly dies of a heart attack after discovering Gillie (who had climbed into the house through an upstairs window and escaped the same way), but revives in the funeral parlor's cellar. After a prolonged chase and struggle to keep Black inside a coffin, Trumbull knocks Black out with a mallet to the head and places the supposedly deceased Black in his family crypt, returning home to celebrate his newfound wealth. However, Black awakes again, escapes from the coffin and crypt and returns to the funeral parlor, quoting random lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth (from which he was reciting from a script at the time of his first cataleptic attack). Humorous events follow as Black chases Trumbull and Gillie around the house with an ax before (finally) being shot and (presumably) killed by Trumbull after a lengthy monologue.

Gillie elopes with Trumbull's neglected wife, Amaryllis, and Trumbull is left a depressed heap on the floor. Hinchley (Karloff), Trumbull's father-in-law, appears and gives Trumbull some "medicine" (actually poison that Trumbull had been attempting to administer to Hinchley earlier in the film). The "medicine" works as intended and Trumbull drops dead as Hinchley makes his way back to bed, oblivious to the fact he has just committed murder.

At the end of the film, Black exhibits an allergic reaction to Cleopatra the cat, indicating that he is still alive.