So, to see Witchfinder General I had to buy a set of Vincent Price movies. Complex copyright deals mean that not everything can be streamed—there’s a movie I’ve been waiting months to see because Amazon Prime says “not currently available in your area.” That word “currently” tells you that it’s a rights issue. In any case, that box of Price movies contained a few goodies I’d never seen and had wanted to. And one that I hadn’t heard of: The Haunted Palace. Legendary producer Roger Corman had Price star in a variety of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. (Witchfinder General wasn’t one of them.) Corman wanted to make an H. P. Lovecraft movie, but the studio insisted it stay within the identity of this Poe series. This movie is an adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” but titled after a Poe poem, “The Haunted Palace.”
Suffice it to say, I knew little of this before I sat down to watch it. I didn’t know, for example, that this was the first big-time movie based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. I didn’t realize it would involve the Necronomicon and perhaps the first, blurry—to preserve the sanity of viewers—view of maybe Cthulhu. The movie doesn’t specify which of the Old Gods is kept in this pit, so it could be Yog-Sothoth instead. You see, as a child I watched some of the movies in this series. They would’ve had to have been the ones showing on television, likely on Saturday afternoon. The one that I clearly recall, and remember thinking “that’s not how it goes!” was The Raven. And as a child I had never been exposed to H. P. Lovecraft.
Some of us have our own brand of cheap or free entertainment. The small number of friends I had growing up didn’t care to read. My family wasn’t literate, and most high school teachers couldn’t suggest much to a kid who’d somehow found Poe and liked what he read. As I’ve said before, Goodwill was my bookstore. I discovered Lovecraft on the internet during a lonely stretch of teaching at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Like many visionaries, Lovecraft didn’t achieve fame in his lifetime, but is now considered a bizarre American treasure. The Cthulhu mythos is everywhere. Even my auto-suggest is quick to fill in his name as I type. The Haunted Palace isn’t a great movie—this is Roger Corman—but it’s a pretty good movie. And its history in the cinematography of Lovecraft makes it worth part of a Saturday afternoon.