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Film / The Comedy of Terrors

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The Comedy of Terrors is a 1963 American Horror Comedy film directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

In the New England town of New Gilead in the 1890s, unscrupulous drunkard Waldo Trumbull (Price) runs the funeral parlor that he acquired from his elderly former business partner Amos Hinchley (Karloff) after marrying Hinchley's daughter Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson), a would-be opera singer. Trumbull blackmails inept fugitive criminal Felix Gillie (Lorre), who has a crush on Amaryllis, to assist him in keeping the business afloat by finding wealthy clients to murder. And when Trumbull's landlord John F. Black (Rathbone) threatens to evict him for nonpayment of rent, the undertaker hatches a scheme to bump him off as well. Hilarious and unforeseen complications ensue.


"The Macabre Masterpiece of Tropes!":

  • The Alcoholic: Trumbull is an abusive drunkard that frequently winds up in a drunken stupor throughout the film.
    Trumbull: We escape the unendurable however we can.
  • All for Nothing: Mrs. Phipps runs out of town without paying Trumbull his fee, meaning that Trumbull killed Mr. Phipps for nothing.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Trumbull is an alcoholic Jerkass that frequently puts down his wife and her dreams of being an Opera Singer (though to be fair, she is terrible) and cares more about his booze and money than her while her father is too senile to do anything about it. Gillie has to listen to them bicker, but can't really do anything about it due to the metaphorical gun Trumbull has to his head.
  • Axe Before Entering: When Trumbull and Gille are running from an Ax-Crazy Black, they lock themselves in a room, only for Black to hack the door down.
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  • Bad Boss: Trumbull had left his father-in-law's mortuary business in ruins and frequently abuses his wife and associate Felix.
  • The Cameo: American actor and comedian Joe E. Brown makes his last film appearance as the Groundskeeper at the cemetery.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Before he went senile, Amaryllis' father would spend his fortune collecting rare artifacts and curio's, ranging from statues to ornate weapons to suits of armor. These would all be used later in the climax as weapons.
  • Chekhov's Gag: A Running Gag in the film has Trumbull offering to give his dotering old father-in-law his "medicine", which is actually a bottle of poison. Amaryllis would stop him and her father - having gone senile - complains that she does not care about his health. After the climax of the film leaves Trumbull exhausted, Mr. Hinchley thinks he needs medicine and feeds Trumbull the rest of it.
  • Disposing of a Body: To save on buying more coffins, Trumbull and Gillie would wait until the mourners have left and dump the body into the grave and recycle the coffin for the next funeral. Trumbull complains when Black's body is left in a crypt.
    "To think we only got thirteen years out of that casket!"
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Amaryllis is capable of doing this with her singing.
  • Gold Digger: When Amaryllis accuses Trumbull of only marrying her for her father's business, he doesn't deny it.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Amaryllis has dreams of becoming an opera singer, but she has no real talent for it. While Trumbull is repulsed by it, Gillie is too smitten with her to notice.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Trumbull asks "is there no morality left in this world" after Mrs. Phipps skips town without paying him his fee. Mind you, Trumbull is the one who killed Mr. Phipps to get said fee in the first place.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Amaryllis is convinced that she would have been a successful opera singer had she not married Trumbull. Trumbull retorts that she has the voice of a "laryngitic crow."
  • Kick the Dog: Gillie expresses pride in a coffin he constructed and humors the idea that they might use it at some point. Trumbull calls it an abomination and destroys it right in-front of him.
    • Jerkass Has a Point: It wasn't a very good coffin if one light kick made it completely fly apart.
  • Large Ham: While Black is fairly restrained in public, he is found by Gillie to be reciting Macbeth in bed, even going so far as to get up and pretend to fight with a sword. After his Sanity Slippage, he continues to quote Shakespeare as he goes on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Layman's Terms:
    Trumbull: I am afraid, madam, that he has made his final journey towards that stygian shore.
    Mrs. Phipps: What?
    Trumbull: He's dead. Allow me, Madam, in this moment of your most desolate bereavement to lift from your sorrow-laden shoulders the burdens and tasks of exequiem sepulcher.
    Mrs. Phipps: What?
    Trumbull: I'll bury him for you.
  • Lazy Bum: Trumbull would frequently have Gillie do all of the dirty work for him while he sits back and waits (usually in his bottle). This is illustrated when they try to break into Mr. Black's home to kill him, Trumbull verbally abusing Gillie for his lack of climbing skills despite almost being twice as tall as him. Trumbull could have easily scaled the wall himself, but couldn't not be bothered.
  • Pet the Dog: Or rather the cat. The only character Trumbull isn't either an unrepentant sociopath to or insincerely schmoozing is the family tabby Cleopatra. He even brings her with them on their mission to kill Lord Black, stroking her like he was a Bond villain.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Gillie calling Trumbull "Tremble" is a Running Gag. Trumbull would correct him, and Gillie would respond that that's how he said it, "Tremble".
  • Pun-Based Title: The film derives its name from The Comedy of Errors.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Having suffered from catalepsy his whole life, Trumbull and Gillie would frequently believe Lord Black to be dead, only for him to wake-up much later, usually telegraphed to the audience by his nose twitching.
  • Running Gag:
    • Whenever Trumbull says something especially cruel to her, Amaryllis would try to have her father defend her. Having gone senile, he thinks she is asking him to pass the sugar.
    • Gillie would call Trumbull "Trembull". Trumbull would correct him, only for Gillie to say "I said Trembull."
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Amos Hinchley
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: John F. Black is shown to talk like this in public.
    Black: As much as I regret done, dear sir, it is unhappily incumbent upon me, as owner of these premises to regard your mana to the dereliction there, shall we say, "inconvenient" to my purposes? So vastly inconvenient, one might add, that should the debit remain outstanding for as much as 24 hours more, I fear that legal machinery must perforce be set in motion a mess essentially and rumble face the in commodious prospect of taking up residence in the street.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Gillie only goes along in Trumbull's schemes because he escaped from prison and Trumbull is blackmailing him into compliance. He would much rather conduct their mortuary business ethically and be with Amaryllis. It is subverted when he and Amaryllis run away together while Trumbull is accidentally poisoned.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Trumbull's go-to method for gathering clients. He does it to Phipps, and later makes a metaphor with it in regards to his intentions of killing Black.
    Trumbull: To paraphrase the venerable add-edge; we shall kill two birds with one pillow.


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The Comedy of Terrors

Gillie only goes along in Trumbull's schemes because he escaped from prison and Trumbull is blackmailing him into compliance. He would much rather conduct their mortuary business ethically and be with Amaryllis.

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Main / TrappedInVillainy

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