Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) arrives at the small village of Arkham in New England to visit the manor house he inherited from his great grandfather who died there 110 years ago. It turns out his ancestor – Joseph Curwen – was a warlock who placed a curse on the villagers and their descendants just before they burnt him at the stake for crimes of witchcraft.
Subsequent generations of villagers are plagued by the birth of disfigured mutants into their families.
When Charles arrives in the village with his beautiful wife Ann (Debra Paget) to claim his inheritance, the villagers are immediately distrustful of him (it doesn’t help that he bears an uncanny resemblance to his great grandfather).
Charles and Ann are encouraged to stick around by the manor house caretaker Simon (Lon Chaney Jr), though it becomes increasingly apparent that Simon has an ulterior motive for wanting them to stay as Charles is gradually possessed by the spirit of Joseph Curwen who has waited for a century to wreak vengeance on the villagers who killed him.
Swirling fog, creaking doors, cobwebbed corridors and disorientating shadows all add to the Gothic mood and overall atmosphere of foreboding and dread, while Corman’s ability to complete the film on a shoestring budget with a 15-day shooting schedule is a testament to his directorial and cinematographic skill.
Charles Dexter Ward/Joseph Curwen
Lon Chaney Jr.
Dr Marinus Willet/Priam Willet
Edgar Weeden/Ezra Weeden
Peter Smith/Micah Smith
Benjamin West/Jacob West
Gideon Leach/Mr Leach
Carmody the Coachman
I. Stanford Jolley
Bruno the Bartender