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|Index||124 reviews in total|
* Some mild spoilers ahead *
Vincent Price, the star of countless B-Movies from the fifties to the seventies, in his perhaps best role ever. This movie is wicked fun; a failed Shakespeare-actor brutally settles the score with all his critics - but they all meet their demise by having to "act" a part in the plays of the great bard. Very creative death scenes, gory and funny - and absolutely beautifully acted by Price and an ensemble of many greats of British cinema and theatre.
Funny enough, there are many parallels between Price's own career and his character's (maybe that's exactly why the director chose him for this part), for Price also failed to get the recognition he deserved until very late in his life and felt unfairly treated by critics. Although many of his films are now regarded as classics, for the most part of his life his films and his (indeed rather Shakespearian) approach to his roles was often ridiculed. Around the time of this film though, critics started to take Price seriously (probably out of fear, LOL).
But this film is also interesting for another reason: despite the obvious black comedy it looks almost like a blueprint for a certain category of horror films to come, and films like 'Seven' and 'Saw' owe perhaps a little debt to 'Theatre of Blood'. Highly recommended. 8 stars out of 10.
Favorite Films: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054200841/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
"Reasonbran 234" (Nov 6 2001) takes out the award here for the most
literate, apt and concise review of Theater of Blood. This WAS Vincent
Price's finest screen moment and I recall clearly at the time, one
particular UK critic who suggested "This brilliant film will probably
require a generation before it can ever be held in the esteem to which it is
Way too literate for mainstream horror fans' taste - it was so much more. Few had the theatrical flourish of Vincent Price and he was just so perfectly cast as the acting-legend-in-his-own-mind disfavored by a cross section of critics that may otherwise have steered his career on to the rocks. Taking "tragedy" to a new level, he REALLY silencies his critics once and for all, taking them out one by one in escalatingly appropriate Shakespearean circumstances.
Black black dialog with the Bard's turn of a phrase pervades the entire film. Yeah its gory - so's Macbeth! It is also one of the greatest horror comedies ever devised, with A-List acting credits.
Quite simply, NOT to be missed!
Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart, a Shakesprean actor that the
critics hate (one calls him a "ham sandwich"). Enraged by their reviews
of his works he commits suicide. But, unknown to everybody else, he
survives and decides to kill off his critics one by one using methods
described in Shakespeare's plays.
A lot of people have called this "The Abominable Dr. Phibes Part 3". They're not too off the mark--the plot lines are very similar. Still this is better than the Phibes films. It moves quickly, has a large cast of excellent British actors (unknown over here) and some of the deaths are much gorier (this has an R rating--Phibes was PG). If you look very closely at the plot there are huge loopholes and some unlikely situations but it still is a huge amount of fun. There's also a truly incredible saber fight between two men.
This must have been a dream role for Price--he gets to preform Shakespeare and wear a variety of disguises to become different characters. He's just great (as always). Diana Rigg pops up as his daughter--she's not given much to do but looks fantastic. The critics are all well-played by a very talented roster of British actors--I really do wonder how they got some of them to do this (it's pretty bloody). The most outlandish portrayal is by Robert Morley as a gay critic with (sigh) two poodles. It might be offensive if this were a serious movie. Also Price met Coral Browne here and married her in 1974--and stayed married till she passed away.
This, oddly, remains unknown even to Price fans. That's a shame--it's one of his best. Horror, humor and Shakespeare--what more do you need? A 10 all the way.
Vincent Price is at his extravagant best in this splendidly black comedy in which some complacent critics receive a cunning come-uppance from the dreadful actor who they drove to suicide. Some brilliantly staged imaginative deaths are the icing on the cake, making this a bit like a very camp "Friday The 13th". But who wouldn't rather watch Vincent at his best than boring old Jason ?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Theater of Blood is set in an early 70's London where famed theater
critic George Maxwell (Michael Hordern) is asked to move on some
homeless people squatting in a property he owns, however they turn on
him & stab him to death. Several of George's peers & work colleagues
are shocked to hear the news of his death & attend his funeral but are
again shocked when a horse appears galloping along with another critic
named Hector Snipe (Dennis Price) being dragged along behind it &
throughly dead having also been murdered. The remaining critics are
convinced that someone is out to get them, Inspector Boot (Milo O'Shea)
is on the case but doesn't believe Peregrine Devlin's (Ian Hendry)
theory that Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is
responsible as he supposedly committed suicide even though his body was
This British production was directed by Douglas Hickox & is a personal favourite of mine. The script by Anthony Greville-Bell has a deliciously dark comic premise of a disgruntled actor taking revenge on his critics in the style of Shakespeare, as a concept it works extremely well & is huge fun throughout. There's a surprising amount of gore & violence considering when this was made but it's more than welcome, the film moves along like a rocket & never bores although there's no mystery to what's happening & therefore it could be considered a little predictable. I love the little novelty death scenes which almost seem like little films in themselves at times, they're pretty imaginative & are good dark fun if you have a liking for the macabre. The character's are good as is the dialogue although the police come across as a bit stupid. There is one scene that I don't get though, it's when Horace has his head surgically cut off & the next morning the maid discovers him & his head falls on the floor but in the very next shot his head is impaled on the top of a milk bottle outside Devlin's apartment & I can't work out how got there.
Director Hickox does a good job & Theater of Blood was shot entirely on location in & around London which gives it a realistic look & feel. There's a nice darkly comic atmosphere to this throughout & Vincent Price is in his prime reciting Shakespeare badly & hamming it up as the villain, I mean he was born to play the part of Edward Lionheart & he apparently said this was his favourite film that he made & I can't really argue with him. There's a surprising amount of gore & exploitation here, there are impalement's, cut out hearts, stabbings, someone is forced to eat their own poodles, there are severed heads, a gory sword-fight, someone is electrocuted & a fair amount of blood.
Technically the film is fine with decent cinematography, impressive special effects & good locations. The theater used was the Putney Hippodrome in London which had been boarded up for years when used in this film, it makes for an imposing backdrop & you can see Price is in his element. The acting is pretty good from an impressive cast including Ian Hendry, Eric Sykes, Dennis Price, Arthur Lowe, Michael Hordern, Diana Dors & Diana Rigg who apparently also considers Theater of Blood as her best film. Vincent Price went on to marry Coral Browne who he met on this film, she's the critic who he electrocutes in the hair dressers!
Theater of Blood is a fantastic Anglo horror film that is a personal favourite of mine, it has a nice dark sense of humour & a fair amount of gore as well. I thought it was great it just worked, definitely worth a watch especially if your a horror or Vincent Price fan.
A very stylish comedy/thriller along the lines of "The Avengers," a popular
TV series at the time. Vincent Price is an actor who has survived a suicide
attempt and secretly takes revenge on half a dozen critics who savaged his
performances in various plays of Shakespeare. With the aid of his daughter,
Diana Rigg (who was Emma Peel in "The Avengers" and one of the mean
daughters in Olivier's TV production of "King Lear"), seeks out his critics
and offs them in ways appropriately derived from WS. It's murder allright.
And WS could be very imaginative when it comes to that. I once wrote out a
list of the violent acts that take place in "Titus Andronicus," the closest
WS ever came to Grand Guignol, and it was as long and even more gruesome
than a similar list I drew up for "Dirty Harry." "Titus" has one of the
funniest stage directions I've ever seen -- "Enter messenger with hands."
It doesn't mean the messenger HAS hands; it means the messenger is carrying
a pair of someone else's amputated hands! At that, they had to tame the
Bard down for this movie. Instead of Queen Tamara having to eat her own
children baked in a pie, the gay critic played by Robert Morley is force fed
(to death!) a Cornish pasty made from his two beloved poodles.
Back to this movie, though. What a cast! Vincent Price plays it for laughs, disguised as a gay hairdresser, a Scottish masseur, a French chef, and so forth. His half-hearted, mostly losing struggle with the various accents is enough to break anyone up. The others don't have as much screen time but they make the most of it -- Harry Andrews, Dennis Price, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Coral Browne, Milo O'Shea. Diana Rigg is a sight to see, I should mention. Every movement is like flowing silk. Her figure is unimpeachable and her zygomatic arches should be left to the British Museum.
It's a well-done movie from start to finish. Vincent Price gets to do a lot of Shakespeare. He's no Olivier or Branaugh, but it's okay because the performance ought NOT to be very good. The cinematography is glossy and polished, the score unobtrusive. The actual look of the film is appealing -- the British now how to dress in a way that most Americans don't (but many urban Canadians do). And the writer should get some sort of special award himself. The bits in between the murders are almost as amusing as the story itself. We get to hear snippets of the reviews that torpedoed Price's career. One of them goes something like, "I was fortunate enough to fall asleep at the beginning of Lionheart's performance and awoke much refreshed, not having had to listen to this aging matinee idol's rantings and posturings." (Was the writer ripping off John Simon?) The story line is made clear, whether or not the viewer knows any of the plays. The correlations with the plays are made simply enough for an average reviewer to understand and appreciate the similarities. And the murders themselves are funny -- excuse me. One critic gets drowned in a butt of malmsy -- a barrel of wine -- and the police establish the exact vintage afterward.
I don't want to imply that this movie is a barrel of laughs. There is some physical comedy, including one of the sword fights from Romeo and Juliet, but most of the humor lies less in slapstick and jumping around than in situations and dialogue. Price and his assistant dressed in hospital scrubs, wearing surgical gloves, and setting a bedroom up as an operating room in order to saw off some guy's head. The parody is played straight. You will probably not double over with laughter but I found myself laughing aloud during some scenes. To give you some perspective, I didn't find "The Abominable Doctor Phibes" so hot. I recommend this flick. It is, as I say, stylish in every respect.
Vincent Price is one of the best actors of all time, and this is a
SUPERB film! Theatre of Blood follows much the same plot formula as
Price's earlier success, The Abominable Dr Phibes, only this time
instead of playing a deranged madman; Price plays a self-parody of
himself. Edward Lionheart is an over the top version of Price in all
but name, and it's clear that the great Vincent Price is the only man
that could have lead this film. This macabre film depicts what, I'm
sure, many actors would like to engage in; the brutal punishment of
less than impressed critics. And these punishments aren't just brutal -
Price murders his victims in the style of the Shakespeare plays that
they lambasted, and the result is a high camp and very fun little
horror comedy. The deaths are all violent, but also very playful and
inventive. We see people being drowned in a vat of wine, waking up next
to their dead husband, being electrocuted, eating their pets and more!
And it's all done with such a big sly grin that the result is
practically impossible not to go along with.
Being a British made film, Theatre of Blood utilises that great British style that the Hammer films did so well, and this massively adds to the fun camp element of the movie. We've got all sorts of things from everyone speaking in a thick London accents to the bumbling policed force that made The Abominable Dr Phibes so hilarious. The movie starts of ridiculously, with Price hamming it up to the max, and then it just continues to get more and more ridiculous; with the final two death scenes being beyond the stupidity of anything else Price ever did. Being a self-parody, the impact of this film increases ten fold if you've seen a lot of Price's other work. It's all good though, and despite being knowingly hammy; Price really shows his worth as an actor as he dons all sorts of different disguises. It's hard to mask the Vincent Price persona, but the great thespian manages it a few times in this film. Films of this nature; i.e. ones where a bunch of people get murdered in a certain way, tend to be quite monotonous; but thanks to the superior handling, this one is never dull. Far from it, in fact! Overall, Theatre of Blood, despite often being overlooked, is a great film and one of the best Price ever made. HIGHLY recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Strangely enough, the use of Shakespeare as the inspiration for a series of
grisly revenge murders does not vulgarise the playwright, but does raise
this glorious Grand Guignol to the level of genuine tragedy. The plot is
simple but ingenious. Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is a dreadful ham
Shakespearean ham actor who committed suicide having failed to win a coveted
Critics' Circle award. Two years later, each critic of the Circle is
subjected to a unique and bizarre murder - one is decapitated in his bed,
another is forcefed his own dogs etc. The chief critic, Ian Hendry, figures
out that each murder is modelled on deaths in the Shakespearean plays
performed by Lionheart in his final repertory season. But the police are
unable to find a supposedly dead man, and the murders continue as
Although nominally a horror film - and a very effective and funny one it is - 'Blood' brings together three genres very popular in the early 70. There is the police procedural, in which inspector Milo O'Shea and his sidekick Eric Sykes start reading books in order to catch a killer. There is the all-star disaster movie, in which a group of once -famous celebrities (here including Dennis Price, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley) are set up and slaughtered for the audience's delectation. And there is the Charles Bronson-like revenge movie, here shorn of any exploitative sexual overtones, but still gruesomely shocking, as in the opening slaughter of Michael Hordern by knife-slashing tramps, or the brilliant scene where his funeral is interrupted by a galloping horse dragging Price's flayed corpse.
The film is, of course, smothered in Shakespeare, and one of the film's themes is how the playwright - the very definition of (English) high art - is not so far apart from culturally despised Hammer films in his work's sensationalist horrors. It is in one sense a plea for viewers - and especially snobbish critics - to look beyond the shallows of genre, to see that horror is capable of great complexity, forcing us, as Shakespeare knew, to consider unpleasant truths about death, fear, sex, repression, history and power.
But Shakespeare manifests himself in other ways, not just in the undigested globs mouthed by Lionheart. Shakespeare's essential idea, if we can suggest such a thing, was that the life was a stage, that our very existence was not natural or given, but a series of performances and masks; that we are mere actors in the service of a greater playwright. Lionheart is the godlike orchestrator of events here, having the power to literally decide others' lives. His base, his home, is a theatre, his very existence a performance - there is no Lionheart outside the roles he plays, or the great drama of revenge he stars in; he lives and dies in the theatre (this surfaces in the mise-en-scene, of course; see particularly the ghoulish plastic proscenium arch Hendry and O'Shea peer through at Horden's mutilated corpse).
Lionheart tries to impose the theatrical on life, erase any distinction between art and criticism, the latter thinking it can remain detached, uninvolved. Criticism is explicitely linked to sterility - the only critic with 'children' has two dogs; Lionheart has a beautiful daughter to do his work for him (another God/Christ correspondence), an embodiment of his power. Unfortunately, in this age of lies and fashion, nobody is willing to hear the truth, and at the end, the surviving critic coldly reviews Lionheart's performance, with as little understanding as he did during the actor's career.
'Blood' is also about another kind of death, the death of repertory theatre in England, the blowing away of the ossified past by the angry winds of the future, symbolised by the conflagration of the old theatre. Hendry justifies his rejection of Lionheart's work by saying that it was too conservative, that the past must give way to the future. Time has revealed the noisy, much-lauded 'angry young man' stuff lauded by the likes of Hendry at the time to be threadbare, imperial clothing; Lionheart on the other hand, is a genuine, terrifying realist, taking realism to its extreme limits. The past can never be forgotten, one of the dominant themes of horror (and Shakespeare); and modernity will always be built on the bones of others, bones not always content to lie still.
I better be generous and praising in my comments on Theathre of Blood
you never know the spirit of the late Vincent Price resurrects from the
grave to annihilate me! J Oh, I'll be sleeping peacefully tonight
I have no
intentions of bashing the master and his role here. Price personifies Edward
Lionheart, a classical actor who put his heart and soul in a series of
Shakespeare plays and expected to be honored for it. But
instead of that,
respected critics mocked him and eventually drove him into committing
suicide. Yet, Lionheart survived and the group of critics who denied his
talent starts to die in peculiar ways. Each of them is found murdered, like
Shakespeare described it in his plays
Plot sounds more or less familiar?
Well, it should be because Theathre of Blood is nothing more then a
propagation of Dr. Phibes' success! The settings and Price's background are
different, but the structure and creativity indicate that this film simply
is `The Abominable Dr. Phibes part 3'.
Hey, I'll be the last person to complain for this Even though not very original, Theathre of Blood is extremely amusing and yet another comedy-horror triumph in Price's career. Following the tradition, this film contains some highly exiting killing scenes, including a decapitation, a drowning and 6 more ravishing methods. No need to say Vincent Price is brilliantly grotesque as the obsessed `punisher' and he receives good feedback from other well-appreciated actors, such as Ian Hendry (Repulsion, Children of the Damned) and Diana Rigg (known from the good James Bond episode On her Majesty's Secret Service). The endless amount of Shakespeare references are a must for fans of historical drama and the sequences with Price as a devoted Shakespearean-actor' make you long to see a long-feature event I'd pay good money to see Vincent Price star in Richard III or King Lear, for example. Theathre of Blood is terrific entertainment and gets forgotten too easily. Therefore, I recommend it to all horror fans and hopefully, it's status will be jacked up a little
THEATER OF BLOOD (1973)
starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price.
plot: Hammy Broadway actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) has suffered horrible reviews for years and finally snaps. He fakes his death by plunging into the ocean and returns to kill the critics one by one in ways inspired by plays written by William Shakespeare.
my thoughts: I had bought this DVD to add to my Vincent Price collection and I really loved the premise. When I sat through the opening credits with the perfect score and the black and white Shakespeare plays going on, I knew I was going to be in for a great movie. And I was.
This film mixes comedy, horror and drama perfectly and no one could play Lionheart like Vincent Price. The rest of the cast also does great, most notably Diana Rigg was Lionheart's daughter.
The death scenes were very creative, my favorite being the opening death inspired by JULIS CEASAR. Douglas Hickox made the film very stylish as well, showing us where Anthony Hickox got his style from.
For Vincent Price and gore fans, this film is perfect to check out!
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