Madhouse (1974) Poster

(1974)

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8/10
Madhouse A-OK
JediKnightMaul25 April 2006
I thought this "diamond in the rough" was masterfully done. Vincent Price is his old self as the true the master of macabre. It is easy to see that this movie contains many characteristics found heavily in the modern day, surprise ending, slasher flick. With many exciting and suspenseful chase scenes, a wicked masked murderer, quick slashing deaths, and an emotionally disturbed main character, "Madhouse" reminds me of a sick mixture of "Scream" and Hitchcock's classic, "Psycho." In addition, the scenes and camera shots beautifully convey the mood and emotion of the awkward story line. Although obviously low budget, it baffles me that "Madhouse" isn't more recognized on the ongoing list of cult classics. Not the best movie in the world, but certainly worth checking out.
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7/10
A nice nod to Price's early career
The_Void14 September 2006
The general consensus surrounding this film seems to be that it's a disappointment; and while I admit that Madhouse could have been a lot better considering the cast and ideas involved, in general; I'm very happy with the film. Every Vincent Price film that I haven't seen (not many left) is an automatic target for me, and this one also features a performance from the great Peter Cushing, which is a bonus. The central plot isn't all that original, but it still stands as a nice tribute to Vincent Price's career, and the way that director Jim Clark uses clips from classic Vincent Price movies such as Tales of Terror, House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum is good and reminds us of what a huge asset to cinema Vincent Price has been. The plot sees Price playing hammy horror movie actor Paul Toombes, famous for the role of 'Doctor Death'. When his wife is killed, Toombes vows never to play Doctor Death again; but on the advice of his friend and Doctor Death writer some years later, he reprises the role - and the murders continue.

The main problem with this movie is simply that it's not always interesting enough. Jim Clark seems content to rely on Price's star power; which is often just about sufficient to see the film through, although sometimes it could have done with something else. Peter Cushing's role isn't too much more than a cameo appearance - but it is nice to see these two great actors on screen together. As you might expect, Vincent Price slots into his self-replicating role nicely, and he seems to enjoy playing it. The story doesn't have much depth, however, and while the murder sequences are interesting and see things such as a woman being skewered with a rake and someone being crushed by an automated special effect bed. The script doesn't give much allowance for red herrings and through the one or two that there are; you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to spot which one it is. The film attempts a double twist ending, and while it plays out nicely; both are highly predictable and derivative of other movies that have carried off the same twists to better effect. But even so, you can always count on Price movies for entertainment; and this is entertaining despite its shortfalls.
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7/10
Not quite "Dr Phibes' Madhouse of Blood", But a Fun and Delightfully Morbid Little Film With Vincent Price
Witchfinder General 66618 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Vincent Price is my favorite actor, and, until recently, Jim Clark's "Madhouse" was one of the very few Horror films with the Horror icon that I had yet to see. Since I knew that Price was playing a Horror actor, who returns to his role after years of mental problems, I was expecting a film very similar to Price's two most famous 70s films, "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971) and "Theater of Blood" (1973). However, "Madhouse" turned out not to be a blatant copy after all. While it never reaches the greatness of the two previously mentioned films, "Madhouse", which also features Price's fellow Horror deity Peter Cushing (another favorite actor of mine) is a very likable mixture of Horror, Mystery, Parody and Black Comedy and a great homage to Price's earlier career.

Price plays Horror actor Paul Toombes, who is most famous for playing the role of a villain named "Dr. Death". When his fiancée gets killed, Toombes falls in a state of shock and becomes insane. After treatment and several years without appearing in public, Toombes is invited by a sleazy producer (Robert Quarry) to reprise his role. He therefore comes to England where he is welcomed by his friend, fellow actor, and "Dr. Death" screenwriter Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). However, soon after Toombes' appearance, a bizarre murder is committed, then followed by another, and corpses begin to pile up. Has Toombes gone mad and brought Dr. Death into real life? Or is there someone else behind the gruesome acts? "Madhouse" is, primarily, worth watching for its great cast. No Horror lover can allow himself or herself to miss a film starring Vincent Price AND Peter Cushing, and though this one is quite far from being among either man's best films, it is obvious that the two Horror deities had great fun making this film. One of my main complaints about "Madhouse" is that Cushing should have had more screen time. The rest of the cast is also very good, Robert Quarry ("Dr. Phibes Rises Again") fits very well in his role of the sleazy producer. The female cast includes Adrienne Corri (who is probably best known as the rape victim in Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange", and who had previously been in "Vampire Circus" of 1972, which is my choice for the greatest Hammer film) as well as the beautiful young Linda Hayden ("Taste The Blood of Dracula").

As mentioned above, the film is a nice homage to Price's earlier career, and features parts of Roger Corman's Poe films, which mark the highlights of Price's impressive career. This film being co-produced by AIP, which produced the Poe films, allowed the film to include actual sequences from these films (the other production company involved were the British Anthology Horror specialists from Amicus). Some of the films featured in this one are "House of Usher" (1960), "Pit and the Pendulum" (1961), "The Haunted Palace" (1963), "Tales of Terror" (1962) and "The Raven" (1963). The sequences that are shown are all supposed to be scenes from the fictional 'Dr. Death' series. "Tales of Terror" and "The Raven" gave the producers the opportunity to credit Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, even though they are only seen in archive footage. The film has a nice, morbid sense of humor that often resembles that of "Theater of Blood" and "Dr. Phibes". There is some light and amusing gore, and the killings are wonderfully macabre.

"Madhouse" isn't nearly the same quality as "Theater of Blood" or "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" and yet it is another delightfully macabre 70s Horror Comedy starring the most magnificently sinister actor who ever enriched the world of Horror. Vincent Price, we worship thee!
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7/10
Not bad, but no "Targets"
m2mallory29 November 2008
Despite its star trio of 1970s horror masters--Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry--"Madhouse" is not so much a horror film as a murder mystery with horror trappings. Very loosely based on Angus Hall's rather trashy novel "Devilday" (in which the central character of horror movie actor "Paul Harvard Toombs" is much more sinister), it features Price in a role that was at the time not too far removed from his real life situation: a film actor who would really like to move past horror films, but who for a variety of reasons was duty bound to keep making them. Price's character suffered a breakdown after his fiancé was horribly murdered. Several years later, after he is contracted to return to his signature role of "Dr. Death" for a television series, a new rash of murders occur and even Toombs himself does not know whether he is responsible or not. Cushing appears as the writer of the "Dr. Death" show and Quarry, in an uncharacteristically amusing performance, plays the producer, a parody of Amicus Films' Milton Subotsky (Amicus and Subotsky co-produced). Adrienne Corri has a bizarre role as a crazed, burn-scarred former actress, who has taken to living in Cushing's basement and raising spiders, which doesn't really fit in with the rest of the film. Still, as a quasi-horror film, "Madhouse" is fine; it contains some great, atmospheric scenes of "Dr. Death" stalking his victims, and despite its flying in from left field, the whole Corri subplot is undeniably unnerving. As a mystery...well, it's not really very hard to figure out who is responsible for the killings. But what "Madhouse" was obviously intended to do, and what it pretty much fails at, is to provide Price with the kind of career summation picture that Peter Bogdanovich gave Boris Karloff through 1968's "Targets." Old film clips from "House of Usher," "Pit and the Pendulum," "Tales of Terror," "The Haunted Palace" and "The Raven" are interspliced to give us a look at the actor's background, but they are not presented in a way that offers any kind of resonance to Toombs/Price's career. I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Vincent Price about this film a couple years after it was made, and he was not very happy with the way it turned out. But purely on the surface level, "Madhouse" is an entertaining, grisly whodunnit that offers good roles to its three stars.
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7/10
Okay old-fashioned horror film.
HumanoidOfFlesh20 August 2004
Following the grisly murder of his fiancee,Hollywood film star Paul Toombes(Vincent Price)withdraws into his own world.Some time later,he is persuaded by an old actor-friend(Peter Cushing)to revive his famous horror role as Doctor Death.Life soon becomes a living nightmare for Toombes when friends and colleagues are brutally murdered one by one."Madhouse" is a rather cheaply made horror film that manages to create only a little bit of suspense.The story,which is based on the novel 'Devilday' by Angus Hall is also not very intriguing.Director Jim Clark uses clips from old Roger Corman horror films featuring Vincent Price as reenactments of the murders.Still the film is slightly entertaining and it's nice to see two horror veterans Vincent Price and Peter Cushing together.Check it out.7 out of 10.
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6/10
A Film That Does Not Get the Credit It Deserves
gavin694222 February 2011
A horror movie star (Vincent Price) returns to his famous role after years in a mental institution. But the character seems to be committing murders independent of his will.

This is a great cast! Vincent Price as horror star Paul Toombes, Peter Cushing as his friend Herbert Flay. And even throw in Robert Quarry as Oliver Quayle. Cushing and Price alone sell a film, but Quarry (known to horror fans as Count Yorba) is a welcome addition.

This is probably the sexiest Price film. While he has had his share of female co-stars, and some of them even sort of foxy (see the Phibes films), here is the first time I know of where women are practically throwing themselves at him. Sure, he is past 60 at this point, but still a handsome man in his own right.

I also have to give credit to whoever joined Amicus and AIP together. AIP has consistently made Price a star in their films, and Amicus is a powerhouse in Britain (second only to Hammer). By combining them, that was a work of genius (and I presume why we see Cushing and Price share a screen).

Some critics have bashed the film saying "it could have been written during a lunch break", but I think it is a very touching homage to Price's career in horror, particularly with the showing of some of his past work. Howard Maxford hesitantly approves, saying it has "a fairly successful mixture of chills and humour." I concur.

There are, of course, other Price films to see first. But do not rule this one out -- it is better than some of his other work (I thought it easily topped "Cry of the Banshee") and a real treat to see him alongside Cushing. For as little exposure as this one gets, it is much better than you might think (though, the most overlooked Price film is still probably "Mad Magician").
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It was quite mad!
The Yeti14 September 2002
This was made around the same time as 'Vault of horror' and it shows. Vincent Price is an ageing movie star who is asked to reprise his role as a killer a few years after his wife-to-be was decapitated by a killer nobody caught. The movie within a movie is just footage obtained from Prices earlier horror flicks like 'Pit and the pendulum' and 'The house of Usher'. The movie itself has good performances from Price and Peter Cushing and the music is great! The music sets an atmosphere for good horror especially in a part where a girl is looking for Vincent Price in Peter Cushings garden. The part where Vincent Price is interviewed by Michael Parkinson adds some class to the movie and also some terror as the killer is stalking someone in the studio! Overall, the movie has a good atmosphere helped by Douglas Gamleys music and decent acting. The movie is tense with the old dark house style 'looking downstairs with a candle' and some good deaths. The only problems are with the story as this just looks like a tribute to Prices earlier movies than something original and the 70's rock music in one of the death scenes. It gives the movies age away and isn't as timeless as Prices earlier movies. If your a Price and Cushing fan you will like it but for a normal person, its a scary but dim treat. 5 and a half out of 10.
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7/10
A forgotten gem
acidburn-1010 January 2012
The plot = A horror actor Paul Toombes played by (Vincent Price) whose biggest and best known role is Dr Death has decided to bow out of the profession and settle down with his new fiancé, but after a heated argument, she is attacked by someone dressed as Dr Death and murdered, Paul Toombes gets blamed and put into an insane asylum. Many years later he gets released and is persuaded to play Dr Death again, that's when the murders starts occurring again also...

I came across this rather unknown gem late one night while watching the horror channel and I must say that I rather enjoyed it. This movie stands as a fine example of the 60's and 70's features of it's time so I don't why this movie never gets mentioned or even recognised, as it's a fine form of slasher/thriller made movie with top notch acting from the likes of Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. the film is very striking, and looks very much like the other lush productions from this era.

The storyline is well crafted and keeps you interested throughout, the death scenes are also very elaborate and very violent, plus there are quite a few of them so that will keep the gore hounds happy. My only complaint is the so called shock twist ending, which wasn't really a shock at all, it was way too easy to see past the red herrings and the identity of the killer was pretty easy to figure out. But other than that this movie is on fine form.

The cast like I already said are top notch with great performances from legends such as Vincent Price and Peter Cushing who both add true layers to they're roles and are both greatly missed, as I've enjoyed watching they're horror movies growing up.

All in all "Madhouse" is an excellent horror movie which in a way ahead of it's time that oozes atmosphere and features a memorable character in Dr. Death.
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7/10
BETTER THAN GIVEN CREDIT FOR BY OTHER IMDB CRITICS.
atmosphere2124 June 2001
I saw this movie for the first time about a year ago and thought it was genuinely pretty creepy. I am from the Scream generation and believe it or not, saw comparisons between this movie and Scream. It made me feel the same way. It was horror with a little bit of mystery. I am hoping for a dvd release of the film. If you haven't seen the movie, give it a try. You might be surprised.
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Interesting and entertaining film
slayrrr66630 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Madhouse" is a rather original and entertaining Price effort.

**SPOILERS**

Following the release of his latest horror film, actor Paul Toombes, (Vincent Price) announces his intention of retiring his famous character Dr. Death. After the death of his wife, he fulfills his retirement wish, only to be dragged out by producer Oliver Quayle, (Robert Quarry) and old friend Herbert Flay, (Peter Cushing) and the film is soon started. As the production begins, a masked killer starts to slaughter the various people associated with the project. Deciding to carry on, Paul and Oliver keep shooting the film despite the constant murders. Fearing that the creation has taken over his mind and forcing him to act out the vicious murders, he sets out to prove he isn't insane and as he gets closer and closer to the truth, the real discovery of the killer becomes known.

The Good News: There's a surprising lot to like in this film. The fact that this actually has some decent chase scenes is a real shock. There's really a decent amount of them included in the film and they're all quite thrilling to watch. The chase through the scenery in the gardens is a nice one, as is the showdown chase through the movie studios. It's a nice and really long scene that is thrilling to watch. The film's best qualities is that is mixes in traditional giallo aesthetics into a very campy Vincent Price-ish film and manages to pull them off. There's a black-gloved killer going on, stylishly killing off the various participants in a grand scheme that makes no sense, and the murder mystery is used to provide some suspense in the proceedings. It's all there and is included in the film and it fits right in. The sequence inside the pinball room is straight out of a giallo of the grandest order, full of swinging lights, hysterical screaming and the slow, suspenseful approach from the killer towards the victim. It's a marvelous scene that works wonders and is the movie's best scene. It's also got a couple of really nice kills in here, including a nifty decapitation, a sword impaled in the stomach, being crushed in a jerry-rigged movie stunt and a pitchfork through the neck, among others. It's also one of the best endings, which uses the double twist ending to a great effect and really ending on a great note. The inferno unleashed beforehand, where the first burns down the movie set and is captured on tape, leading to the first twist, is a real spectacle that is nevertheless impressive in the long list of films with that same kind of ending. This even features a really neat cast, including three genre regulars in scenery-chewing joy is a sight to behold. Really better than it should be.

The Bad News: There really isn't a whole lot wrong with the film. The biggest is that the film is set-up as a murder mystery, in typical giallo style, only for it to be painfully obvious who the killer is quite early on. That's not a real plus for the film, having the audience much farther along than the characters, and it doesn't generate that much suspense knowing that. The other main mistake is that the mask of the villain, though pretty creative, isn't that creepy. The mask looks overly plastic and doesn't inspire fear the way the great masks do. It's not bad, but there could've been a better mask available. The only other complaint against this is the campiness of the film. It's pretty much full of scenes that clash with each other, and the tones apparent aren't that easy to ignore. They're pretty blatant. This could've been a lot worse than what it is.

The Final Verdict: Mixing in the traditional giallo aesthetics with the campy fun of Price's later career makes this oddly likable, and really doesn't have a lot to dislike. It's a really entertaining film, and is a worthy recommendation for any fan of the three genre fans or of those interested in this time period.

Today's Rating-PG-13: Violence
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7/10
The Merchants Of Menace Are At It Again...
Prichards1234519 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's got Vinnie The P - Yaaay! Peter Da Cush - Yaaay! AND THEY ACT TOGETHER!!! Yep, none of your Scream and Scream Again solo stuff here. Price and Cushing team up as fading horror star Paul Toombes and script writer Herbert Flay (nope it's not a Carry On Film) creators of a character by the name of Dr. Death, a big horror hit years ago but not so hot since the day Toombes discovered his fiancé's decapitated corpse at a party to celebrate the latest Dr. Death flick. Toombes has an understandable nervous break-down, being unable to remember if he "did it" (Yep, it's also one of those "Am I going Barmy?" films).

However an on-form Robert Quarry, sleazy film producer extraordinaire, invites Toombes to make a come back in England in a Dr. Death t.v. series, and of course it's not long before the killings start again...

The Madhouse of the title is presumably the house where ol Pricey stays during his visit, namely because Cushing's wife lives in the basement with a bunch of spiders and is really quite barking. She still seems to fancy Toombes, though.

This is a strange but agreeable little film. Price is not really suited to the part of the cracked-up hero, but maybe he and Cushing exchanged their usual parts. Uncle Cush is brilliant, though -and just wait till you see the end - Price as Cushing as Price (work that one out!)It can be viewed as a forerunner to all those terrible slasher pics and although it's certainly not as good as Theatre Of Blood it does have something unique in cinema history to my knowledge.

Where else would you see a murder on the Michael Parkinson Show?!!!
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6/10
Good cheesy fun
Prof-Hieronymos-Grost13 November 2008
After a mental breakdown following the murder of his bride to be, famed horror actor Paul Toombes (Vincent Price) is persuaded to return to the Dr Death role that made him famous. He is persuaded by a writer friend of his Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing) who is also the scriptwriter of all the Dr Death movies. Soon Toombes finds his mind is again being tested as the series of mysterious deaths that plagued him before, returns. The police soon suspect Toombes of the crimes, but who is the mysterious masked and caped killer that is disrupting filming? Lots of campy and cheesy fun with some horror greats, there's actually some nice visuals too that I hadn't remembered from previous viewings. Not price's best but still good fun.
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As if written during a lunch hour
Wizard-82 September 2000
There is the seed of a good campy horror movie here, and there are some genuinely humorous bits here and there. But the storyline is a mess, as if the writer was trying to cram in every element found in previously popular Price movies. At the end (which in itself contains a lot of unanswered questions), there were a lot of unexplained/unresolved stuff and characters left over. I have to wonder if there was some frantic rewriting or last minute editing during the production. There is some value of seeing both Price and Cushing here, though you should know that Cushing doesn't appear that much. I suspect that he was just hired for a few days of shooting, because from the looks of the movie, they didn't have a high budget.
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Almost Surreal in Places as Horror Stars Converge.
amesmonde5 May 2011
An ageing horror star comes out of retirement only to find murder follows him everywhere he goes.

There's nothing better than watching two stars, in this case horror stars grace the same screen. Very loosely based on Angus Hall's novel Devil day (1969) Madhouse is certainly of it's time (1974) which is a good thing, making it contemporary of that time and different to their older films. After parties, Cine films, film reels, film launches, tributes and the trappings of fame are on show indicative of film world at that time. Madhouse is wonderfully shot, rich in contrast, with excellent set design and locations. It exudes atmosphere in places and is genuinely creepy in spots, still it's an odd film, almost surreal in places, especially the scenes in the cellar and the body on the boat.

With a striking looking supporting cast both Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are excellent. Even though in their fermenting ages which is a shame, it's fitting to the story, and you can't help feel that there's irony baste over irony in Prices role of Paul Toombes, even maybe a hint of truth in the dialogue of his character. Mild-mannered Cushing as Herbert Flay unfortunately doesn't get as much screen-time as you'd like. This is certainly Price's show and he effortlessly captures the viewer with his immense presence and deep tones as much as he did 10 years earlier in The Last Man on Earth (1964).

Although reminiscent in feel of The House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) it's my no means a 'classic' but there is enough killings, spiders, old horror clips, kooky cops and good performances to keep you watching veteran editor Jim Clark's (Charade (1963), Memphis Belle (1990)) last and only horror directing contribution.

All in all, Madhouse an intriguing must see for its possible comparable look at how much real life Price was injected into Dr. Death by Ken Levison in his screenplay.
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8/10
"The death of Dr.Death!"
ShadeGrenade16 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Horror cinema changed dramatically in 1968 with the release of George A.Romero's 'Night Of The Living Dead', before taking another turn with 'The Exorcist' in 1973. Out went the cobwebbed castles, bats and torch-wielding villagers in favour of gory tales based in the modern world. The old guard of Hammer, Amicus and American International continued to plug away, however. Having starred in the magnificent 'Theater of Blood' the year before, Price stayed in England for his next picture.

Loosely based on the novel 'Deathday' by Angus Hall, the Jim Clark-directed movie cast him as horror movie star Paul Toombes ( great name! ). At a Hollywood bash to celebrate the release of his latest 'Dr.Death' movie, he announces his engagement to the lovely Ellen ( Julie Crosthwait ). Then a seedy producer named Oliver Quayle ( Robert Quarry ) tells him Ellen was once the star of his porn movies. Paul is furious, and after a row, she flees upstairs. A mysterious figure in a cloak enters the room. Some time later, Paul goes looking for her. He finds her sitting before a mirror. When he goes to touch her, her head falls off! Paul is blamed for her death, and sent to an institution. On release years later, he travels to England to star in a television series based on the 'Dr.Death' movies. The killings start up again. First to go is Liz ( Linda Hayden ), an aspiring actress keen to get into Paul's new series. So is he the killer? Or could it be someone else?

Similar to William Castle's 'Strait-Jacket' ( 1964 ), at no time does this come anywhere near the quality of 'Theater Of Blood'. In fact its a lot less gruesome than your average 'Hammer House Of Horror' episode, but worth watching because of Mad Vince and the great Peter Cushing as screenwriter 'Herbert Flay' with Adriennce Corri as his insane, spider-loving wife. Natasha Pyne was known for her role in the Patrick Cargill sitcom 'Father Dear Father'. Michael Parkinson puts in an appearance as a television interviewer ( which probably served him in good stead for his later skirmishes with Emu and Meg Ryan! ). Robert Quarry was 'Count Yorga' in two A.I.P. movies. Rather interestingly, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff are credited even though the former died in 1966 and the latter in 1968. Toombes' career is illustrated using clips from old Price movies such as 'The Haunted Palace' and 'Tales Of Terror'.

The final twist is not particularly surprising. To tie-in with this movie's release, B.B.C.-1 ran a season of Price movies late on Friday nights, mostly drawn from Roger Corman's adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe. Cushing and Price would later reunite - with Christopher Lee - in 1983 for Pete Walker's 'Night Of The Long Shadows'.
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8/10
An enjoyable Vincent Price horror vehicle
Woodyanders14 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The legendary Vincent Price lands himself the plumb part of veteran horror star Paul Toombes, who returns to acting after spending several years in a sanitarium. Toombes has trouble distinguishing between himself and his most popular creepy role of Dr. Death. Someone starts committing a series of murders while dressed up as Dr. Death. Is Toombes the killer? Or is it someone else? Director Jim Clark, working from a clever script and inspired by Ken Levisan and Greg Morrison, pokes plenty of sly sardonic fun at Price's famous sinister horror star persona, expertly mines a wickedly amusing line in sharp sarcastic humor (the barbed digs at ruthless and selfish showbiz types are especially spot-on), and does a sound job of creating and maintaining a good degree of spooky mysterious atmosphere. Moreover, the able acting from a bang-up cast helps out a lot: the always terrific Peter Cushing as Toombes' loyal writer friend Herbert Flay, Robert Quarry as sleazy producer Oliver Quayle, Adrienne Corri as the bitter, unhinged, and grotesquely disfigured Faye Carstairs Flay, Natasha Pyne as sweet PR specialist Julia Wilson, Linda Hayden as brash opportunistic aspiring actress Elizabeth Peters, and Michael Parkinson as a hearty TV interviewer. The generous use of choice clips from such vintage 60's Roger Corman chillers as "House of Usher" and "The Haunted Palace" greatly enhances the considerable macabre merriment. Although they only appear in a few scenes with each other, it's nonetheless a real treat to see horror icons Price and Cushing acting in a movie together. The ending is deliciously nutty and ironic. Ray Parslow's polished cinematography gives the picture an impressive glossy look. Douglas Gamley's spirited shivery score hits the shuddery spot. An immensely entertaining fright flick.
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5/10
One Of The Very Last Of A Kind
Tony Bush18 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of the very last of a kind - the tail end of an era of a conventional type of horror film that had dominated since the 1950s.

Hammer Studios were shutting up shop, heading for a last ditch life-preserver in the form of the TV market before slipping off the radar. AIP and Amicus similarly sliding into a terminal decline. Explicit and pioneering movies such as The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, were leading the new wave. Directors such as Friedkin, Hooper, Carpenter, Cronenberg were soon to see their star in the ascendant. The days of plastic fangs, Max Factor blood, Gothic castles, garish Technicolour and a flash or two of heaving bosom, were gone forever.

MADHOUSE added a few melancholy notes to the swansong.

As the title suggests, it is indeed mad. And there's a house in it. It succeeds in being painfully camp, eccentric, hackneyed, desperate, confused and befuddled. The narrative has no internal logic and the characters who populate it are cardboard ciphers reciting awful dialogue and carving the ham as thick as you like. Yet...

Vincent Price and Peter Cushing always do their best to entertain and elevate the material they're given way beyond it's lowbrow standard of quality. Cushing, especially, always acts as if he's been given something of Shakespearean standards to deliver. Price, ever insightful, knows all about dross and attacks it as a matter of course with a sustained barrage of enthused overacting as he's fully aware that's his only way to slap some meaningful dynamic into it. It doesn't really salvage the film, granted, but both these men do what they can to give it some spark of life.

When I was a kid I loved this sort of stuff. Back then it seemed to add up better. Now, the nostalgia factor is the main draw. MADHOUSE is indeed one deranged film in that nothing works or makes any sense, so much so that the more absurd it gets the more surreal and curiously engaging it becomes. The idea is relatively sound: horror movie actor Paul Toombes (Price) is implicated in a grisly murder, has a mental breakdown and quits the screen. Years later, writer friend and colleague Herbert Flay (Cushing) entices him to England to revive his Dr Death character in a TV show. Then people start dying around him in gruesome ways and he becomes the main focus of suspicion.

The supporting cast are mostly cannon-fodder, window dressing waiting around to get bumped off. They might as well be china ducks in a fairground shooting gallery for all anyone cares about them. There's a crazy woman in the cellar looking after a menagerie of spiders, chat show host Michael Parkinson pops up to interview Toombes and there are lots of clips from earlier (much higher calibre) AIP horror flicks featuring Price. It meanders along in a haphazard fashion until it grinds to a halt with what was probably intended to be a creepy grand guignol conclusion that in fact leaves the viewer thinking "What?" Finally, if evidence was needed of the end of an era for a particular type of movie genre, MADHOUSE is a suitable citation for winding down. Despite everything, though, it still manages to be mildly diverting fun. But that's about as good as it gets.
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6/10
I liked it.
Paul Andrews27 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Madhouse starts 12 years ago at a New Years Eve party being held by famous actor Paul Toombes (Vincent Price) best know for playing the character Dr. Death in a series of horror films to promote his new film & announce his engagement to Ellen (Julie Crosthwaite). However slimy porn producer Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry) lets on that Ellen used to star in porn films, something which rather distresses Toombes. Later on & alone in her room Ellen is attacked & decapitated, Toombes has a nervous breakdown & gives up his role as Dr. Death as Ellen's murder remains unsolved. Jump to 'Present Day London' & Toombes is persuaded by his close friend Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing) to come out of retirement & play Dr. Death again for a TV series to be produced by Quayle, Toombes begins filming the series but soon cast, crew & various pretty women start turning up dead & Toombes is the prime suspect...

This British film was a co-production between American International & Amicus starring two horror legends was made at a time when the quaint classic British Gothic horror film was on the decline soon to be replaced by shocking big budget Hollywood fare such as The Exorcist (1973), directed by Jim Clark I have to say I rather enjoyed this camp mix of horror & humour. The script by Ken Levison & Greg Morrison was very loosely based on the novel 'Devilday' by Angus Hall & doesn't seen to take itself too seriously, the basic murder mystery storyline is a little predictable & the killer's identity is too obvious but there's still much here to enjoy. The whole film within the filming of a film is always fun & Price's character being rude to the director & his co-stars raised a smile from me. The murders are alright & with Madhouse you can see that filmmakers were starting to push the boundaries of acceptability with scenes showing pitchforks through throats, decapitated heads & people impaled on swords, while relatively tame by todays standards this was probably quite strong stuff back in 1974, there is also the noticeable fact that most of the victims are young, pretty girls who would become the staple diet for any self respecting killer throughout the slasher craze during the 70's & 80's. The film moves along at a nice enough pace, the character's are good if a little clichéd & stereotypical while some of the dialogue is bizarre in a funny camp sort of way so I'll cut it some slack. Overall Madhouse is good, if undemanding, fun that I enjoyed despite the lacklustre comments from other's.

Director Clark does alright here, Madhouse looks nice enough without being particularly memorable. Price & Cushing seem to be having a blast here & even though Cushing doesn't feature too much at least they share a number of scenes together. There's some gore here although not too graphic, there's a decapitated head, someone gets a pitchfork stuck through their throat, someone is strangled & then hanged, someone is crushed, people are impaled on swords & there's a bloody skeleton at the end. There's a nice moment during a party scene when Quarry wears his costume from Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) & The Return of Count Yorga (1971) in which he played the title role while in a reversal of roles Cushing dresses up like Count Dracula even though he used to play Van Helsing in the Hammer studios Dracula series of films.

Technically the film is fine & looks OK, it has that 70's horror film feel & atmosphere to it which I've always been a big fan of. The acting is pretty good from a solid cast including Price who sings the awful closing song that plays over the end credits, Cushing, Quarry, Linda Hayden while Boris Karloff & Basil Rathbone both appear during clips taken from The Raven (1963) & Tales of Terror (1962) respectively. It was really odd to see Michael Parkinson in this, most won't know who he is but he's a talk-show legend here in the UK & still presents a weekly chat-show even now in 2007, he just looks a lot older.

Madhouse is a fun little horror flick, everyone is having fun including me which is the most important thing. I liked it a lot although many don't, if your a Brit horror, Price or Cushing fan then it's a must, if not then there's probably not much here in interest you. Definitely worth a watch in my opinion.
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6/10
I give it a 6 only for the stars
preppy-318 November 2002
Vincent Price plays Paul Toombes (sigh) who plays a character called Dr. Death in a series of horror movies written by a friend (Peter Cushing). His fiancée is murdered and he has a nervous breakdown. Years later, he's (supposedly) recovered and starts redoing Dr. Death...and a bunch of murders start up.

The teaming of two horror greats (Price & Cushing) and a semi-great (Robert Quarry) is a great idea. Sadly it doesn't work. Since it's an AIP pic it was made cheaply--and it shows. It's dully directed and it has an obvious, boring plot and a totally stupid twist at the end. Also I've never seen such boring murders in my life (it looks like a few of them were cut down to get a PG). And there's WAY too much footage from Price's earlier horror films.

Still, it's great to see Cushing, Price and Quarry all together. They give everything they have to the script. Price is great (as always); Quarry is amusing as a slimy producer; Cushing is criminally underused. There's also a very funny joke in a costume party segment--Quarry (who played Count Yorga, Vampire twice) and Cushing (always fighting vampires in Hammer films) come dressed as vampires!

So, it's almost worth seeing for those three. Almost.
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6/10
Madhouse (1974) **1/2
JoeKarlosi1 September 2004
It's always a treat to have Vincent Price and Peter Cushing together in the same horror show, and there's even Robert (Count Yorga) Quarry thrown in the mix for good measure. Other than that novelty, there isn't anything terribly fresh or fantastic about the movie. It's quite reminiscent of things we've seen before, especially from Price. MADHOUSE unspools like a mystery, but the killer's identity isn't very hard to figure out. Still, it's fun to see Vincent in his maniacal makeup as "Dr. Death," and there are a number of well-staged death scenes to savor along the way. Not bad, though it's nothing fabulous either.

**1/2 out of ****
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4/10
The Waste...the Incredible Waste!
BaronBl00d22 December 2001
No bones about it. This film is not very good. It has so few moments of inspiration that I really have little to say in its favor. Let's tackle what is wrong with the film first. The story is threadbare and in many ways very illogical and incomprehensible. The ending makes little sense even though its billed as a "twist" ending. Paul Toombes, the co-creator of Dr. Death, was suspected of beheading his wife to be in Hollywood many years ago. He is brought to London by the other co-creator, writer Henry Flay, at least a dozen years later. Years of self-guilt, self-denial, and psychological analysis. So far so good. People begin to die again of course, but the three main suspects from many years ago are back. Vincent Price as Toombes, Peter Cushing as Flay, and Robert Quarry as a producer are all in London and all involved in a return to televisionshow of the retired Dr. Death. Toombes looks very guilty as we constantly see a pair of hands without a face put gloves on indicating someone is about to die. Little mystery here. It can only be one of three people, and the way the film is shot you know that it is unlikely Toombes did it...especially as one of the murders takes place while he is being interviewed. Now our suspects are down to two...and it is so incredibly easy to figure out the identity of the killer that I would go so far as to say there is NO mystery in this film. Any how, the story climaxes with an unrealistic and unexplained plot element that must have been scavenged from the throw-away red herring pile of Agatha Christie as something she would not even have the temerity to use and expect people to believe. I found myself after viewing th film filled with a great deal of disappointment that such huge talents were wasted. this was a co-production from Amicus and AIP. I think AIP just let the producer and director use a lot of Price's work from the old Corman-Poe movies. There are clips from The Raven, Tales of Terror, The Pit and the Pendulum(in black and white no less as it's advertised as one of Toombe's early works), and several others.The fact that the clips were used demonstrates the budget used in the film and the apparent lack of creativity and originality used in the film. Was there anything good? Yes, the pairing of Price and Cushing in ANY film is always worth a look. Price is excellent in some scenes, particularly those dealing with the business of the horror business. Cushing has little screen time but is effective for the most part. Quarry, though given little to do, is also a bonus. The real acting talent goes to Adrienne Corri as a woman whose body has been burned and has a penchant for spiders. Her character is totally unrealistic, but Corri really does a great job with what she is given. Themake-up of the Dr. Death character is fantastic. I think more could have been done with that. The biggest problem for me is not what the end product was but what it could have been. Vincent Price and Peter Cushing has shared so little screen time together that this movie could have been their penultimatepairing..for some it may be as I cannot think of but only one other film where they share any considerable screen time...House of the Long Shadows. For my money that is a far better film than this(and I am not particularly crazy about that film either)and at least gives the two actors time to thrust and parry against each other. In this film they have little to do. Such a shame!
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6/10
Great cast in a likable British horror whodunnit
David Hilsdon4 September 2007
I cannot deny that I really like 'Madhouse'. It was made in 1974 and was a typically British horror film of the time, but it has some great things about it. It doesn't take itself at all seriously, and it throws some old clips from Price's AIP pictures, directed by Roger Corman, in for good measure. There's a great cast in here with old horror stalwart Peter Cushing, "Count Yorga's" Robert Quarry, "Confessions" film's Linda Hayden, "Father Dear Father's" Natasha Pyne, Benny Hill's Jenny Lee Wright and even a cameo from the daddy of talk-show hosts, Michael Parkinson!! Price plays Paul Toombes, a popular horror actor renowned for playing Dr. Death, a character who dresses in a black cloak and big hat and murders people in various bizarre ways. Toombes, though has just recovered from a long-term mental breakdown after his young wife was brutally murdered a dozen years before. He has now been offered more Dr. Death film roles, and coincidentally more murders are occurring with the killer dressed as Dr. Death. Who could it be? Could it be Price, going off the rails again, thinking he is Dr. Death? Or Quarry, the suspicious producer, who never liked Price? Or somebody else.....? Watch and see. Great fun!
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Didn't live up to its potential (spoilers)
bgrubb10 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie answers the question 'How can you have Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Robert Quarry star in a film and yet have a substandard to average picture?'

The premise of a horror star (Paul Toombes-Price) who had a nervous breakdown years ago as a result of his new wife being murdered in a manner used by the character he played (Dr. Death) and brought out of retirement by his fellow actor (Herbert Flay- Cushing) only to find the man who revealed that his wife had been fooling around that night (Quayle-Quarry) is the producer of the new Dr. Death series was a good one.

(minor spoilers past this point)

That said it is obvious the scriptwriter and director were both lazy. The pace of the picture moves along with all the urgency of a turtle out for a walk. Worse yet when you find out who the killer really was there are murder scenes that make no sense as there appears to have been no way for the killer to know that these people were a threat to his plans. The cops are portrayed in a manner that implies they must have gotten their badges out of cereal boxes because their efforts to keep an eye on their main suspect is pathetic (like letting him out of their sight while he is in front of a live audience). Then there is the padding of the film with clips from several Price films as being from "Dr. Death" pictures even though the characters in those films (Pit and the Pendulum, Fall of House of Usher) look *nothing* like Dr. Death; not to mention that that the way they are shown they might have as well been edited in a cuisinart. Then to top it off in a picture that has had zilch in supernatural element suddenly shifts gears and throws one in the last 5 minutes.

Quarry appears so infrequently that he might as well been billed as a cameo, Cushing gets a little more screen time but not much more than Quarry, so it falls on Price to try and save this train wreck of a picture. He manages to keeping the movie from becoming totally pathetic but he even cannot overcome the total ineptitude of the scriptwriter or director. Good for Price fans but little else to recommend it.
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8/10
Great film with Cushing and Price together!!
turturici23 February 2000
What a great film! Cushing is an actor turned to writer creating the character and tv show Dr. Death. Price plays Paul Toombes, the actor who plays Dr. Death. What a movie!! What an ending!! If you like Cushing and Price, this is a great movie with a twist ending. The only downfall to this movie is that Cushing does not get enough film time with Price
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7/10
The One Time Vincent Price Wasn't Playing Himself
ikrani15 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I think that's the problem this movie has: it didn't cast Vincent Price as Vincent Price. Sure, he's gone under different names in his films, but let's be honest, we don't watch him for his characters, we watch him to see all the cool little things that Vincent Price does while on screen. He's much like Tim Curry in that respect.

This film, however, casts Vincent as Paul Toombes: a down-and-out horror icon whose haunted by the events of his past after his fiancé was murdered (after she was revealed to be a former adult film actress). This of course puts Paul in a bad mood and we get the moody, socially inept Vincent Price that no one wanted and nobody asked for. Adding to the body count of people murdered by the unexplained figure Doctor Death are Paul's liaison into the brave new world of television studios, a young actress who tries much to hard to get in bed with the uninterested Toombes, and her nagging parents who are so annoying that you'll jump up in jubilee when the mysterious murder skewers them in the most joyous of skewerings.

Only at the film's conclusion does it release Vincent Price from within the confines of Paul Toombes' moody self, end on a happy note that makes absolutely no sense but will ultimately leave you feeling good inside, even if it DOES make absolutely no sense.

Not the best of Vincent Price's films, but one that is no danger of being remade any time soon.
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