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*** This review may contain 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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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
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'.
*** This review may contain 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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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.
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
**1/2 out of ****
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!
*** This review may contain 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
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.
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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