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*** 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.
*** 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
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!
*** This review may contain 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Because there was like a mystery plot in here, I think. And the mystery
plot was that Peter Cushing's character was trying to get Vincent
Price's job that Vinnie didn't want to start with. Or something. And
apparently, that involved murdering six or seven people.
Made about as much sense as spiders that could strip the flesh from ones bones like a piranha. Oh, wait, they had that too.
Amicus was the poor man's Hammer. American International was the Poor Man's just about everything in the USA. Together, they could churn out the mediocrity.
the way this film really shows its inadequacy is by showing clips from movies Vincent Price did that were actually almost good. Special Appearances by Basil Rathbone and Boris Karlof. As in "Too dead to complain about it!" Isn't that special?
Rather tame, tepid screamer from American International, one with a PG rating and a cast full of weary oldsters and bland female murder victims. Vincent Price would seem to be snugly cast as the star of the "Dr. Death" horror movie series, coaxed back to the role after a 12-year hiatus following the unsolved slaying of his fiancée at a Hollywood party, who may be blacking out and killing people for real. But Price can barely summon up the energy to get through this leaden picture, and--what with clammy British locations and plodding set-ups--viewers can hardly blame him. Director Jim Clark can't seem to get anything right, not the scenes utilizing old movie clips nor the unravelling of Price's sanity. Showing us the actor's back teeth as he screams in shock, Clark is exploiting Price (just as he exploits Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in the clips), feasting on the star's sagging, hairy face in unflattering close-ups. It's a hack job, made by hacks and actors in need of their paychecks, with a quasi-campy tone that is never acknowledged and shoddy cinematography worse than any television series of the era. *1/2 from ****
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