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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.
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!
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").
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.
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