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Madhouse with Vincent Price was actually pretty good. There were some moments where I think the story went dry but everything else was OK. The acting was good, the sets were cool looking, and the eerie music just had me on edge for the most part of the movie. But lets add something else awesome to the pot, Peter Cushing! What can I say about Cushing, he's a terrific actor. From his roles as Van Helsing in Dracula to Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. Now take that and add Vincent Price and what do you get, the greatest acting duo in a movie. Despite some mediocre moments, the movie was well worth it. I got this movie in the Vince Price 5 movie pack and that's saying something. Its an average horror, and replay value for me is average as well. Overall this gets a 6 out of 10.
*** 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.
"Madhouse" bears a lot of resemblance with the previous year's "Theater of Blood", and actually that movie was already some sort of multiplication of the 1971 hit "The Abominable Dr. Phibes". General conclusion: throughout the early 70's Vincent Price's successful career largely relied on playing the same flamboyant character over and over again, but who cares seriously, as all his films are hugely entertaining and worth tracking down. "Madhouse" even features another rewarding bonus, as Vincent Price shares the screen with fellow horror legend Peter Cushing. Here in this film, Price wondrously (of course) depicts a horror actor named Paul Toombes who has practically converged with his fixed movie character Dr. Death. When his future wife is found savagely beheaded on the morning after numerous house guests witnessed a verbal dispute, Paul Toombes is led to believe that years of identifying with Dr. Death has driven him to madness and actual murder. Toombes retires for twelve long years, until his good friend and manager Herbert convinces him to reprise his legendary Dr. Death role in a TV-format. As soon as the series begins filming, dead bodies start piling up again. Is Paul Toombes really a maniacal killer or is there someone, dressed in his horror movie costume, trying to make him look guilty? Director Jim Clark, usually a respectable editor, clearly intended to make an amusing and tongue-in-cheek Grand Guignol effort, rather than a serious and indigestible thriller. The film features clippings from previous Vincent Price highlights, including "The Haunted Palace", "House of Usher" and "The Raven". Perhaps Clark borrowed this idea from Peter Bogdanovich, who did something similar with Boris Karloff's career in "Targets". The murders in "Madhouse" are extremely imaginative, although incredibly over-the-top, like the crushing bed sequence. Dr. Death's outfit and make-up are deliciously macabre and there are some bonkers sub plots, like a crazy woman in a basement and the ravishing Linda Hayden as a over-enthusiast fan-girl/stalker. Recommended, but only if you're a fan of Vincent Price and his career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About a year after coming to the UK to film "Theatre of Blood", Vincent
Price was tempted to return in this lesser horror flick which saw a
collaboration between American International Pictures and Amicus
Productions and teamed him up with two other horror genre big guns -
Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry.
Thinly based on Angus Hall's novel "DevilDay" Price plays Paul Toombes, a horror film actor who is cajoled back from reclusion to resume his portrayal of the Doctor Death character he had done so successfully years before until he suffered a mental breakdown following the grisly murder of his fiancée. Unfortunately, Toombes' grip on reality starts to wane and his sanity is questioned when some murders start taking place in and around the film set.
Clearly the film was partially made to pay homage to Price's horror film career as we see excerpts from some of Price's old AIP films which are intertwined in the plot and for the purposes of the story they are explained as clips from Toombes's Dr. Death films. This is probably the biggest gripe of the film because any Price fan will not be able to disassociate the clips from Price's career and "pretend" they are clips from the Dr. Death movies (in fact it is not impossible to name each movie). Furthermore, none of the characters shown in the excerpts even resemble the Dr. Death character so the link is bizarre and tenuous in the extreme.
The film is also guilty of being caught between two stools: seriousness and parody; and despite Price's trusted hamminess the film uncomfortably wavers between the two rather than pitches itself in one camp or the other.
The screen time of both Cushing and Quarry and their general interaction with Price is disappointingly minimal, but this is somewhat redeemed at the end of the film, when a largely suppressed Cushing "comes out of his shell" and expresses the most vigorous dialogue of the whole film, which forms some sort of an entertaining twist. In fact, the last ten minutes of the film would appear to be the most appealing and worthwhile.
Saddled with characters who you don't really care for, the film is not a total washout but it is well short of the intrinsic entertainment value that was derived from both of the Phibes films and "Theatre of Blood". Price himself was apparently dissatisfied by the end product and with the decline in the horror market in the mid 70s (Amicus made one more film whist Hammer integrated a bit of Kung Fu unsuccessfully and carried on until 1975), Price didn't make another horror film for nearly 7 years.
All in all I would go as far to say that it would be more beneficial for non-Price fanatics to watch it, but whatever the inclination of the viewer the disjointed and patchy proceedings that are served up are not likely to be digested too easily.
After the death of his fiancée, a Hollywood film star Paul Toombes who
was known for his horror character "Dr Death" retreats into his own
little world. Years have past, when an old friend/co-worker encourages
him to make a comeback with his old character. But soon enough after
returning, murders are occurring and the brutal kill scenes in Toombes'
old horror films influence them. Is Toombes losing his mind by becoming
part of his Dr. Death character or is there someone out there trying to
pin it all on him?
This nifty, if not terribly spectacular camp chiller by AIP/Amicus co-production went out of its way to pair up two influential horror draw cards, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. Who definitely lifts the film's bar out of average, even though I don't think they give their greatest performances or share much screen time together. Anyhow it's more so Price's film with Cushing in a secondary support role to him. The film and the story (taken from the novel "Devilday" by Angus Hall) actually rely on Price and his flamboyant persona, and streaming throughout the presentation are clips from his vintage AIP horror works. Oh, the memories. They are not just chucked in, but are tailored into the story with a purpose. Just like his ealier flicks, the "Abominable Dr. Phibes" films and of course "Theatre of Blood", this one has plenty of sly in-jokes scattered through the witty script and worked into the impulsive death scenes. The premise plays with a concept involving a horror film mocking and working around with horror traditions rather nicely. The (paltry) plot seems more compact then it really is. The routine actions occur and they come across as quite laboured and uneven in spots. Lazy pacing and the unfathomable nature of it all cause this. The identity of the killer in the Dr. Death costume isn't a big surprise, as the mystery side of the script never tries to side step you with heavy red herrings. Actually some character's deaths truly come out of the blue, though. Surrounding the film is a morbidly Gothic atmosphere and painted in is an obvious slasher mark. James Clark's fully blunt direction can get stuffy, but he gets out some exciting passages that drips with suspense and kicks out one outrageous twist and even off-kilter conclusion. A fruitful music score by Douglas Gamley is prominently saucy and at times eerie. The film also benefited from a solid cast. Other than Price's extravagantly variable turn and Cushing's sombrely lightweight performance. Featuring on screen with the duo happened to be Robert Quarry (in to small of a role) as an obsequious producer and the always-ravishing Linda Hayden chips in as an extremely persistent groupie. Adrienne Corri is quite enjoyable in her whacked role and there's an amusing cameo role by Michael Parkinson as a TV interviewer (oh, the irony).
It's not a very memorable or macabre outing, but this horror show is moderately campy fun where life is imitating art with mixed results.
This is like the male version of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" You'll either think it's the worst thing you've ever seen or -- as I did -- find it one of those rare things that truly is so bad it's good. Any flick whose last line is "Sour cream and red herring" is worthy of polar reaction
*** 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?
I saw Madhouse as I love Vincent Price and would see anything with him in, regardless of its reputation. Madhouse is not one of his best sadly, actually of the films of his I've seen(I need to see more but I have seen enough to know of his talent and most of them are good to great films) only Story of Mankind was worse. Madhouse does have major problems, the footage was interesting but doesn't always add much to the story or the atmosphere, while the script felt rushed and cobbled together and the story, although I didn't mind the unoriginality, just didn't thrill me enough and felt obvious complete with a twist that was entirely unsurprising. The film does feel stodgily paced sometimes also. On the other hand, the production values are decent, the editing could've been crisper but the settings and such do have a nice edge to them. The music is reasonably atmospheric also, but it is the cast that really lift this film. Peter Cushing is underused but as ever he is good value, and Robert Quarry is amusingly slimy. Their scene at the costume party was a lot of fun. Best of all was Price, proving once again that no matter the state of the film or script that he can do no wrong, with his magnetic presence, distinctive voice and deadpan delivery of lines, all present here. Overall, not sure if I recommend it but for Price or Cushing completists it is at least worth a look. Not a bad film, in fact better than its rather dismissive reputation, but considering the promise of the idea it had and the cast it could have been much more at the same time. 6/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Madhouse" is an interesting horror movie, one of the more obscure
films that Vincent Price made. It is a unique bridge between old school
and contemporary horror films, using elements of the more theatrical
films of Price's career as a backdrop for what is essentially a gory
Price is a horror film actor named Paul Toombes (haha) who suffers a terrible shock: during a New Year's Eve party, his fiancé is murdered and Paul is not entirely sure he didn't do it himself. He suffers a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized. Years later, after he has been released and pronounced sane, he gets work reprising his most famous character, Dr. Death, on a television program, and murders start to occur again. A masked killer stalks the cast and crew of Paul's television series, murdering victims in the manner of Paul's films. Is it Paul? Or one of the other potential stalkers? The thing that struck me most about "Madhouse" is the way it veers wildly all over the map. It's not exactly plausible, but it's fun. The movie incorporates footage from some of Price's actual movies, in all of their opulent glory, then will jump to scenes shot inside a modern office building filling in as a television studio. Price's "Doctor Death" character wears a costume that cloaks him in black. When the murderer starts killing people, he's donned a skull mask, and the effect is uncannily like the murderer(s) in the "Scream" series. There are a couple of murders that are gory in theory, if not in their actual presentation: one woman gets a pitchfork through her neck which hardly seems to draw any blood at all, and still allows her to scream. Another is decapitated and her head falls off unexpectedly, revealing a bloody stump.
But the film does manage to get some real shudders that have nothing to do with gore. One plot thread involves a woman familiar with Paul Toombes who resurfaces later as a disfigured shadow of her old self, living in the basement of a mansion and developing friendships with spiders. Some of the chase scenes involving the mad slasher are carried off very well, including one sequence featuring an elevator so small that it would give a claustrophobe a nervous breakdown.
The cast is really something special, and it features not only Vincent Price but also Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry, whose character appears during a costume party dressed as Count Yorga! There are also "feature appearances" by Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff, but it's just stock footage from older films where Price starred alongside them. The only real problem here is the script, which has a lot of interesting ideas that never fully come together. "Madhouse" isn't entirely satisfying once the credits roll, which has probably kept it from being more well-known and revered. But to me, it's got a great premise and a handful of startling images. It's worth it just to watch the movie and enjoy it for what it is; there are still a few brilliant moments that might stick with you, even if it didn't blow your mind.
This is one of the worst films Vincent Price did in the 1970s--mostly
because it is so heavily padded with old clips from other American
International Price horror films (mostly the Roger Corman ones). While
at times showing a few short clips might have been appropriate to
establish that the character Price played was a horror actor who had a
long string of films behind him, the clips played too long and just
seemed like filler. As a result, the rest of the film seemed rather
weak--especially since the main story seemed like a rehash of elements
from the Dr. Phibes films and THEATER OF BLOOD. There was certainly
nothing particularly new here--just a by the numbers film.
Now this isn't to say the movie is particularly bad or unwatchable--it isn't. But if you're looking for something new or special, then forget this one. Instead, I recommend you try any one of dozens of other horror films Price made--they're almost all better and more interesting--even if this film also includes the talents of the Hammer Films star, Peter Cushing as well as Price.
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