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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.
Amicus was clearly trying to cash in on Price's Dr. Phibes films , not to mention his prior success Theatre of Blood, when they co-produced this boring feature with AIP. There are no scares and the dialogue is bloodless. Even with Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry supporting Price there's little to recommend Madhouse to any but the most devoted horror aficionados.
When a movie starlet is found beheaded, her husband-to-be Paul Toombes
(Vincent Price), star of the successful Dr. Death horror movies, is
suspected but later acquitted; the murderer is never caught.
Twelve years later Paul is talked into reprising his famous role by the character's co-creator, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). Paul travels to London where a new TV series of Dr. Death is to be filmed. The success of the show is threatened however when a series of gruesome murders are committed which mimic those in Paul's movies.
Madhouse, based on the book 'Devilday' by Angus Hall, is a tedious affair which even the presence of horror legends Price and Cushing cannot save. The film suffers from a boring script, a few rather unimpressive death scenes, and is padded by lots of footage from old Price movies (which stand in for Toombes's celebrated classics). Furthermore, it ends with a ridiculous twist which makes no sense whatsoever.
Give this one a miss and watch Theatre of Blood or a Dr.Phibes movie instead.
He acted fine, great an actor as can be for sophisticated horror flicks, Vincent Price, no bones about him. It was the plot and summary that stinks about this film, and using shots from his other films used as reference in this film was just a ham-bone of a production. Vincent Price starred in some fantastic movies such as "Last Man On Earth", "House On Haunted Hill." But I hope this is the last flop I see of Vincent Price Movies. "Theater of Blood" was the other Vincent Price movie that turned me off. He acted great in that movie, but as a whole I was bored. Madhouse was a flop and a bore. One could guess who the real Dr. Death would turn out to be by the lack of sophistication in the movie, but I won't spoil it and give that away to Die Hard Vincent price fans. This movie could have been great if done right, and not focused on Vincent Price in the movie as being a famous macabre actor as part of the plot.
Vincent Price (as Paul Toombes) is at it again! He's a old time horror
movie star on the comeback trail; his attempt is, however, being
thwarted by a series of horrific murders. Naturally, Mr. Price (aka
"Dr. Death") is a prime suspect. Along for the movie ride are Peter
Cushing (as writer Herbert Flay) and Robert Quarry (as producer Oliver
Another interesting, but failed, follow-up to Price's successful "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971). The promising team-up of horror maestros Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, with Robert Quarry, in a "Madhouse" is decidedly anti-climatic - in fact, the stars are not at all well-served. The film is cheap; and, the story inferior and predictable. Some of the scenes are laughable instead of horrifying - the bed crushing apparatus looks very tacky when it comes down the second time, for example. Don't expect much from this "Madhouse".
*** Madhouse (1974) Jim Clark ~ Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry
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