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Theater of Blood (1973)

A Shakespearean actor takes poetic revenge on the critics who denied him recognition.


Douglas Hickox


Anthony Greville-Bell (screenplay), Stanley Mann (idea) | 1 more credit »

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2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vincent Price ... Edward Lionheart
Diana Rigg ... Edwina Lionheart
Ian Hendry ... Peregrine Devlin
Harry Andrews ... Trevor Dickman
Coral Browne ... Chloe Moon
Robert Coote ... Oliver Larding
Jack Hawkins ... Solomon Psaltery
Michael Hordern ... George Maxwell
Arthur Lowe ... Horace Sprout
Robert Morley ... Meredith Merridew
Dennis Price ... Hector Snipe
Milo O'Shea ... Inspector Boot
Eric Sykes ... Sergeant Dogge
Madeline Smith ... Rosemary
Diana Dors ... Maisie Psaltery


Theatre of Blood (1973) Director: Desmond Hickox Vincent Price plays Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, a matinèe favourite Shakespearean actor of the old school, finding difficulty coping with new theatre roles, who wreaks revenge on on the theatre critics who give their annual Guild's "Best Actor" award to a new, and upcoming actor rather than him. Incensed by their choice, he does this in the most ingenious and disturbing ways by imitating death scenes taken from his final repertoire of his beloved, bard's tales. Vincent Price is well supported by Diana Rigg, as his dutiful daughter Edwina, and a bevy of the cream of British character actors, including; Ian Hendry, Michael Hordern, Dennis Price, Robert Morley and Arthur Lowe. Written by Brian Carruthers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He gave his critics a bloody and violent taste of their own medicine! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Horror


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

5 April 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Theatre of Blood See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White (title sequence)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Over six gallons of fake blood were used to produce the eight ghastly murders. See more »


When Peregrine Devlin arrives at the fencing school you see him attach a cable to the back of his fencing kit (which would signal a hit with a buzzer), yet when the other fencer reveals himself to be Edward Lionheart and they start fencing the cable is no longer attached to Devlin's back. See more »


[first lines]
George Maxwell: That damn editor's cut the best part of my review!
Mrs. Maxwell: So I noticed, dear. You ought to have a chat with him.
George Maxwell: My most provocative comment, too, where I said the leading lady attacked her role with both hands and strangled it to death.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Early UK TV showings and video releases featured a U.S print which used the American spelling of 'Theater of Blood' during the opening credits. The UK MGM DVD uses the British title of 'Theatre of Blood'. See more »


Features Othello (1922) See more »

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User Reviews

Murder Outs
4 July 2002 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

A very stylish comedy/thriller along the lines of "The Avengers," a popular TV series at the time. Vincent Price is an actor who has survived a suicide attempt and secretly takes revenge on half a dozen critics who savaged his performances in various plays of Shakespeare. With the aid of his daughter, Diana Rigg (who was Emma Peel in "The Avengers" and one of the mean daughters in Olivier's TV production of "King Lear"), seeks out his critics and offs them in ways appropriately derived from WS. It's murder allright. And WS could be very imaginative when it comes to that. I once wrote out a list of the violent acts that take place in "Titus Andronicus," the closest WS ever came to Grand Guignol, and it was as long and even more gruesome than a similar list I drew up for "Dirty Harry." "Titus" has one of the funniest stage directions I've ever seen -- "Enter messenger with hands." It doesn't mean the messenger HAS hands; it means the messenger is carrying a pair of someone else's amputated hands! At that, they had to tame the Bard down for this movie. Instead of Queen Tamara having to eat her own children baked in a pie, the gay critic played by Robert Morley is force fed (to death!) a Cornish pasty made from his two beloved poodles.

Back to this movie, though. What a cast! Vincent Price plays it for laughs, disguised as a gay hairdresser, a Scottish masseur, a French chef, and so forth. His half-hearted, mostly losing struggle with the various accents is enough to break anyone up. The others don't have as much screen time but they make the most of it -- Harry Andrews, Dennis Price, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Coral Browne, Milo O'Shea. Diana Rigg is a sight to see, I should mention. Every movement is like flowing silk. Her figure is unimpeachable and her zygomatic arches should be left to the British Museum.

It's a well-done movie from start to finish. Vincent Price gets to do a lot of Shakespeare. He's no Olivier or Branaugh, but it's okay because the performance ought NOT to be very good. The cinematography is glossy and polished, the score unobtrusive. The actual look of the film is appealing -- the British now how to dress in a way that most Americans don't (but many urban Canadians do). And the writer should get some sort of special award himself. The bits in between the murders are almost as amusing as the story itself. We get to hear snippets of the reviews that torpedoed Price's career. One of them goes something like, "I was fortunate enough to fall asleep at the beginning of Lionheart's performance and awoke much refreshed, not having had to listen to this aging matinee idol's rantings and posturings." (Was the writer ripping off John Simon?) The story line is made clear, whether or not the viewer knows any of the plays. The correlations with the plays are made simply enough for an average reviewer to understand and appreciate the similarities. And the murders themselves are funny -- excuse me. One critic gets drowned in a butt of malmsy -- a barrel of wine -- and the police establish the exact vintage afterward.

I don't want to imply that this movie is a barrel of laughs. There is some physical comedy, including one of the sword fights from Romeo and Juliet, but most of the humor lies less in slapstick and jumping around than in situations and dialogue. Price and his assistant dressed in hospital scrubs, wearing surgical gloves, and setting a bedroom up as an operating room in order to saw off some guy's head. The parody is played straight. You will probably not double over with laughter but I found myself laughing aloud during some scenes. To give you some perspective, I didn't find "The Abominable Doctor Phibes" so hot. I recommend this flick. It is, as I say, stylish in every respect.

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