Monday, 6 October 2014

Theatre Of Blood (1973)

Vincent Price stars as a wronged Shakespearean actor, named Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, in this comedic horror that brilliantly heaps the macabre upon the macabre with every subsequent sequence, and also allows Price to portray a number of roles from many of those classic Shakespeare plays.

It all starts with the death of a critic, a single murder that the police investigate with little idea of the motive. When other critics start to die, however, it quickly becomes clear that all of the people have something in common. They all have their own little clique, and they've all greatly upset (to say the least) an actor they thought had died some time ago. But Lionheart isn't dead, and his flair for the theatrical means that those critics are going to help him realise perhaps his greatest repertory season yet.

Directed by Douglas Hickox, Theatre Of Blood benefits enormously from the fun script by Anthony Greville-Bell and the magnificence of such a great ensemble cast. That's not to take anything away from Hickox, who shows such great judgment in the way he treats the material, leading viewers deeper and deeper into territory that becomes surprisingly unpleasant in tone while also making it all just bearable enough to amuse and horrify in equal measure.

Price is the star of the show, and oh how he shines. He gets to recite many famous lines, dress up as a variety of characters, and simply revel in the inspired lunacy of his character in a way that's infectious whenever he appears onscreen. Diana Rigg is lovely and suspicious in the role of his daughter, a woman who resents all those who she thinks drove her father to his death. And Milo O'Shea and Eric Sykes are both enjoyable enough as two of the main police officers trying to stop more brutal murders on their patch. But it's in the casting of the critics that the film gains more bonus points. Michael Hordern, Robert Morley, Arthur Lowe, Coral Browne, Jack Hawkins, Dennis Price, Harry Andrews, Robert Coote and Ian Hendry all prove to be great entertainment, portraying a bunch of smug, nasty critics who don't seem entirely undeserving of their fates. Hendry is the man who pieces everything together, and helps the police to see just what's going on, but everyone gets at least one great scene apiece.

Price considered this film a personal favourite and it's not hard to see why. He always wanted to stretch his wings a bit more, but was so solidly typecast in the prime of his career that it wasn't to be. This film allowed him to stay within the genre that had won him such a loyal army of fans, while also letting him deliver so many great speeches that he would otherwise not had the chance to perform onscreen. It's a win win situation for the star and his fans, making this a film that you won't want to miss.


This is the disc I recommend purchasing -

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