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Vincent Price stars as the hammy, self-important and thoroughly psychotic Edward Lionheart, a veteran thespian who refuses to play anything other than Shakespeare. Piqued by a circle of critics, whom he feels were disrespectful in their notices and denied him his rightful Best Actor of the Year Award, he decides to murder them one by one in parodies of some of Shakespeare's grislier scenes. He's aided by his daughter Edwina (played by Diana Rigg, often in fake moustache and male drag) and a ghoulish company of dosshouse zombies.
Some of the murders are quite extraordinarily gruesome, despite their camp, comedic overtones. Arthur Lowe's henpecked critic has his head sawn off while asleep (in a parody of Cymbeline) and Robert Morley's plumply effete dandy is force-fed a pie made from his beloved poodles, choking him to death (cf Titus Andronicus). Jack Hawkins and Michael Horden also meet unpleasant ends. Theatre of Blood is a genuine and underrated oddity in the annals of British cinema and especially uncomfortable for those who happen to be in the reviewing trade.
On the DVD: Theatre of Blood on disc is not a triumph of digital enhancement, with sound blemishes unamended and hazy, faded visuals in places. The only extra is the original trailer. --David Stubbs
Price's all-star victims include his real-life wife, Coral Browne, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley (especially funny twist on the tale!), Denis Price and Diana Dors and more. Hot on the trail of the killer, with Hendry in tow, are Inspector Boot (Milo O'Shea) and Sergeant Dogge (Eric Sykes), but Price and his "helper" are one step ahead.
It's Price at his wickedly delightful best. And great to see the funny takes of the Bards tales being used as a murder medium. Douglas Hickox (Zulu Dawn, Sitting Target), ably orchestrated the marvellously talent crew of actors through this black humour marathon.
Of my friends, family and acquaintances I am alone in loving Vincent Price. And, believe me, this is the pinnacle of his acting career.
It's really not just him- everything from the inventive storyline, witty script, creative directing (whatever happened to Douglas Hickox?) to the various excellent supporting actors, this film is the best you'll get- in the genre....
Other reviewers have given this the once over & done a good job so I'll let you read those but there are also various sub themes as well; is it not ironic that Price's melodramatic acting is the central theme here? And your like or dislike of what's before you could be pivotal to your survival.....
The DVD itself is disappointing- there's an awful trailer and not much else; but IS there anything they could have dredged up? An interview or documentary perhaps?
Also- I'm finding that a lot of these DVD releases have awful sound quality. Ho hum.
Even so- this is pretty much my favorite film in this category and if you've got this far BUY IT!!
P.s: the locations (London) are also very effective- deserted post-industrial landscapes). Most of these will now been bulldozed or commercialised so enjoy!