One of the blackest black comedies I've ever seen. Vincent Price is characteristically OTT as the terrible Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart, and Diana Rigg gives a touching performance as his fanatically devoted daughter Edwina. Together they cook up a plan (along with a load of old meths drinkers- and why not) to slaughter the critics who panned him during his lifetime (did I mention he'd faked his death?)
The cold hearted critics are played by a roll call of Great British Character Actors- Harry Andrews, Arthur Lowe, Coral Browne, Ian Hendry, Michael Hordern, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Dennis Price and Robert Coote. Watching Price and his accomplices gleefully butcher them in bizarre Shakespeare-derived ways is great macabre fun. You could say the film's not much more than a string of gruesome deaths, and you'd be right. It is a bit lacking in plot and it's best viewed as a sequence of terrific set pieces.
Oddly, it seems as if the revelation of Edwina's involvement in her father's scheme is meant to be a surprise, so Diana Rigg spends most of the film wearing a false moustache and doing a deep voice. But that's nothing compared to seeing Vincent Price as a gay afro-headed hairdresser called Butch. Cinema doesn't get much more bizarre. Although the DVD's a bit cheap (a wonky trailer's the only special feature), it's still highly recommended. It's even got Diana Dors in it.
Price decided to ham it up for the Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rides again. Riding on a tide, he took up this high camp film, and some of England's biggest name actors came out to play his victims. In Phibes style, you have a series of set victims - in this case, Stage critics - and the much scorned Shakespearian Actor Edward Lionheart extracting his revenge by killing his victims through acting out a scene from Shakespeare's plays. Deliciously witty Diana Rigg is there to support Price as his doting, darling daughter Edwina, who mourns her father's recent death, and hisses at the critics who refused to honour his talent while he was alive.
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.
on 6 March 2007
Vincent Price puts in a bravura performance as Edward Lionheart, a frustrated thesp, who is shamefully passed over by the critics for the 'Actor of the Year' award he so richly deserves or so he thinks! He exacts his revenge on the critics who variously describe his work as 'Lacking in originality' and 'Hammy' by 'dispatching' members of the critics circle using the plots of his most recent tour of Shakespeare as his inspiration.
This film is a real treat for fans of Vincent Price, who gives a 'highly theatrical' (in other words CAMP) and twisted performance as the deluded Lionheart. Price's comic timing is superb and the subject matter of the actor's relationship with the critics is underlined by a strong supporting cast of heavyweight actors who appear in the film. The plot is both absurd and tongue-in-cheek but deliberately so. As another critic meets his untimely demise by drowning in a vat of wine (from Richard III) Lionheart says sarcastically, 'I wonder if he'll travel well!'
on 17 March 2004
What can I say? - you either love him or loathe him (surely there's no-one who's undecided on the Master?)
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!
on 30 April 2015
I waited till 2015 to get properly aquainted with Vincent Price and now I'm a bona fide fan of the man's work. Having already gone through most of his Poe works and the Phibes films; "Theatre of Blood" is perhaps the most wickedly entertaining of them all.
Allegedly Price's own favorite; "Theatre of Blood" blends horror and black comedy extremely well in a tale of a Shakespearean actor who exacts bloody revenge on his critics who he feels have robbed him of deserved recocnition for his work. And what bloody deaths this actor can conjure up!
Marvelously funny, extremely bloody and quite gory; "Theatre of Death" has everything a Price fan (and a general horror/comedy enthusiast) could want. Price is priceless (too obvious :) ) in all manner of disguises and he excels in his delivery of Shakespeare literature, Rigg is just lovely to look at and Hendry is splendid as are all supporting players here. Simply a great cast that's willing and game for bloody mayhem.
The Arrow blu-ray is really good. I've noticed some professional reviewers criticizing the image quality but I was pleased with it. The extras are interesting; this isn't a fully loaded edition as some Arrow titles but what's here is good. I always enjoy listening to Price's daughter relaying stories about her father and film historian David Del Valle gives good insight as well. Haven't gone through the commentary yet.
on 17 July 2007
Along with the fabulous casting, and the career defining performance from the greatest horror (and comic horror) actor of all, the best thing about this film is the story itself, what a corker! But I would still love to be told whose idea this actually was, did it get a theatre run first, as these sort of films often did, or was it taken from a short story or novel? If it's an original idea from the screenwriter, then someone from BAFTA ought to recommend they be given a special award, however belated, for coming up with one of the greatest ideas for a film there ever was. The whole structure, though, was very firmly based upon the slightly earlier Price vehicle, The Abominable Dr. Phibes. In fact it is slavish to this film's framework, but nevertheless it helped produce a much better realised film here, indeed a classic horror comic, perhaps the best ever made.
on 12 November 2013
Though its transference to DVD leaves much to be desired, with washed-out colours and patchy sound, Vincent Price's Theatre of Blood is still a funny, gripping thriller, elevated by the master. When you hear the premise - disgruntled actor (Price) serially murders his critics - it sounds like pure camp; fun, but devoid of pathos. What's truly extraordinary about the film is that, at times, Price actually brings real drama and tension to it. His Edward Lionheart is not just a pantomime villain but a wounded soul, deceived by an undernourished ego. He's also, of course, very amusing; the comedy and melodrama offset the goriest moments.
Aided by a gang of squatters, Lionheart, thought to be dead, plots revenge against the Critic's Circle, who denied him an award then mocked him when he reckoned with them. A passionate Shakespearean, Lionheart's murders are modelled on the Bard's. One critic is led to a trap and butchered by assassins, like Julius Caesar. These critics include Robert Morley as a dog-loving dandy, Coral Browne (who'd later become Price's third and last wife) as an ageing bitch-about-town, and Ian Hendry at the forefront as a kind of protagonist, though this is Price's show. The Avengers' Diana Rigg also shows up, as Lionheart's daughter.
Price must have relished the opportunity to dress up and perform as some of Shakespeare's most famous characters. He was a real actor, who'd studied fine arts and worked with Orson Welles. Though I'm sure he would have owned the stage I'm glad that horror films found him; he gave a lot to the genre, even if the "stars" that followed were mostly screaming slasher queens. Here he strikes a perfect balance between camp and menace. I was surprised by how moving the scene of his critical humiliation is, as he strides across a veranda reciting Hamlet. A scene of him feigning a tryst with one critic's wife, on the other hand, belongs to comedy, and he handles it like a pro.
As aforesaid, this is Price's show. The script almost feels engineered to background his supporting players. The most notable among them is Morley, who's like a cross between Christopher Biggins and an old money earl. Rigg, however, is perfectly good as Lionheart's daughter, and contributes to the pathos of his humiliation. Hendry's a bit of a no-trick pony, but to be fair his character's not deep. He vaguely fills the role of hero, though he's not particularly likeable. I can't really tell if that's his fault or the script's.
Without giving too much away, my favourite murders were those taken from Henry VI and Titus Andronicus. This is quite a gory film, considering its date and comic overtones. The Shakespeare motif reminds me of a comment Robert Barnard made about Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders, in which a killer targets those with alliterative names: "A total success - but thank God she didn't try taking it through to Z."
In this gruesome but stylish and witty black comedy, Vincent Price stars as Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart, who finds yet another bad review to be one too many. Faced with a roomful of his most severe critics pouring scorn and ridicule over his hammy performances, and denied the recognition he craves, the heartbroken actor throws himself over the balcony into the river.
Presumed dead, the vengeful Lionheart now has the perfect cover as he embarks on a series of grisly executions inspired by the works of Shakespeare. Joined by his loyal daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) and the band of meths-swilling down-and-outs who saved him, I couldn't help but cheer him on as critic after critic is bumped off in gloriously gory fashion, with methods including drowning, stabbing, beheading and electrocution, with each death preceeded by a few lines of the Bard's writing, delivered with relish by the demented Lionheart.
Members of the excellent cast threatened with the chop include Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Jack Hawkins, Coral Browne, Ian Hendry and Dennis Price. Although difficult to pick one, my favourite "death" would have to be that of the plump foppish dandy, Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley) with his "babies" in the form of matching pet poodles.
Vincent Price is a true horror legend, seamlessly switching between sinister black comedy and creepy unsettling menace, a superb acting tour de force.
The film appears to be in need of remastering, and is a bit faded in places. The sound is also a bit on the low side. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.
The soundtrack languages are: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian.
The subtitle languages are: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish.
on 24 November 2006
Warning- Contains spoilers
This is a wonderful Horror revenge comedy in the same vein, but better than, the two Phibes films. Price plays Edward Lionheart, an actor who is driven to suicide by the critics reviews of his performances. He throws himself from the balcony clutching the Best Actor award he thought he deserved.
But did he die? The critics start to be murdered in the manner of the deaths in the Shakespeare plays, and despite the efforts of a couple of incompetant cops(Milo'O'Shea and Eric Sykes), the death toll continues to mount up.
Horace Sprout(Arthur Lowe) literally loses his head, Trevor Dickman(Harry Andrews) kindly donates a pound of flesh, Merideth Merridew(Robert Morely,wonderfully camp) is forcefed his beloved babies(poodles)baked in a pie. Other victims include Dennis Price, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins,
Michael Hordern and Price's future wife Corale Browne.
This is both very funny, with Price having a whale of a time playing various Shakespearian characters to exact his revenge, and also very gory for a film of that period. There is also one wonderful scene where Lionheart comes to on the muddy banks of the Thames clutching the award and surrounded by assorted Meths drinkers.
This is a great movie, and I highly recommend it for lovers of both British Horror films and Horror films in general.
This is a wonderful movie. Vincent Price plays the brilliant but one dimensional Shakesperian actor Edward Lionheart. Lionheart's desire to perform in nothing but Shakespear earns him some pretty 'sour' and mocking reviews over the years from film critics. Subsequently ignored each year for the award of best actor because of this by these said critics, Lionheart decides to murder each one of them to get his revenge. To add to the sweetness of his revenge, Lionheart murders each one by replicating the death scenes from various shakesperian plays. Price is at his brooding, menacing and unnervingly calm best in this film and, despite the black comedy element to the film, there are moments which make you feel decidedly uncomfortable. As others have said, this is not a particularly good transfer to DVD and there are no extra's of note either but if you love 70's horror and or Vincent Price you should buy this film.