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."
on 6 July 2014
THEATRE OF BLOOD  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] Vincent Price Has Reserved a Seat for You in the ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD! It’s Curtains for His Critics!
It's never been tougher to be a critic than in ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ one of the greatest horror comedies of all time. Vincent Price gives a career best performance as Edward Lionhart, a veteran Shakespearean actor who, when passed over for the coveted Critic's Circle award for Best Actor takes deadly revenge on the critics who snubbed him.
With one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled for a horror film including Dame Diana Rigg, Harry Andrews, Jack Hawkins and Arthur Lowe, ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ is an dementedly funny and deliciously macabre cult classic. A brilliant bizarre 1973 comedy-horror, ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ pitches somewhere between a Hammer Horror films and the Ealing Studios comedy classic ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets.’
Cast: Vincent Price, Dame Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Milo O'Shea, Eric Sykes, Madeline Smith, Diana Dors, Joan Hickson, Renée Asherson, Bunny Reed, Peter Thornton, Charles Sinnickson, Brigid Erin Bates, Tutte Lemkow, Stanley Bates, Eric Francis, Sally Gilmore, John Gilpin, Joyce Graeme, Jack Maguire, Declan Mulholland, Tony Calvin (uncredited) and Charles Gray (voice) (uncredited)
Director: Douglas Hickox
Producers: Gustave Berne, John Kohn, Sam Jaffe and Stanley Mann
Screenplay: Anthony Greville-Bell, Stanley Mann, John Kohn (idea) and William Shakespeare (plays) (uncredited)
Composer: Michael J. Lewis
Cinematography: Wolfgang Suschitzky
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 [Anamorphic]
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 104 mins
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Arrow Video / United Artists
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 1973 was a vintage year for horror, especially with Horror Classics as ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Don't Look Now’ and all undisputed classics. One film often over-looked by some more high-minded critics is the Vincent Price film ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ which has now been given the extra special edition treatment by leading UK indie label Arrow Video.
Vincent Price stars as Shakespearian actor Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, who, after a series of humiliating reviews from a group of critics, vows to take his revenge on them all, one by one. What follows is fantastic slice of British black comedy and a great mix of scares, squirms and laughs, as the critics are bumped off by a range of methods, all inspired, of course, by the works of Shakespeare, including King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and, in one particular highlight, Titus Andronicus.
The supporting cast is a veritable who's who of British acting talent, including Robert Morley, Michael Hordon, Arthur Lowe, Ian Hendry, Dame Diana Rigg, Madeline Smith and Eric Sykes, but this really is Vincent Price's film; indeed it was one of his personal favourites.
While classically trained, Vincent Price was all too often typecast in horror movies of varying quality, but here as Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, recites passages from Shakespeare before each murder, you see that he really was the real deal, with a talent often far above the material he was given. ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ should leave no-one in any doubt of Vincent Price's acting ability, even though it is within the confines of Vincent Price being the “ham” actor Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart.
Anthony Greville-Bell's screenplay strikes a great balance between the horror and comedy, with just the right amount of camp thrown in, while director Douglas Hickox [father of ‘Hellraiser III’ director Anthony Hickox] stages the deaths with some very inventive visuals. Right from the get go this film establishes an infectious tone in which makes it near impossible not to root for the killer. Also unlike an atypical horror film where frightening the viewer is the number one adjective. This film's goes against the grain with its tongue and cheek humour, which also helps lessen the blow on some of the more gruesome deaths. There are so many factors that make or break a film and in regards to ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ is it one of those rare occasions where everything just seems to fall in place. With that being said, it is not difficult to see how this film was Vincent Price's favourite film that he worked on.
If like me, you first saw this film at far too young an age on Television, then this is a great opportunity to re-visit the film. If you haven't seen it before, then please do check it out and you'll be treated to one of the best British Horror Films ever made. Arguably Vincent Price's finest single performance, certainly the one that called on all his varied talents as a comedian, aesthete, mellifluous speaker of verse, old-fashioned barnstormer and exponent of horror, is Douglas Hickox's classic black comedy ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ is the best of a string of horror pictures he made in Britain. If you have not seen this film I urge you to do so immediately! A splendid delight of macabre comedy at its best, this film stands as testament to why Vincent Price was truly one of the greatest artistic actors of his time. Because it is funny, shocking, innovative dark, and ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ is truly a horror film classic!
Blu-ray Video Quality – The 1080p master for ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ was produced by M-G-M and delivered by Hollywood Classics. The transfer is from a new 35mm interpositive and was done on a Spirit DataCine and overall this is a great transfer and this new Blu-ray transfer is about as good as the film is ever likely to look. The image is clean, with strong vibrant colours and very nice deep blacks. It is a little soft in places, but maintains a nice “filmic” look, and there's a nice lack of any apparent edge enhancement and definitely another great Arrow Video presentation. Because the 1080p HD master interpositive was from America and this is why when you see the start of the film you get the Title of the film as ‘THEATER OF BLOOD’ and Arrow Video could not re-master in the English spelling, despite this, it is still a great quality transfer. All work was completed by Todd-AO in Hollywood, California. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio was made from the restored mono optical soundtrack negative. The audio sounds very clean, clear and well balanced throughout and though the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Range wise things sound rather limited and it was a shame the mono track was not able to be turned into a stereo soundtrack, but despite this, the dialogue is very clear and always very audible, while the music is very nicely reproduced and again Arrow Video has come up trumps again with their professional outlook.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
High Definition Blu-ray 1080p presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by M-G-M.
Original uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio.
Optional English SDH subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of hearing.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith: First up, I can tell you that this is a total highlight for me, especially this particular brand new audio commentary from Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson, [aka ‘The League of Gentlemen’]. Anyone who has seen the ‘The League of Gentlemen’ BBC TV series, Steve Pemberton and Shearsmith's ‘Psychoville’ and ‘Inside Number 9,’ or Mark Gatiss's ‘History of Horror’ and ‘Horror Europa’ documentaries will know what huge horror fans all 4 members of the team are. The influence of films like this and from studios like Hammer Horror films and Amicus are clear in their work, and one thing that stands out on this track is the genuine love they have for the film ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD.’ The audio commentary turns out to be very informative, affectionate and is totally hilarious and very, very funny, and it's great to hear the gang back together again. Thank you, Arrow Video for including this track and please get them back for more, more, more!
Special Feature: A Priceless Potboiler: Victoria Price discusses ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ [11:46] Here we have a series of interviews, kicking off with ‘A Priceless Pot-boiler' featuring Vincent Price's daughter Victoria Price talks about her memories of the making of the film ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ and of her father's life at the time. In this interview with Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria Price says that she has seen ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ more than any of her father’s other films. Victoria Price talks about her father’s status as an Anglophile and his enjoyment of the production of the film owing to his love of Shakespeare and his enjoyment of working with the other cast members. Victoria Price also discusses her father’s love of verse and his superb ability to recite it. Victoria Price reflects on her father’s working relationship with Dame Diana Rigg, and the sequence in which the then-sixty year old Vincent Price had to carry Dame Diana Rigg! Victoria Price also discusses the film’s more grotesque aspects and its ability to ‘toe that line’ between camp humour, the grotesque and its pastiche of Shakespeare.
Special Feature: A Fearful Thespian: An interview with David Del Valle [10:42] Film historian David Del Valle examines the importance of ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ for Vincent Price’s career, in allowing him to play the roles he didn’t get to play on stage. Del Valle mentions the film’s original title, ‘Much Ado About Murder,’ and says that Vincent Price told him that “audiences do not like comedy in the title; they don’t like irony in the title.” ‘Theatre of Blood’ became Vincent Price’s favourite film because he was allowed to murder all of the critics who labelled him as a “ham” and according to David Del Valle the film shows “critics” to be pompous, narcissistic, self-serving idiots. Interestingly, David Del Valle compares Christopher Lee’s range of acting as very limited scope, but instead he feels that Vincent Price was not and real professional and this is highlighted in the film ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ and he argues, in terms of how many characters Vincent Price plays in this particular film, he shows off his acting talent to such a degree of professionalism.
Special Feature: Staged Reaction: An interview with star Madeleine Smith [9:21] According to this interview with Madeline Smith, Douglas Hickox saw Madeline Smith in BBC TV series ‘The Two Ronnies’ and asked to see her because he believed she was a blonde, whereas Madeline Smith had worn a wig in The Two Ronnies sketches. Madeline Smith talks about the director Douglas Hickox’s approach to direction, by saying, “he seemed to lack any humour and shouted a lot,” Madeline Smith recalls, especially as a lot of TV directors are knowing they are really up against time and a tiny budget, very little time to bring the film on budget, especially pointing out actors like Ian Hendry always disappearing and drinking too much. Madeline Smith also reflects on the burning of the theatre, which was a real theatre, which features in the climax of the film, and suspects that would not be allowed today, but they were allowed this time, because the theatre was due for demolition. Madeline Smith says that whilst making these types of films, the ‘ember films’ as she calls them, especially “the last of the Carry On films, and the last of the Hammer Horror films, the last of the independent films at that time, audiences were becoming increasingly more interested in television rather than going to the cinema.
Special Feature: A Harmony for Horror: An interview with composer Michael J. Lewis [17:37] Composer Michael J. Lewis a chance to talk about his work on the film. Michael J Lewis is a real character, and the years have certainly not dulled his memories or enthusiasm. Michael J. Lewis dresses a little bit like Robert Morley in the film and has more than a little of the theatrically camp about him. He says he didn't have any great interest in the project until he discovered it was a dark comedy whereupon he gave it his all. He is seated at the piano and plays excerpts from the score for us. I'd like to see more of him on another release sometime as I'm rather fond of his scores for films like ‘The Man Who Haunted Himself’ and ‘North Sea Hijack.’ Michael J. Lewis discusses his music for the film and he refers to the composer as “the tail end Charlie, and that we come in, clear up the mess, to fix what nobody else can fix.” Michael J. Lewis says that he and Douglas Hickox decided to use music as a counterpoint to the action, rather than underscoring the music. Michael J. Lewis plays some of the music from the film and shows us the original sheet music. He also reveals that Anthony Burgess wrote some lyrics to accompany the music for the film, and Dame Diana Rigg recorded these tracks as songs which were never released.
Theatrical Trailer  [1.33:1] [480i] [2:32] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD.’ This Original Trailer is a very funny Film Trailer for this Classic British Horror film.
BONUS: Beautiful Printed Reversible Limited Edition SteelBook packaging.
BONUS: Arrow’s Beautiful Printed Collector’s 30 page booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic Cleaver Patterson entitled “THE MAKING OF THE THEATRE OF BLOOD.” We also get a section entitled “ORIGINAL PRESS BOOK EXCERTS” and here you get to see a reproduction of original press book material, illustrated with original archive stills. And on page 27 you get the “ABOUT THE TRANSFER;” PRODUCTION CREDITS” and “SPECIAL THANKS.”
Finally, Douglas Hickox's ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ was Vincent Price's favourite film and it isn't difficult to see why, because it has a tremendous cast and the blending of totally brilliant British [tongue in cheek] humour. Horror is also very effective and it is also complimented by one of the very best soundtracks that I have heard created for a film of this calibre. Arrow Video's technical presentation of ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD’ is of high standards, set by the Arrow Video Company's other releases of brilliant horror cult classics, and the supplemental features are once again very good. But most impressive is that the film was lovingly restored for Blu-ray by Arrow Video and ‘THEATRE OF BLOOD,’ is a must-have for all Vincent Price aficionados fans like me, or anyone with a hankering for fine British Horror, combined with brilliant British comedy, especially from the early 1970s. It's really not that scary by today's standards, but it is certainly is a lot of brilliant fun. I did not see film when it was released in the UK cinemas, but now I am so proud to add this brilliant classic British Horror film to my ever increasing Vincent Price Blu-ray Collection and is a definite must have for anyone else who appreciates Vincent Price's brilliant professional acting career and I am a massive fan of ALL of Vincent Price's film. Also it's got one of the best trampoline-based swordfights that you will ever see. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom