Year: 1974
Director: Jim Clark
Writers: Ken Levison, Greg Morrisson, and Robert Quarry
Music: Douglas Gamley
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, and Linda Hayden. Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone receive billing as well but they are merely featured in clips from previous American International Pictures.

Favorite Quote: “Everybody thinks I’m dead, including myself.”

First of all before I begin with the review of Madhouse proper I would like to say that I can’t believe I fell for the Retroist’s trick like this…again. He invited me over to his Retro Mansion for a friendly game of Mr. Do! and leaves me this note:

“Vic, glad you could make it! I had to step out and fetch some things at the store, I’ve left you some beef jerky in the basement.”

With visions of dried and salted beef dancing in my head I headed downstairs but no sooner did I open the basement door and step inside…when the door slammed shut behind me and I was treated to the Retroist’s maniacal laughter. In the room with me was this computer and a large stack of films to review for the month of October. But to be fair there is a rather large supply of beef jerky down here…so I guess it’ll work out okay.

Madhouse was the last film made by Vincent Price for the AIP studios, he had appeared in various films for the studio since the 1960s and most of them are shown as clips throughout this film, most of them his work in the Edgar Allen Poe film adaptations.

The plot of Madhouse revolves around a horror actor named Paul Toombes (Price) who is most famous for his portrayal of an Abominable Dr. Phibes like character called Dr. Death, and at the beginning of the film we are introduced to the main cast of the picture at a Hollywood party celebrating the latest Dr. Death release. There is Toombes’ best friend and fellow co-creator Herbert Flay (Cushing) who was once an actor but gave up the life after realizing he could be paid better at writing the films. We also meet a former love interest of Toombes, Faye Carstairs Flay (Corri), who is most certainly jealous of Toombes rising star and as we learn betrothal to his new leading lady. And lastly we meet Oliver Quayle (Quarry) a producer of ‘artsy’ adult films, some of those films we learn from the smug producer just happen to have starred Toombes new fiance, a fact that causes the actor to succumb to a fit of rage that he verbally takes out on his fiance. Distraught and rightly so she retreats from the party and heads upstairs to her bedroom. As the party continues downstairs, Toombes wrestles with feelings of guilt over his actions…but does he really? For we see someone dressed as his character of Dr. Death sneak into his fiance’s bedroom and dispatch her ruthlessly…it’s been said you sometimes have to do things to get ahead in Hollywood but in this case it’s literal as she is decapitated.

[Via] Sideshow Carny

The film beings proper many years after the scandal at that Hollywood party of Toombes and while he ended up in an asylum, he was merely a suspect in the murder case but never convicted. He is contacted by his good friend Flay and learns that he has an opportunity to be an actor once again if he will play the part of Dr. Death not in films but this time for a TV series. A TV series that just happens to be produced by Quayle. But there is a problem…since Toombes release murders begin anew and it seems that all clues point to the aging actor. Can he find the culprit behind all of the bloodshed before it’s too late…or does he already know the killer he seeks?

I’ll end the minor spoilers there as this all happens within the first minutes of the film. To be brutally honest this is not that great of a film. It’s got a stellar cast and they do give it their best shot, it’s just that the story has plot holes you can drive a semi truck through and a third act that is almost laughably nonsensical. Still this is a film that features the actors who brought to life such characters as Dr. Phibes, Van Helsing, and Count Yorga and at the very least will give you an hour of half of something to watch to help get in the Halloween spirit. It is currently available on Netflix streaming.

So for Madhouse I bestow three pumpkins out of five!
flaming pumpkinflaming pumpkinflaming pumpkin


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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3 thoughts on “Madhouse

  1. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Methinks it hurts so good, Vic, heading down to that movie dungeon come Halloween time.
    The jerky sounds delish but…no Mr. Do cabinet?

    You’ll have to wait 31 days for a game. Now, that *is* torture.

    I do love me some Vincent Price for seasonal chills. And the trailer revels in its main actor’s roster.
    I plan to enjoy some AIP and Amicus anthologies this year.
    I’ll add this one to the bloodstained list.

  2. Daniel, I hope I can live up to your and Atari’s kind praises.

    Atari, speaking of you need to share your list of movies you have planned to watch this season, my friend! :)

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