Director: Douglas Hickcox
Writer: Anthony Greville-Bell
Starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Milo O’Shea
Favorite Quote: “Alive and triumphant. And you thought me slain? Lionheart is immortal! He can never be destroyed, never!”
Well here it is, my friends. Quite possibly the greatest Vincent Price film…ever. Better than Monster Club, yes I say. Better than Scream and Scream Again, most certainly. Better than the Abominable Dr. Phibes? Yes, but just by a tiny bit I admit. This film has a stellar cast and thankfully for you, friends, it is not another Amicus anthology film. Plus to add to how great that cast is you have the incredibly beautiful and talented Diana Rigg, mostly known for her work in the Avengers as Mrs. Emma Peel.
The film begins with a wonderful main theme composed by Michael J. Lewis, a haunting score matched with some of the earliest filmed works based on the Immortal words of the bard, William Shakespeare. Theater of Blood’s tale is that of revenge for those that make their living in the most reviled line of work known to mankind…the Thespian. Vincent Price is one Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, mocked by the leading newspaper critics of his day and driven to an assumed suicide in front of them when he is not awarded the Critic’s Circle Award for Best Actor after his performances in Shakespeare’s works at the end of the season. However as we quickly learn, Lionheart is far from deceased and he has decided that it is time for his return to the stage…of sorts…and his best performances from his past (At least in his mind) will be used to help him gain revenge on those critics who he feels robbed him two years ago. The plays?
1. Julius Cesare
2. Troilus and Cressida
3. The Merchant of Venice
4. Richard the III
6. Titus Adronicus
8. Joan of Arc
9. Romeo and Juliet (Sort of, Hendry and Price cross blades much as Mercutio and Tybalt do.)
10. King Lear
The way Edward dispatches of the critics is usually a mixture of dark humor and to be quite frank, very nasty ways to die. It doesn’t take long for Peregrine Devlin (Hendry) to put together a theory that perhaps Lionheart didn’t truly shuffle off his mortal coil as he watches his fellow critics fall one by one. At first Devlin and the police lead by Inspector Boot (O’Shea) think that perhaps Edwina (Riggs) is possibly responsible, doing the heinous deeds in memory of her father. Especially when at the funeral of the first critic, Devlin spots her mourning at her father’s rather elaborate tombstone. When the critic recognizes her she rather coldly replies, “Well…the brilliant Peregrin Devlin. Wielder of the brutal avarism, master of the killing phrase, my father’s murderer.” While the rest of the critics are less than sympathetic and as another review has stated, they seem to represent the seven deadly sins, Devlin at least comes off being someone likable. In that same scene with Edwina he explains the reason he was so harsh on her father was that he refused to do anything other than works by Shakespeare, he felt he was goading the actor into taking on roles of the 20th century. Perhaps he should have just actually said that to the actor?
Theater of Blood contains a massive amount of cheese to be sure but it is wonderfully entertaining none the less. I mentioned before the score of the movie, it really works well and doing a little research I found that La La Land Records has it on sale, a new pressing, for only 14.98. I’m going to have to add that one to my film score collection. This film has an excellent cast of British actors with Hendry, Riggs, O’Shea, and of course Price really elevating what should be a mere B-picture. One of the film critics by the way that Price wants vengeance on, Miss Chloe Moon (Brown), ended up being Price’s third and last wife. If you found yourself enjoying the Abominable Dr. Phibes then I promise you will love Theater of Blood as much as I do. It heartily earns its five pumpkins out of five rating…I’m not just saying that because I’m scared Vincent Price might not actually be deceased and will slay me for a poor rating…really.