Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Diana Rigg and Vincent Price
THEATER OF BLOOD (1973). Director: Douglas Hickox.

"A mumbling, incoherent boy who can barely grunt his way through a speech" -- Edward Lionheart.

"It's Lionheart all right. Only he wold have the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare." -- Devlin.

Actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) supposedly committed suicide after losing the coveted Critics' Circle Award, but it turns out that he is still alive and killing off those same critics -- with the help of his daughter, Edwina (Diana Rigg) -- in ways related to Shakespeare's plays. Theater of Blood followed Price's Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again and is similarly gruesome and playful -- not to mention revenge-motivated --  although perhaps not as much fun as the other pictures. Price is terrific as Lionheart, ably supported by Diana Rigg as his daughter. even if she isn't given much of a character to play. There are more than its share of over-the-top moments in this: a grotesque beheading sequence (from Cymberline) is an example of the blackest of black comedy; and the death of flamboyantly gay Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley), forced to devour his own "babies" (actually, beloved poodles) until he chokes on dog meat, as in Titus Andronicus, is unbelievably sadistic (not to mention rather homophobic). Speaking of gay stereotypes, the closeted Price has fun playing a campy hairdresser named "Butch" who fatally spit- curls critic Chloe Moon, played by Price's then-wife Coral Browne [The Legend of Lylah Clare], in a salon. Ian Hendry, Jack Hawkins [Land of the Pharaohs], Arthur Lowe, Michael Hordern, Robert Coote and Dennis Price [Your Past Is Showing] are all notable as assorted victims, as is Milo O'Shea as the baffled police inspector on the case, and Joan Hickson as the wife who wakes up with a headless corpse in her bed. One has to wonder: was Lionheart really as mediocre an actor as everyone says, or were the critics out to get him for one reason or another?

Verdict: One of the most diabolical and gruesome of revenge thrillers with many darkly amusing moments. *** out of 4.


angelman66 said...

Oh wow, this is a treat!! Can't wait to see this one again, it is such fun for film and theater aficionados like us! This is the last great role for Vincent Price, who so gleefully plunged into the grand guignol after being a second lead in prestige pictures during the 30s and 40s and 50s. His horror films made him an icon. All of them featured his own brand of campy dark humor, but Theater of Blood is his crowning glory.

Thanks for reminding us about this now-little-known Vincent Price classic!

William said...

My pleasure -- it's a very entertaining movie that must have been written by someone who got one too many bad reviews! Price may not have sound up with the career he wanted, but his horror films made him "b.o" and a major star when he was not a young man. Occasionally he could even downplay the camp in certain roles, but he's very amusing in "Theater."