|Review||Theatre of Blood (1973)||Director||Douglas Hickox|
|Starring||Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley and Milo O’Shea|
“Only Lionheart would have the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare” – Peregrine Devlin
Edward Lionheart (Price) is a classically trained actor who specializes in Shakespeare. Although quite good Lionheart has always been snubbed by critics and he goes overboard when they deny him an award he feels entitled to and plunges into the Thames.
Surviving the ordeal Lionheart sets about snuffing out his critics in grisly ways and is aided by a host of homeless tramps, drunks and his daughter (Rigg). One of the critics in danger, Peregrine Devlin (Hendry), catches on that Lionheart is alive but the deranged actor will not be deterred until all of his tormentors are dead.
If ever there was a horror comedy laced with pitch black humour and surprisingly much gore then this is it. Deliciously wicked, fairly suspenseful and outrageously funny; “Theatre of Blood” is a one of a kind entry in the horror genre in that it assembles extremely talented thespians who do not shy away from gross imagery, gratuitous violence and general bad taste. But it’s all so competently and “tastefully” executed.
Price is an old hat when it comes to this kind of horror but the likes of Rigg, Hendry, Andrews, Browne, Hawkins and Morley are more or less debutants and it’s fun to see them at work here (and some reportedly had more than a few reservations about their roles but ultimately wanted to be part of such an ensemble). The script is razor sharp and beautifully blends classic Shakespeare with the ongoing mayhem as Lionheart recreates famous death scenes from the master’s plays for the demise of his critics. And these death scenes aren’t for the squeamish as they include; beheading, electrocution, heart removal and force feeding to name a few.
The film is wonderfully lensed by Wolfgang Suschitzky (“Get Carter”, 71) and creates a throwback and quite mystifying London but very contemporary all the same. The numerous death scenes are shot with plenty of dreary atmosphere which complement well Price’s over the top acting and line delivery. The music score by Michael J. Lewis is also of note as it has a wonderful main theme which exudes class.
Price is absolutely delightful as the demented Lionheart who really comes alive when tormenting his tormentors. Although he never did a Shakespeare play one can easily picture Price performing one of the writer’s famous characters but the legendary actor didn’t hit his stride until horror roles came his way. Renowned for great delivery of lines; it kinda’ feels like Price has come full circle here with a great horror role which is mostly made up of famous lines by Shakespeare. Price has great fun with it and the story goes that “Theatre of Blood” was his favourite movie of his own. Rigg equips herself well in a weird role which has her in drag for the most part and Hendry is very convincing. All others overact wonderfully as the snobbish critics and Milo O’Shea has a few choice moments as the inspector in charge.