Theatre of Blood – 1972

Director Douglas Hickox
Screenplay Anthony Greville-Bell
Starring Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Robert Coote, Michael Hordern, Robert Morley, Coral Browne, Jack Hawkins, Milo O’Shea

“Yes. A remarkable performance. He was overacting as usual, but he knew how to make an exit.”

Theatre of Blood is one of those films where the critic gets what is coming to them. They are shown, even more than usual, to be one voice that shouldn’t matter. In the early 1970’s more than most time in history, the critic held court over the lives of artists.

Edward Lionheart (Price) is presumed deceased at the start of the story. Happening on the eve of the Theatre Critics Guild award, Lionheart reads the “…to be or not to be…” soliloquy from Shakespeare, then jumps to his presumed death into the Thames River. Now, the critics are all dying, one by one, to the theme of Shakespeare stories.

Never having been a fan of Vincent Price, I nonetheless accepted that his films had to be at least a little creepy. He seemed to be in on the joke that he had the corner on cheese, still, we had to withstand the cheese.

This time, with the help of Shakespeare, the dramatic prose adds to the unique nature of the deaths. There is a curiosity to which method will be deployed with the next dispatch. Less so on how much blathering Price will bestow the captive audience.

Still, the story is entertaining in the way in which those who “do not” are perceived by those “who do” present themselves to the world as on the stage. The list of actors involved is entertaining enough. The cast includes two of the most memorable sets of eyebrows in the latter 20th Century, Miles O’Shea as an investigator and Robert Morley as an effete, buffoonish and dog loving critic.

The best parts of the film are former Avengers Diana Rigg and Ian Hendry. They have several memorable exchanges, some with Price, some with each other, and Hendry with a quote to end the film that makes the entire thing worth watching. In this way, the critic and the average viewer can agree.

This film is one of the better Price performances. If you want to see him for what made him famous enough to be on Thriller, start with this.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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