The British theatre critics responsible for the Critic Circle award are
killed one by one, their murders somehow resembling the plays of
- George Maxwell (Michael Hordern) is stabbed to
death, on the ides of March, just like in Julius Cesar.
- Hector Snipe (Dennis Price) is speared to death,
& his body dragged behind a horse, just like in Troilus and
- Just like in Cymbeline, Horace Sprout
(Arthur Lowe) is beheaded at night, for his wife (Joan Hickson) to
wake up to his headless body.
- Trevor Dickman (Harry Andrews) is persuaded by a
lovely lady (Diana Rigg) to watch her rehearsal of The Merchant
of Venice, but in the theatre he finds out that audience
participation is requested ... & the play has been altered a
tad so the heart of his character/himself is cut out.
- Oliver Larding (Richard Coote) is invited to some
winetasting event ... which culminates in him being drowned in a
barrel of wine (just like in Richard III).
By now, one of the few surviving critics of the circle, Devlin (Ian
Hendry) figures that only one man can be responsilbe for the crimes,
Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) who committed suicide after the circle
refused him the Critics Circle Award, thing is he's dead (or is he
?), & the police inspector (Milo O'Shea) on the case of course refuses
to believe him, but at least he questins Lionheart's daughter (Diana Rigg
- beginning to smell the beef ?).
But that same day, at his fencing
school, Devlin is burtally attacked by a fencer who almost kills him -
& of course it's Lionheart, re-enacting Romeo and Juliet.
Lionel tells him how he, after an attempted suicide, was saved by bums,
whom he soon brought under his control & is now using for his evil
Lionheart lets Devlin go though, as eh has greater plans for him
The police meanwhile enhance the security for the critics of the
circle, but to littlle avail ...
- Jealous Solomon Psaltry (Jack Hawkins) is led to
believe that his wife (Diana Dors) is cheating on him big time,
& he murders her when he thinks he has caught her red-handed
... not that he himself has been actually killed in this one, but
at his age, he won't leave the prison alive ever again. (Murder
stems from Othello, where the jealous husband also murders
- Like Joan of Arc in Henry VI, so Chloe Moon (Coral Browne) is burnt alive, but this time not on a stake, but
using a hairdryer.
- For Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley), his little
pups are his babies, so it's only fitting to feed them to him
instead of his real kids in a loving hommage to Titus Andronicus.
& to make sure he dies from it, he is forcefed them.
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Now only Devlin is left, & Lionheart, withthe help of his daughter
who tells Devlin he wants to give himself up, Defvlin is lured to his own
private theatre, where Lionheart plans to restage the Critics Circle Award
ceremony, at the end of which Lionheart himself is to be receiving the
award, while Devlin is to be blinded by some devillish contraption. &
to celebrate it all, Lionheart sets his theatre on fire. But when the
police closes in (they have finally found the vital clue) Lionheart's bums
refuse to obey him, instead knock out his daughter & scram.
& Devlin is only just saved from his devillish blinding contraption.
carrying his daughter, has meanwhile made it to his theatre's roof &
hurls himself to his death - as Devlin puts it, terribly overacted.
is no denying it, this film sticks closely to the story - or rather the
concept - of 1971's The
Abominable Doctor Phibes, & as if to emphasize on the
similarities, even the lead villain, Vincent Price is the same.
though is not to say that Theatre of Blood is nothing more than a
derivative little movie, quite the contrary: Theatre of Blood is a film as
funny as black comedies about serial killers go, with all those wonderful
English actors in the role of murdered critics, & of course the idea
alone of casting Vincent Price, this wonderful ham, in the role of an
actor who avenges himself on critics who called him hammy, is simply a
stroke of genius.