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Theatre of Blood
Theater des Grauens

UK 1973
produced by
John Kohn, Stanley Mann, Gustave Berne (executive), Sam Jaffe for Harbor Productions/United Artists
directed by Douglas Hickox
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, Eric Sykes, Diana Dors, Madeline Smith, Joan Hickson, Renée Asherson, Bunny Reed, Peter Thornton, Charles Sinnickson, Brigid Erin Bates
written by Anthony Greville-Bell, music by Michael J.Lewis, special effects by John Stearns, cinematography by Wolfgang Suschitzky

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The British theatre critics responsible for the Critic Circle award are killed one by one, their murders somehow resembling the plays of Shakespeare:

  • 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 Cressida.
  • 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 plans.

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 his wife.)
  • 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.

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.

Lionheart, carrying his daughter, has meanwhile made it to his theatre's roof & hurls himself to his death - as Devlin puts it, terribly overacted.

 

There 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.

That 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.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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