Theatre Of Blood (1973) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry
Director: Douglas Hickox

Accompanied by a female assistant, Vincent Price plays a presumed-dead man with a grudge against nine transgressors, each of whom he begins to despatch in bizarre, literature-inspired death traps.

No, it’s not The Abominable Dr Phibes, but it’s not a million miles away from it.

Okay, now thematically Theatre Of Blood is almost a complete retread of the previous outing (only this time substituting The Bible for Shakespeare) but my god, does it work brilliantly.

After being deliberately humiliated at a coveted awards ceremony, Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) commits suicide by diving into the Thames from a window in front of the assembled critics who have mocked him.

Presumed dead, he actually survived after being found by a group of derelicts and begins to enact a suitably dramatic revenge, elaborately murdering each critic on turn with a death based on one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Aided by his (often-disguised) daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), Lionheart’s campaign of terror eventually alerts the authorities that rumours of his death had been exaggerated, but can they stop him before his revenge is complete?

You can’t really go wrong with a film that allows Vincent Price to go Full Vincent Price, but to also let him go nuts reciting The Bard over elaborate death traps? Yes, please.

The concept of his troupe of insane derelict minions is wonderful, whether they’re just recreating the murder of Julius Caesar or in full costume and acting out parts as they often do, they’re beautifully deranged at all times and quite, quite terrifying. Casting the homeless as drunken lunatics in the service of evil probably wouldn’t fly these days, but there’s no denying its effectiveness here, as if would later be in John Carpenter’s 1987 classic Prince Of Darkness.

Diana Rigg is as she always is, a remarkably charismatic screen presence as Lionheart’s daughter and facilitator Edwina, though her curly wig and moustache “disguise” is arguably one of the worst in cinema history. Her slight frame and clearly feminine voice betray her instantly, but it’s more than that, as he still very, very much recognisable as Diana Rigg, making her eventual “unmasking” fairly risible.

It’s a small criticism in a film that allows Vincent Price such scenery-chewing free rein though. Finally getting his chance to deliver those historic monologues he loved so much, you can see him relish each speech, all bombast and pomposity, but with that twinkle in his eye that shows you know exactly what he’s doing. Not only that, he’s frequently flat-out hilarious at points and it’s great to see him get to flex his out-and-out comedy chops.

Sure, the murders aren’t quite as outrageously bizarre as Phibes’ set-pieces, but Theatre Of Blood is its own beast, one that pushes the macabre, camp humour to the fore and is comfortably up there with some of the very best films in the Vincent Price back catalogue.

Rating: 4/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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