Theatre of Blood (1973)

Alas, this is the last we’ll be seeing of Vincent Price for the moment, but I think you’ll agree it’s a good note to go out on with him for now… certainly he regarded it as a career highpoint and not without some good reason, not only is he terrific in it but it’s the sort of story I’m sure almost any actor would’ve wished to be in. Apparently Price himself considered it part of a trilogy with the two Dr Phibes films (indeed, Robert Fuest was apparently supposed to direct this too but for whatever reason he didn’t), which makes sense given that the plots do have a remarkable similarity… in this case, he’s not a vengeful musician wiping out the doctors he believed killed his wife, but a vengeful actor wiping out his critics (it’s nothing if not living the dream); Price plays a hammy, critically savaged Shakespearian actor (who in turn plays a series of distinctly non-Shakespearian roles, the most astounding of which is a hairdresser with a killer afro) passed over for a coveted acting award, whereupon he embarks upon a Shakespeare-themed campaign of revenge against the critics’ circle. The result is a mix of the hilarious (Price fencing with one of his critics on trampolines) and the frankly kind of ghoulish (Robert Morley’s critic being fed his own beloved poodles a la Titus Andronicus) that’s somewhat blunter than the first Phibes film; plus this review observes another key difference between them, i.e. the modern setting… being shot wholly on location, it simply never really looks as nice as Phibes, whose art deco settings, as we saw the other day, are a major part of the film’s appeal. Maybe a comparable period setting would’ve given this the edge, I don’t know. But it’s still an awful lot of fun (plus a lot of awful fun), no wonder Price liked it so much. Yet again, one of those films I really should’ve seen years ago.

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