Theater of Blood (1973)

Article 3257 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2010
Posting Date: 7-15-2010
Directed by Douglas Hickox
Featuring Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry
Country: UK
What it is: Shakespearean revenge flick

When members of a Critics’ Circle are being murdered one by one in gruesome ways, the evidence points to a spurned Shakespearean actor who was denied an actor-of-the-year award by the Circle. However, the actor was supposed to have died by suicide… or did he?

This wasn’t Price’s final horror movie, but it was his last starring role in a horror movie that really mattered. It’s often praised as the pinnacle of his horror career, maybe so much so that I always find myself a hair more disappointed at it then I feel I should be. The basic story itself is a reworking of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES; once again, a man believed dead takes revenge on his enemies (those responsible for the death of his wife in the earlier movie, and for the death of his career in this one) who uses a set group of murder methods to do away with his victims (the plagues of the pharaohs in PHIBES, the murders in the last season of his Shakespeare productions in this one). One of the big differences is that this movie gives Price a character which, by dint of being an actor, allows him to play a greater variety and range of characters than the Phibes movie could, allowing Price to really shine in that capacity. The movie also tones down the campy elements of the Phibes movie, though it doesn’t abandon them entirely. However, what this movie lacks is a director like Robert Fuest, whose sense of style and fun brings the earlier movie to life; Douglas Hickox does all right, but he doesn’t come across as inspired. In the end, I just don’t have as much fun with this movie, and I tend to notice the problems more; the fencing sequence has never worked for me because it seems painfully obvious that there’s a stand-in for Price, and the police, though superficially seeming far more competent than the ones in PHIBES by dint of not being played as comic buffoons, actually seem to do a far worse job of protecting the critics. In short, while I still respect this movie and Price’s performance in it, in the end, I’d opt for the Phibes movies.

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