Madhouse (1974)

Article 5401 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-22-2017
Directed by Jim Clark
Featuring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Horror

A horror star who played a character named “Dr. Death” becomes convinced that the character has taken over his life and that he is committing murders.

This was Vincent Price’s follow-up to the two Dr. Phibes movies and THEATER OF BLOOD, so he had some tough acts to follow. I do have to admit that it makes a lot of sense to have him play an actor who specializes in horror films who may be “living” the part he played. It’s also fun to pepper the movie with clips from some of his earlier parts, although they’re used too often and for too long here. I just wish they had fashioned a coherent script for the idea; the one on hand is muddled, confusing and awkward. It’s also a huge disappointment as a mystery; it doesn’t take a brilliant leap of deduction to figure that Price’s character isn’t the true culprit, and I was able to spot the true culprit before the second murder. I think the movie may have been trying for a certain unsettling surreal quality, but much of it feels jarring and abrupt; it feels like one of those movies that isn’t playing by the usual set of rules, but it fails to establish which rules it IS playing by. I emerged from the movie more puzzled than intrigued. As it is, I feel there was some real promise lost in the muddle. However, it does have one great comic line about rigor mortis.


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