Theatre of Blood
Director:- Douglas Hickox
Starring:- Vincent Price, Ian Henry, Diana Rigg
Runtime:- 1hr 44mins
A bitter thespian takes a bloody revenge on the critics who have dragged his name through the mud. It is as if Shakespeare were writing the Saw franchise. This is Douglas Hickox’s refreshingly macabre Theatre of Blood, a twisted stage in which the works of Shakespeare are distorted into the cruelest plots of revenge. A hilarious, operatic, grandiose piece of nonsense that is not short on scares but is positively crammed with laughs.
Vincent Price is Edward Lionheart, a dedicated actor who’s lack of recognition from members of the critics’ circle drives him first to the brink of suicide, only to return with a taste for murder. His victims are an ensemble of pampered, pompous hacks who spend most of the film swigging champagne in their ivory tower. Each has a vice or sin that Lionheart ingeniously exploits in order to dispatch his own form of poetic justice on his harshest detractors. A lesson in wish fulfillment then, as Hickox lives out the fantasy of every artist by killing those who besmirch their work. But so clever are the set pieces, involving outlandish costumes and Price sword fighting on a trampoline, it is a pleasure to be a part of his twisted dream.
Perhaps the critics depicted onscreen would scold Hickox for his lack of focus in terms of a protagonist. Ian Henry’s leading man Peregrin Devlin proves not much more sympathetic than his critical colleagues who are all too quickly and grimly dispatched. Theatre’s finest executioner almost becomes the hero of the piece. But, much like the critics did with Lionheart, this is to miss the point entirely, as Theatre of Blood proves to be a nasty, grisly little gem, abound with gasps and laughs which pay tribute to the film’s key inspiration, the Immortal Bard.