Theatre of Blood Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Twilight Time
Directed by Douglas Hickox
Written by Anthony Greville-Bell
1973, 104 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 16th, 2016
Limited to 3,000 copies.
Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart
Diana Rigg as Edwina Lionheart
Ian Hendry as Devlin
Harry Andrews as Dickman
Coral Browne as Chloe Moon
Robert Morley as Meredith Merridew
Milo O’Shea as Inspector Boot
Legendary thespian Edward Lionheart has two great loves in his life: his daughter Edwina and the collected works of William Shakespeare. Following a shining season of the Bard’s plays, Edward is devastated to find his efforts have failed to connect with London’s theatre critics, and when he is denied the coveted Critics’ Circle Award, a despondent Lionheart jumps from a balcony into the Thames below. A year later, these same critics are targeted in a series of grisly murders inspired by the playwright’s classic tales including Othello, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice and Titus Andronicus leading the police to suspect someone is avenging the fallen actor. Is it daughter Edwina, or perhaps the ghost of her father, or maybe there is something far more sinister at play?
Theatre of Blood blends the terror and graphic violence of Grand Guignol theatre with a generous sense of gallows humor, resulting in a highly entertaining picture certain to please even the most jaded of viewers. Director Douglas Hickox (Zulu Dawn) expertly balances the tonal shifts between horror and camp hilarity with help from a strong script written by Anthony Greville-Bell (The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie) and a top-notch cast of British character actors supporting the inimitable Vincent Price (From a Whisper to a Scream). Price continues to demonstrate his versatility as the funniest horror icon of his generation with this portrayal of the ham-fisted Edward Lionheart. He is a complicated anti-hero similar to that of the titular character in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), determined to avenge not only his own shattered life, but those of countless other talents lost to the cruelty of these critics’ barbs. Price delivers one of his best performances as he gleefully pokes at the over-inflated egos of actors, while simultaneously infusing such vulnerability into the role that audiences will root for the character whether he is knocking his detractors dead figuratively or literally.
Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) is equally impressive as Edwina, the grieving daughter who shares much in common with her father. While Hickox takes only minimal effort to disguise her true motivation, it is a testament to Rigg’s strength as an actress that, like Price, she commands your attention every moment of her screen time. Despite being lumped in with the dreaded circle of antagonists, Ian Hendry (Tales from the Crypt) is the most human of the targeted writers as Peregrine Devlin, who is granted a temporary reprieve and forced to bear witness to the deaths of a few more of his comrades. Hendry shares some choice moments with Price, including a stunning fencing battle in a gymnasium that must be seen to be believed. The beautiful Coral Browne (Dreamchild) is delightfully wicked as Chloe Moon, a harsh and unforgiving woman who really shouldn’t be as vain as she is. Browne has a lot of fun with the role and shared enough chemistry with Price both on screen and off to become the actor’s second wife shortly after production wrapped. Additional highlights of the supporting cast include Robert Morley (Scavenger Hunt) and Milo O’Shea (Romeo & Juliet) as the flamboyant Meredith Merridew and Inspector Boot respectively.
This is not the most briskly-paced thriller you are likely to see, but the charismatic Price keeps things moving from one engaging murder set piece to the next. Theatre of Blood is a goofy movie that succeeds by taking the material seriously while allowing its star to chew through every bit of scenery in sight. Vincent Price is clearly enjoying himself as he is granted the opportunity to deliver some of the theatre’s best dialogue while disguised as a multitude of distinct characters. Dedicated fans have likely seen this picture many times before and will be happy to learn it holds up well to this day and remains a must-see. One piece of trivia that I find fascinating is that Wolfgang Suschitzky (Get Carter), the cinematographer of this film, is the father of Peter Suschitzky (The Vanishing) and the grandfather of Adam Suschitzky (11.22.63). All three are cinematographers and, as of this writing, Wolfgang is 104-years old and living in Austria.
Video and Audio:
Theatre of Blood is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and likely features the same transfer used for the recent Arrow Video release. While not exactly perfect, this is a significant upgrade from the earlier DVD editions, featuring strong colors and excellent detail. There is some inherent print damage, but nothing too significant.
The DTS-HD MA 1.0 track keeps the dialogue crisp and clear, as is necessary in a film where the spoken word is so important. Music and sound effects are well-balanced and add significantly to the on-screen action.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The always-welcome David Del Valle is joined by fellow film historian Nick Redman for a delightful audio commentary that is filled with entertaining stories. You really do not want to miss this.
Michael Lewis’ film score is presented in an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track for your listening pleasure.
The original theatrical trailer is included and features a delightful narration from Price.
Film historian Julie Kirgo contributes a stellar essay on the making of this picture, contained in a six-page booklet that also offers several color photographs and poster art for the movie.