Monday, September 10, 2012

R.I.P. Screening IV: Theatre of Blood

from Wikipedia
With my latest R.I.P. Screening I'm really getting down to the nitty gritty of the bloody horror film--as you can tell by the title: Theatre of Blood.  This 1973 film stars Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, a stage actor who believes he has been slighted once too often by the theatre critics.  He has spent his career building himself up (if only in his own mind) as the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day.  He fully expects to be handed the Critic's Circle Award for Best Actor and is humiliated when it is given to a much younger man.  He bursts in on the critics as they are enjoying an after-ceremony drink and apparently commits suicide.

Two years later, the critics begin dying--one by one.  Each death is patterned after a play in Lionheart's final year of stage work.  The deaths range from the Duke of Clarence's ill-fated date with a butt of wine (Richard III) to Julius Caesar's death to Hector's demise at the hands of Achilles (Troilus & Cressida).  It would seem that Lionheart survived his plunge from a balcony into the sea and is exacting his revenge in Shakespearean fashion.  He even has the audacity to rewrite the bard's Merchant of really, truly requiring a pound of flesh from one of the critics.

I have to admit that this one is a bit outside my usual range for horror. I much prefer the black & white classics that depend on atmosphere and organ music for their chills and thrills.  Blood and gore abounds--stabbing by spear, multiple stabbings for the Caesar scene, a beheading--if it weren't for the great bits where Price recites sections of Shakespeare while preparing his victims for their fate or after he has disposed of them, I'm not sure I could take it. [And, yes, I realize that this is nothing compared to later slasher films.  But I'm a weenie when it comes to horror.]  Price is priceless in this film.  Is there overacting?   You betcha--but only because the part demands it.  I thoroughly enjoyed him as the Shakespearean actor out to wreak havoc on the critic's circle--in return for all the actors lives they had ruined with their poisoned pens.

George Maxwell: That damn editor cut my review! 
Mrs. Maxwell: So I saw, dear, you really ought to have a word. 
Maxwell: My most provocative comment too. When I said the lead actress grabbed the role with both hands, and throttled it to death.

Inspector Boot: Saw him once. A very, uh, vigorous actor.
Peregrine Devlin: That's a good description. 

Devlin: You begin to resent an actor if you always have to give him bad notices. 

Chloe Moon: Take me home, I think I'm going to be ill. 
Meredith Merrydew: Oh my God! [looks at his dogs] I think Georgina's going to faint! 

Edward Lionhart: I always admired you as a critic, Snipe. Your clever use of analogy and metaphor, plus you always strived to be complimentary. But not always complimentary.  
Hector Snipe: Critics make mistakes, Lionheart. We're only human. 
Lionhart:  An opinion I find myself incapable of sharing.

Lionhart: I wonder if he'll travel well? [after sealing Larding's corpse in a wine barrel

Edwina Lionhart: I'm busy, Devlin. 
Devlin: Edwina, four of my collegues have been murdered. And their deaths relate directly to your father's last season. 
Edwina: If you were as imaginative in your reviews, Devlin, you'd be a better critic. 

Inspector Boot: Look, Devlin, when two people have the same motive to murder and one of them is still alive, who would you arrest?

Devlin: It's him all right. Only Lionheart would have the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare! 

Lionhart: [as Butch to Chloe Moon] Oh, I wish you'd let me do something camp with the colour, darling. Like flame with ash highlights. 

Devlin: You did kill Larding and the others didn't you? 
Lionhart: How many actors have you destroyed as you destroyed me? How many talented lives have you cut down with your glib attacks? What do you know of the blood, sweat and toil of a theatrical production? Of the dedication of the men and the women in the noblest profession of them all? How could you know you talentless fools who spew vitriol on the creative efforts of others because because you lack the ability to create yourselves! No Devlin, no! I did not kill Larding and the others. PUNISHED them my dear boy, punished them. Just as you shall have to be punished. 
Devlin: Well get it over with then, just so you don't have to make me listen to that demented rubbish of yours. Go on, kill me then!


Ryan said...

I haven't watched this one in years. It's one of those over the top movies, that I seem to love despite it's flaws.

Another of his movies that I love, along the same line, is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Bev Hankins said...

@Ryan: I haven't seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes in forever. I still remember the shivers when I watched it on TV (I must have been seven or so....).

J F Norris said...

Thanks for taking up my recommendation, Bev. I love this movie! But I'm a bit warped, you know. ;^) Anyone who has ever been a performer in the theater will love the idea of gruesome revenge delivered upon caustic critics. Both Dr. Phibes movies are great in their own way, too (with the first one being the better of the two). But THEATRE OF BLOOD is just so insane it will always hold a place in my all time favorite horror movie list. The cast really makes it --dare I say for something so gory?-- highly enjoyable.

Bev Hankins said...

John: I'm glad you mentioned it (I was wrong--I don't think I saw it when I was young after all). I enjoyed it even though it is a bit out of my usual fare. I have seen the Dr. Phibes movies and The Masque of the Red Death (which I'm hoping to see again during this little R.I.P. VP-thon). I didn't seem to mind the horror so much when I was younger--although I never did do much of the blood and gore stuff even then.