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  Theatre of Blood Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Year: 1973
Director: Douglas Hickox
Stars: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Milo O'Shea, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Eric Sykes, Diana Dors, Madeline Smith
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 5 votes)
Review: When a top London film critic is murdered in a way reminiscent of Julius Caesar's death in the Shakespeare play of the same name, it is clear that someone is starting to kill off the members of the Critics' Circle. Could the murderer be Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price), an actor humiliated by the Circle, who apparently committed suicide because they failed to recognise him? Could be...

Vincent Price found an ideal role in this tongue-in-cheek horror, scripted by Anthony Greville-Bell, as a ham actor who takes bloody revenge for all those terrible reviews he's suffered. Of course, Price was often accused of being over the top, but always in a way that was right for the film - he could tone it down when need be. Here, however, Price obviously relishes playing a flamboyant murderer who acts out killings from Shakespeare in inventive ways.

The guest stars who play the critics are having fun portraying the pompous writers, so much so that it's almost a shame to see them being killed off. Robert Coote is drowned in a barrel of wine from Richard III, Jack Hawkins murders wife Diana Dors in a fit of jealous rage inspired by Othello, and Robert Morley is force-fed his own "babies", i.e. his pet poodles, in a Titus Andronicus moment. All the killings are enhanced by the comic performances, with Price quoting the Bard at every opportunity while disguised as a doctor, a masseur, a camp hairdresser ("I'm Butch!") or a character from the play he's acting out to display Lionheart's range.

It becomes plain to see that the Critics' Circle have a point when they lampoon Lionheart's acting, but he keeps every review just the same, ensuring his anger stays at boiling point. It makes you ponder just why he needs the approval of people he hates, just to win an award from them, when he clearly has no respect for their opinions. It's Lionheart's overbearing vanity that is his major flaw - he has the greatest belief in his talents, and it makes him furious that no one else can agree with him.

To be honest, in spite of the imagination that goes into the murders, Theatre of Blood does end up being repetitive. Patterned after Price's Dr Phibes films, each setpiece benefits from witty lines, but the whole thing does go on too long to reach such a predictable conclusion (funny punchline, though). But never mind, there are details like Lionheart's meths-swigging down and out henchmen, or the swordfight in a gymnasium (complete with trampolines!) to enjoy, and Price is at his best, so I won't give him a bad review. And I like his attempt at a Scottish accent. Music by Michael J. Lewis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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