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Wednesday, October 08, 2014


In 1970, veteran Shakespearean thespian Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is denied the Critic's Circle award in favor of "a twitching, mumbling boy who can barely grunt his way through an incomprehensible performance." That un-endurable humiliation leads Lionheart to throw himself from the balcony of the penthouse where his detractors, the smug and assholish elite of London's theater critic glitterati, have gathered to celebrate their own self-perceived excellence in the wake of the awards ceremony. Believed dead after his fall to the river below, Lionheart returns two years later, aided by the alcoholic and mentally ill pack of derelicts who hauled him from the drink, along with a mysterious young man who sports a white man's 'fro, hippie 'stache and shades, and launches on a campaign of vengeance against the critics who brought him low. With nine arbiters of taste to dispose of, Lionheart works his way down his hit list by subjecting his targets to gruesome deaths culled from the classic works of the Bard (though one of the murders would technically count as a rewrite), a strategy that grants him the opportunity to display his formidable thespic skills while simultaneously forcing his critics to realize too late just how wrong they were in their merciless assessments of his contributions to the craft. As the authorities investigate, involving Lionheart's daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) in the process, Lionheart proves in no uncertain terms just how brilliant of an actor he is, but his excellence as an interpreter of Shakespeare pales in comparison to his genius as a classically-themed serial murderer.

THEATRE OF BLOOD is a superlative showcase for the considerable talents of my man Vincent Price, an actor whose work has delighted and enthralled me since I was a child, and a man who it is my eternal regret that I never had the opportunity to meet and personally express my high regard for what he brought to the screen. Equally at home in sinister or comedic roles, Price was given a rare opportunity to cut loose with THEATER OF BLOOD, a jet black comedy that one could be forgiven for failing to notice its played-straight sense of levity. The role of Lionheart allows Price a macabre "gravest hits" repertoire of some of Shakespeare's most gruesome and cruel highlights with which to show off his considerable range, while also conveying the protagonist's deep sense of hurt and non-appreciation from those who were too caught up in their own arrogant self-perceptions to see genius when it was so clearly presented.

Lionheart (Vincent Price) affects the role of "Butch," a tres camp hairdresser with lethal intent.

An across-the-board triumph, THEATRE OF BLOOD is not to be missed, especially by those who revel in Price's signature style of scenery-chewing. If you come away from this year's 31 DAYS OF HORROR overview with only one or two rock-solid suggestions for films you absolutely must sit through, I strongly urge you to place THEATRE OF BLOOD at the top of the must-see list. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

1 comment:

Jim Browski said...

Agreed. My favorite Vincent Price performance, and a delightful black comedy populated with some of the UK's finest character players. All around quality.