Saturday, March 4, 2023

Movie Reviews: Theatre Of Blood

Theatre of Blood
directed by Douglas Hickox

Growing up back in the day I always thought that if one wanted to be an evil overlord one could do worse than model yourself after Vincent Price. Price was one of the most famous practitioners of the now archaic Transatlantic Accent. 

Price was also an actor who could simultaneously bring a tremendous amount of gravitas to almost any movie he starred in while also, if the role called for it, chewing the scenery with an unmatched manic hammy intensity. Price never made any good movie bad but he made quite a few bad movies good. 

Many of Price's villains were often insane, inbred, murderous, lustful, scheming, and completely malevolent but they were also almost always polite and possessed of remarkably good manners. Just because Price's character might be preparing to serve you your own kidneys is no reason for him to be uncivil or mean to you. Perish the thought! Price's characters were gentlemen! And so was Price in real life. He was the opposite of villainous.

Price's characters were smooth, cultured, nattily attired, and well spoken with a distinctive projecting bass voice that could be threatening or calming depending upon the role. Younger people might well remember Price's spoken word interval on Michael Jackson's Thriller.

In Theatre of Blood, Price demonstrated some very good Shakespearean acting within the movie and sent up overly serious theater actors, his own previous films and film persona, and the critical establishment that can make or break actors' careers. 

Edward Lionheart (Price) is a British stage actor of a certain age who has spent virtually his entire career performing nothing but Shakespeare. Lionheart is annoyed that his efforts have not won him any critical acclaim. But this annoyance turns to rage and sadness when the prestigious Theatre Critics Guild gives the Best Actor Award to a younger actor, who in Lionheart's words (paraphrase) could barely grunt his way through a school play.

Seeking explanation Lionheart confronts the critics at their afterparty but is humiliated further when he discovers that while some critics think he overacts and others feel he doesn't challenge himself, none of them think that he's a good actor. At best they think Lionheart's acting is one step above or below cat vomit. Heartbroken to be so cruelly mocked in front of his devoted daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), Lionheart jumps off the balcony into the river Thames.

Two years later, however it becomes apparent that Lionheart is not dead. His critics have started dying in manners listed in Lionheart's Shakespeare repertory. And if no one actually dies in the play, Lionheart is not above doing a rewrite.

Although this 1973 movie is not gruesome by modern standards, it was still explicit for the times. People who don't know Shakespeare could be taken aback by the violence. Price is obviously having a fun time with his character's various disguises and revenges. Lionheart is a man who just can't take it any more.  It's a rare movie that can successfully combine horror and black comedy. Theatre of Blood does just that. Check this out.