Thursday, October 31, 2013

Theater of Blood (1973)

It amazes me that people don’t like Vincent Price. I was reading something recently that said that many people think Price and his films are passé.

Passe? Really?

While I freely admit that Price could be hammy, I do think that when Price met the proper role he was amazing. I thing anyone who is claiming that Price is passé has only seen a small portion of his work which crossed all genres. Price was a master craftsman who always gave it his all.

If Vincent Price’s performances were likened to food, then his performance in Theater of Blood would be a huge ham served at Easter dinner. This is Price at his most over the top and in all probability it’s probably Price at his most fun.

The film is essentially a send up of over the top actors and most importantly the pomposity of critics. The film follows Vincent Price’s character, a wildly over the top Shakespearean actor who has been the butt of endless bad reviews from London’s theater critics. After staging his own death Price returns in order to exact revenge on the critics in the manner of the deaths in the plays of Shakespeare. It’s a bloody over the top affair that has the police running in circles and the critics cowering in fear.

Like a film designed by the legendary Grand Gingoul, this is largely an excuse for the cast to cut loose and do something far from serious. The large cast of name actors and actresses which includes, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Coral Browne (the future Mrs Price) Diana Rigg,Harry Andrews and Milo O'Shea normally played films of a much more refined nature. Here, mostly playing the critics who hounded Price to homicide, they could kick back and indulge themselves, making fun of the critics who have haunted their every step.

More thriller than horror film, I’m not sure if the film is ever really scary. Yes, the film has a nice tension generated by the cat and mouse game that Price is playing with the police, but it never scary.

For me the film kind of marks the end of Price’s middle film period. After this film Price kind of stopped being an actor and became a personality. He had gone from being an actor in the first part of his career playing in a wide variety of film roles (Wilson,The Baron of Arizona. and Brigham Young) to an actor who was primarily taking horror and B roles (The Corman Poe films). After Theater of Blood Price was essentially a horror personality. Yes he would do the occasional non-horror role, but after 1973 he was now in the horror triumvirate with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It was after this point that you couldn’t help but see Price and think horror. Price would go on to do other roles, but there was something about the ten years from the first Poe film to this film that forever set Price as a horror actor.

Christ that’s pompous. It’s the sort of highbrow comment that would have had me on the chopping block in Theater of Blood.

Lets end the pomposity and have me say, if you want a bloody good time get your hands on Theater of Blood, some popcorn and a bowl of something and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Yes it is always a hoot on revisit. The critic who ate his own poodles and the other who lost his head in his bed are classic vignettes, but Price is incomparable, and there's a great underrated Michael J. Lewis score, which is now a terrific CD from La La Land.

    Great review here!