Some people take criticism very seriously, deathly seriously in fact. Theatre of Blood is about one such individual, namely noted stage actor Edward Kendall Sheridan Lionheart, played by the legendary Vincent Price. After a career of bad reviews and award rebukes decides to commit suicide whist quoting Hamlet in front of the group of critics who trashed his passion for theatre and made his life a misery.
Years later and the same gang of reviewers are shocked by the brutal murder of one of their own by a meth drinking homeless mob lead by Lionheart himself who has returned seemingly from beyond the grave to reap revenge on the men and women who ruined him.
Known for only performing Shakespeare, Lionheart and his vicious vagrants set about destroying the critics one by one, staging each intricate killing around a classic scene from one of the Bard’s beloved works. With the police playing catch up and the critic’s circle ever dwindling it seems Lionheart’s final performance is one they are all dying to see.
Gleefully gory and entertaining from silent movie start to its insane end, Theatre of Blood is a hilarious fun filled horror that proves Vincent Price’s power as a star performer. As Lionheart Price is completely compelling, captivating the audience as he does his motley crew of degenerates, keeping all of us hanging on his every word.
The true skill in Price’s performance however is in imbuing the failed actor with both gravitas and pathos, transforming him into a likable, all be it totally unhinged, villain who we end up rooting for.
Constantly in a variety of costumes from French chief to camp hairdresser, although ridiculous at times (such as during the trampoline fencing fight) Price remains not only convincing but powerfully threatening never taking the character into parody something a lesser talent could not avoid.
The supporting cast is packed full of distinguished British actors to increase the films credibility and Diana Rigg does a great job as Lionheart’s bereaved daughter who gets caught up in her father’s fanatically quest for poetic retribution.
Although fantastic fun there are serious concepts within Theater of Blood and its not hard to see it as a study on the validity of artistic criticism, the negative power of reviews and the very nature of art itself. This is done as Lionheart breaks boundaries by staging interactive and brutally real recitals of Shakespeare staring his prey who become both voyeur and victim.
The non-dramaturgically minded may be shocked at the amount of excessive violence and murderous inspiration found in Shakespeare, and with decapitations, mutilations, torture and bountiful bloodletting the horror is high. In amongst the extravagant psychotic set pieces Price spouts Shakespearean verse giving as good a versions of the fantastically famous theatrical moments as seen on any stage.
Theatre of Blood is wildly enjoyable gruesome horror with a great story line and a sensational central performance from Price. Take my word for it it’s a must see movie. Although I would say that because if I didn’t Lionheart might come and kill me!