Theatre of Blood


‘…a fun romp that proves that black comedy can work with the right, light touch…’

Everyone’s a critic, or at least, that’s how it seems to veteran actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) in Douglas Hickox’s celebrated slice of Grand Guiginol. A tv staple back in the day, it’s a British horror film with a literate bent, with all the killings taking the form of murders as featured in the works of William Shakespeare himself.

Something of a Donald Wolfit hambone, Lionheart is angry at the kind of negative reviews he gets, and decides to take revenge on the Theatre Critics Guild with the aid of his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), who seemingly disguises herself as Jeff Lynne from the Electric Light Orchestra to do his bidding. As the critics come to sticky, horrible ends, can Lionheart be stopped before he extracts his pound of flesh from those who did him wrong?

The critics themselves are a wonderfully cast bunch, all destined to be offed in a bloody fashion. Dennis Price, Arthur Lowe, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Harry Andrews and Ian Hendry are amongst the victims, and there’s also time for such madcap diversions as a sword-fight on trampolines, a first and I think unique outing for this particular scenario..

The neat idea is something of a precursor of the kind of stark horror structures featured in both Paddington 2 and Se7en, although David Fincher probably wouldn’t have much time for a comic detective duo of Milo O’Shea and Eric Sykes. Michael J Lewis contributes beautiful, lush music that underscores the melancholy of the conceit; Theatre of Blood is a fun romp that proves that black comedy can work with the right, light touch.


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    • I’ll just write out a note of absence. Take this to the nurse’s office and sit outside until the movie is over.

        • If you have a permission slip, that’s fine. Don’t want you ending up in the space slammer!

            • Don’t get your pants in a twist, I’ll get you a Vincent Price comedy horror exemption form from the post office, and we’ll be good to go!

                • Great, can you pick me up some Mitchum deodorant, Alpine Fresh if they have it, and a pumice stone?

                  • Do they still make Mitchum? I thought that went out in the 80’s.
                    I’d actually recommend lava stone. Nothing toughens up your feet like cutting them to ribbons first!

                    • Last time I was up on the deodorant scene was the late 90’s when Axe was slaying the competition. I have no idea what kids today are using. Probably “skunko” or something…

                    • I just took the time to check the top ten deodorants list for 2022, and didn’t recognise one. I did recognise two fashion names that I didn’t know made deodorants. It’s not like the old days when you’d walk ten blocks to find a newstand with trade news about the latest deodorants. These days have gone…

                    • That’s sad. Now I feel like an old(er) fogey. Maybe I should douse myself in axe body spray and pretend I’m 20 again. Nahh I’d probably put my back out or something.

                      Do you need a walker yet to go 10 blocks? I don’t need one, but shoe inserts are a must!

                    • Bruce Willis went 16 Blocks, so 10 is nothing. What would it take to pull us back into the deodorant scene?

                    • Well, not having a wife for me. Mrs B is wicked sensitive to scents. The first time we went out I DID douse myself with axe. She sneezed the entire time and when I went home, I threw that can away.
                      True story!

                      So basically nothing is going to get me back in the D-Scene. yo…

  1. I remember really being taken by the seedy London vibe to this. Doesn’t he have a troupe of street people helping him out? Was planning on rewatching this soon.

    BTW, you said in your last review that you would be reviewing Crimes of the Future in the future. Since this is now the future I’m a little surprised you’re still putting it off.

    I ate the club sandwich, also by the way. You didn’t show and they don’t keep well in the fridge. Did you not have a badge?

    • Ok, order another one then, and try not to eat it! And some fresh towels for the bathroom.

      I’ve checked my notes, and the future hasn’t happened yet. In order to keep publicists sweet, I generally don’t review until WOR in the UK, unless it’s a US publicist seeking a US tied review; 60 plus percent of readers are in North America, so I’ll keep Crimes on ice until UK WOR.

      Yes, Lionheart has a strange, threatening army of street people to do his bidding. It’s a giddy ride, but better than the Phibes films IMHO.

  2. I couldn’t quite decide about this one – it’s fun but felt very dated. A pantomime horror. But Vincent Price is always enjoyable, particularly when he ramps up his inner thespian.

    • I saw this on BBC 2 circa 1980 in their Saturday night horror double bills; it was one of the first horror films I’d seen in colour, and it seemed wild at the time. Quaint would be a better word for it now, but it’s quite something in its garish 1973 pomp.

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