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.