Theatre of Blood (UK - BD RB)
Marcus carries on the Vincent Price double bill with Theatre of Blood on BD
Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is a deranged veteran Thespian who refuses to play anything other than Shakespeare and decides to murder a circle of critics, whom he feels were disrespectful in their notices and denied him his rightful Best Actor of the Year Award. Deciding to off them one by one in parodies of some of Shakespeare's grislier scenes, Lionheart sets out on a series of madcap killings aided by his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) and his group of loyal homeless crazies.
Theatre of Blood was a big jump forward in my Vincent Price viewings. Hitting the seventies, Price is still the ever charming personality he is on screen and of course while the campiness is still there, the tone of the times had changed in this 1973 film and the violence of the murders here have that odd realistic, yet chaotic feeling that Kubrick mastered so well in Clockwork Orange.
Price's presence is still used to the fullest here. The genuine creepiness of the film, largely in the murder scenes really enables him to thrive as a scary element in a way that more modern audiences respond to still. The often goofy weirdness of this Lionheart character is amusing but it never undermines the creepiness, in fact it totally make for a weirder experience all round and shows an effortless crossover to a real modern horror sensibility for Price.
He’s so self assured of his role, knowing when to switch gears and exactly when to go full Price. This makes him very much like a Batman villain with his insane band of killer tramps and theatrical flair and the murders having themes and such really makes him something that would terrorise Gotham equally as well as it’s messing around with London. Its effective stuff and when lined up against other titles such as The Fall of The House of User or The Pit and the Pendulum really shows just how good Price was, no matter the tone or the changing timse of the genre he thrived in.
The image is obviously dated in terms of film making technology and general age but this is a fine upgrade. Edges are crisp, scenes are full of detail in their outdoor locations and colours are incredibly natural because of it. The image has the odd fleck of dirt or damage but it’s an otherwise fantastic presentation and a great look at the side of London that the 70s made a lot of use of before it all got cleaned up (well, sort of cleaned up).
Throughout, the image remains natural and bright, despite the brown and grey looks of 70s London. Light sources are bright but don’t over power scenes and skin tones never feel at all boosted or out of place. Grain is very minimal and the image keeps and fairly fresh and clean look to it even at its darkest. In fact the black levels are very well handled even if they highlight the softer elements of the frame at times.
Details such as the many variations of face paint Lionheart carries always look great. Dirty and cracked and under bright stage light, it all adds a creepier feel because of its dinginess. Same can be said for many of the costumes and the variations in murder scenes.
The audio track here is a bit hissy and of course hollow and tinny due to the mono origins but it somehow adds to the chaos and general odd mood of the film. Dialogue can also often sound muffled and crackly but never to the point of being unpleasant. The score is very strong (well considering the limited range anyway) and like The Pit and The Pendulum is the only real show off element of the track.
Really this is a small sounding central track due to the source it’s taken from and very little would be able to change that. This presentation does its best and some scenes hold up better than others but this isn’t one to get excited about, it simply makes good on what the film has always had in the audio department.
The commentary with comedy group The League of Gentlemen is fun, funny, full of detail and comes packed with plenty of personal stories of the group's memories of films of the era. The highlight that in the same year as Theatre of Blood, (1973) The Exorcist, The Wickerman and Dont Look Now hit, highlighting how horror really was changing its approach to great results and the rest of the track is just the group really filling out the listeners knowledge of the horror genre and many many references that have been taken from them for other projects over the years. This is a fine commentary track and actually one of the best I've heard in a while.
‘A Priceless Pot-Bolier: Victoria Price Discusses Theatre of Blood’ (11:46 HD) has Price’s daughter (who looks scarily like him) talking fondly of her father during the making of the film and her memories of the time.
‘A Fearful Thespian: An Interview with David Del Valle’ (10:42 HD). Is a chat with the film historian as her talks of Price's performance and his career in the unlikely genre of horror.
‘Staged Reaction: An Interview with Madeline Smith’ (09:21 HD) featured a chat with the actress about her small role in the film and ‘A Harmony Of Horror: An Interview With Composer Michael J Lewis (17:37 HD) spends a bit of time with the odd yet amusing man.
Last up is the film’s theatrical trailer.
Theatre of Blood brings Vincent Price very much into the modern approach to horror and could very well even be ahead of its time given just how many movies still stick to this madcap set up across not only horror but mainstream action and comic book projects. The film is violent in the ways that make you feel uneasy and it makes for a fun, wild adventure through murder and mayhem with a Shakespearian twist.
The disc looks great, the audio isn't great but it's passable and the extras, while short are still a nice addition. It’s the great commentary track that makes up for that though, with The League of Gentlemen highlighting they should probably do this sort of thing more often on discs.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 19th May 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Duel Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes/Interviews, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Douglas Hickox
Cast: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry
Length: 114 minutes
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