Arrow films have recently unleashed a number of British horror classics from the dusty canisters of film history onto the markedly more contemporary Blu-Ray format. Amongst these is Theatre Of Blood; a bawdy, camp and surprisingly gory slice of tongue-in-cheek Vincent Price-flavoured fun.
To those unaccustomed with Price, audiences nowadays perhaps best know him as the inventor of Edward Scissorhands in… Edwards Scissorhands. His casting in this role, as asserted by Price’s daughter in an interview included one of the release’s special features, was perfect. Encapsulating his gothic roots and his beguilingly warm on-screen presence at one and the same time. While less familiar, Theatre Of Blood achieves the same effect and is a joy for it, as well as for numerous other reasons.
Opening with a landlord getting repeatedly stabbed to death by a group of squatting tramps, Theatre of Blood sets up its tone and emphasis on grisliness from the off. When this murder is punctuated with Price’s character, a presumed dead Shakespearian actor called Lord Edward Kendel Sheridan Lionheart, reading a famous soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to the deceased, the sheer outrageous fun of what’s about to unfold becomes apparent.
Lionheart has been presumed dead for the last two years, having committed suicide in the wake of his disappointment for not receiving a prestigious critics’ choice acting award. Over the course of his two-year absence his disappointment has festered into a murderous rage. To avenge his honour, Lionheart and a band of homeless homicidal henchmen set out to slay each and every one of the critics denied him the recognition he so richly deserved.
On face value this might sound quite ridiculous, and that’s because it is. To add to this, each murder is themed after a Shakespeare play – expect to see pounds of flesh removed, men drowned in vats of wine and poodles cooked in pies. The fact that Price and his not-so-merry band commit these crimes in costume and incorporate the plays’ most famous speeches adds to the fun of the whole affair. Price’s Richard III is particularly delightful (think Clarence).
As a critic, writing a review about a film involving a madman’s bloodthirsty mania aimed at critics is a unique experience. Rest assured, the positivity with which this has been written is in no way out of fear for any potential backlash from the filmmakers or the ghost of Price. With the exception of Cabin In The Woods, horror films these days don’t have the gumption to be as fun as Theatre Of Blood, which is a genuine shame. It’s silly and shocking but never shockingly silly. The fact that it’s now available on Blu-Ray steel book with a comprehensive set of special features (including a series of interviews with cast, crew and Price’s family as well as audio commentaries) should have classic horror fans rejoicing.
Pick up your copy from www.arrowfilms.co.uk today.