Theatre of Blood

Director: Douglas Hickox (1973)
Starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry
Find it: IMDB

Long before I was allowed to watch discovered horror films, there was Shakespeare. Before I even knew Zombie Flesh Eaters existed, I was reading about vile jellies being poked out in King Lear. Well before I'd heard of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there was the accidental cannibalism of Titus Andronicus. It's no understatement to say that I owe my love of horror films to the plays of William Shakespeare.

The twain meet in Theatre of Blood, a gloriously British horror slash(er) comedy starring the combined might of Vincent Price and Diana Rigg, a father/daughter duo who come together to knock off the uppity theatre critics who spurned his genius. Rigg's involvement in the crimes may possibly constitute a spoiler, although you'd have to be very stupid not to see through the 'twist' as soon as she appears onscreen in her 'disguise'.

Taking a series of bad reviews to heart, thespian Edward Lionheart (Price) jumps to his apparent death, quoting Hamlet all the way to his watery grave. Except, no. Rescued by a gang of winoes, Lionheart sets after his critics, bloody vengeance in mind. Taking the works of Shakespeare as inspiration, he sets about murdering those who badmouthed him, assisted by his hobo army and (spoiler) sympathetic daughter. The most reasonable of the critics, Peregrine Devlin (Hendry) assists the incompetent police in catching Lionheart while also attempting to stay alive himself.

Also, there is this.

Viciously funny as well as, well, regular vicious, Theatre of Blood is a charming slasher film which predates most of the classics. The death sequences are inventive, plentiful and surprisingly gory, even if a couple of them are a tad unlikely. The Othello piece is particularly daft. Price gives my favourite Price performance as Lionheart; the actor finally getting a chance to play the Shakespeare he was denied elsewhere in his career. It's essentially his best-of Shakespeare performance. The critics, meanwhile, are easy to hate, with great names such as 'Dickman', 'Larding' and 'Sprout'. To be fair, critics are a pain in the arse. Just ask Uwe Boll or Kevin Smith.

A delicious combination of Shakespeare and seventies horror, Theatre of Blood. As horror goes, this one is positively Shakespearian.

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