"Theatre of Blood", starring horror legend Vincent Price, comes to UK BD this month from Arrow films and I got an advance look at it.
In this, Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart. A Shakespearian actor who doesn’t take criticism of his performances lightly. After being passed over for one award too many, it was believed he’d committed suicide. But unfortunately for the members of the critics circle, they suddenly find that someone is out for revenge for all the bad reviews they gave him.
At first they’re unsure of who might be targeting them or why. But as the bodies begin to pile up, they suspect that it must be Lionheart owing to the way they have been killed.
One critic who criticised his performance in Julius Caeser is brutally slain in a similar manner on March 15th, the day of the original assassination. Another who criticised his performance in Troilus and Cressida is speared through the heart in a re-enactment of that plays death scene, and so on…
The Police do their best to try and protect the remaining critics, but it seems Lionheart, who has enlisted the help of a group homeless winos, always seems to be one step ahead of them (Star Wars fans may recognise Declan Mullholland amongst them, who played the original Jabba the Hutt).
Played as a “straight” horror, the story is really more of a dark comedy and Vincent Price seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself in this. As, no doubt, the thought of getting to bump off critics amused him (the film was reportedly his favourite).
The film also features a well rounded cast of veteran British actors of their day, including Sir Michael Horden, Arthur Lowe, Ian Hendry, Jack Hawkins and Diana Dors. Diana Rigg (TV’s The Avengers) also turns up in a supporting role as Lionheart’s daughter and comedian Eric Sykes also appears as a somewhat inept police detective, providing the film with some of its lighter moments.
Overall I would say the film was great fun. In many ways, it was rather reminiscent of the “Dr Phibes” films, except this time he lives in an old theatre (actually the old Putney Hippodrome) and the story here isn’t quite as dark, though the kills are no less inventive.
This film has been out on DVD for a while, but this marks the first time the film has been released on high definition Blu-Ray, which has been newly transferred from original film elements so looks considerably more “polished” than previous releases.
The film also comes with the usual bumper crop of extras you’ve come to expect from Arrow, which includes.
Audio commentary with The Leaugue of Gentlemen. Yes it seems that the people behind the cult BBC comedy, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are huge horror fans and provide an amusing and insightful running commentary.
A Priceless Pot Boiler. Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria recalls her memories about her fathers time on set and discusses her father’s other films.
A Fearful Thespian. Author and film historian David Del Valle discusses the film and how this came to be one of Vincent Price’s favourite roles.
Staged Reaction – Madeline Smith discusses how she got the part and her time working on set.
A Harmony for Horror. In which Composer Michael J. Lewis discusses how he scored the film.
Lastly there’s the original theatrical trailer.
The case also contains a full colour booklet, containing stills and promotional artwork from the film along with linear notes by Cleaver Patterson and the sleeve features reversible artwork, giving you the choice of displaying the disc with either newly commissioned artwork, or its original theatrical poster art.
To summarise, I’d say this release is a must for Vincent price fans, if you’ve never seen this before, or are looking to upgrade your bare bones DVD, then this release by Arrow is an essential purchase.
The Blu-Ray was originally scheduled for release May 5th, but due to a glitch on the initial batch of discs, this has been pushed back and is now provisionally scheduled for release May 19th. The film is available in both standard case and in a limited edition Steelbook case.
Buy the UK BD from Amazon.co.uk
Buy the UK BD Steelbook from Amazon.co.uk