Douglas Hickox, who also directed this film, was the director of one of my favorite TV movies, Blackout. This is yet another — that’s not a bad thing — Vincent Price film where he’s done wrong and must avenge himself through increasingly odder crimes.
This go around, he plays Shakespearean actor Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, who is treated poorly by the members of the Theatre Critics Guild, so he kills himself by jumping off a bridge into the Thames. Of course, he survives thanks to a group of vagrants who soon become his…Theatre of Blood.
The critics are killed according to the scripts of some of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. There’s a murder by a mob ala Julius Caesar, a horse dragging from Troilus & Cressida, a decapitation from Cymbeline, a heart being sliced out just like The Merchant of Venice, a drowning from Richard III, a murder right out of Othello, a scene like Henry VI: Part One and a critic fed her dogs just like a memorable death in Titus Andronicus.
The last critic nearly dies in a Romeo & Juliet fencing battle before he’s due to be blinded with burning knives, just like Gloucester in King Lear. However, his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), who has been helping him, is killed, so he takes her body to the roof where they both disappear in the flames.
This film was one of Price’s favorites, as he had always wanted the chance to act in Shakespeare. Before or after each death, he gets to recite speeches from each play. Diana Rigg felt much the same way about her work.
Ironically, she also introduced Price to his future wife Coral Browne, without knowing that Price was married. She would go on to be his third wife.
While no Dr. Phibes film, Theatre of Blood is quite enjoyable. Price is having the time of his life and his joy is infectious.