KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Theater of Blood (1973)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on our site on October 31, 2019. This is one of our favorite movies and now it’s been made even better thanks to the Kino Lorber blu ray re-reissue! It has by a new audio commentary by screenwriter/producer Alan Spencer, as well as commentary by film historians David Del Valle and Nick Redman, the Alan Spencer Trailers from Hell episode about this movie, two TV ads, four radio ads, the trailer and a limited edition slipcase with reversible art. You can order it directly from Kino Lorber.

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.

Superzan y el Niño del Espacio (1973)

Superzan has always been closer to a superhero than a luchador and sadly, this film doesn’t make me like the character any more than I already had — which was not much.

The Space Child of the title is Silio, a gold-skinned boy from the planet Aramina in the Andromeda galaxy. His goal is to solve our energy crisis because if we keep using fossil fuels, we’re going to knock our planet and then our galaxy out of place and then ruin everything. To make it happen, he works with a scientist to create a supercomputer before that dastardly nerd kidnaps him and decides to take over the world.

The golden boy sends a plea to his home planet for Superzan to rescue him, but the evil scientist has a luchador that does his dirty work named Evil Genius, which adds up to lots and lots of wrestling between the two of them.

Of course, the alien child came here in peace and we weren’t ready for it, so he goes back home. Way to go, humanity. Obviously, we have learned nothing since 1973, even if we attempted to listen to an orange-faced manchild for some obscene length of time.

Santo contra el Doctor Muerte (1973)

Don’t you think Santo would stop and look at his cases and say, “You know, I fought Satan himself. Like, I have first-hand evidence of Lucifer, the First of the Fallen, the Lord of the Flies. I’ve battled aliens, vampires — male and female, werewolves — also both genders, gone back in time and tangled with witches. Now it’s art theft?”

Yes, art restoration expert Dr. Mann has quite the plan. His men deface a canvas — like “Los Borrachos” by Velázquez — and then he gets paid to restore it using tumors that he has introduced into the bodies of the women that he has chained up. He gets paid to fix the painting and keeps the original while giving the museum back a copy.

I mean, what’s Santo going to do, put an art forger into La de a Caballo?

This installment was directed by Rafael Romero Marchent, a Spanish director better known for Spanish-made Italian western fare like the Gianni Garko-starring Sartana Kills Them All and Dead Are Countless which had Anthony Steffen in it. He also made Disco Rojo with Paul Naschy.

Santo’s female co-stars include Helga Liné (My Dear KillerThe Blancheville MonsterMission Bloody MaryNightmare Castle) and Mirta Miller (Get MeanDr. Jekyll vs. The WerewolfCount Dracula’s Great Love).

Santo contra la Magia Negra (1973)

Santo goes on vacation and shoots a movie, then forgets that he needs a wrestling scene and Alfredo B. Crevenna tells him they can fix it in editing, so he just splices in the scenes from La Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiros and says, “No te preocupes, Santo bebé. Van a comenzar en Sasha Montenegro y todo ese metraje del diario de viaje de todos modos.”

Santo is battling voodoo because Live and Let Die came out the same year. That means slow-moving zombies, dudes putting snakes on his chest while he’s sleeping, voodoo ceremonies in which a goat says, “Is that Ruggero Deodato?” before he’s violently killed for real and scientist fathers brought back from the dead.

Bellamira the evil voodoo queen is not beneath using old school tricks like stabbing a Santo doll with pins. I mean, it’s an old fashioned attack but if it works, it works.

The end of this movie is astounding, as Santo goes all Wood Beast in Arboria and challenges the black magic woman to a contest of putting their hands into a basket filled with snakes and seeing who gets bit. Santo must have some experience with Charismatic snake churches because he just walks away like nothing happened while our antagonist dies an agonizing death.

With all the dance numbers, you would not be wrong to believe that Santo wrote this movie off as his 1973 vacation. I don’t see you fighting Dracula, Satan and blobs, so please give the man in the silver mask his PTO.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Santo contra los Asesinos de Otros Mundos (1973)

Four people have been killed and three of them were very important people. Of all the detectives that Mexico can call, Santo seems like the best pick. The bad guys want $10 million in 24 hours, but with the man in the silver mask looking for them, perhaps the cops are right to not negotiate with maniacs.

It turns out that the killer is a blob, which means that Santo has faced nearly every great movie monster of the past and has now moved into the modern era. But now he has to content with a bad guy who forces him to battle numerous men in gladiator matches before revealing that he has moon rocks that he is growing into creatures willing to do his bidding. Let’s give it up for Santo in this one because he goes all Indiana Jones and instead of a long fight, he just grabs a machine gun and blows away a bunch of henchmen.

Let me go back and break down that scene again. Santo is forced to battle bad guy after bad guy in a room that looks like it has fake stars and one of them has a flamethrower. I don’t know why anyone makes movies any longer when we have movies like this that give you that scene and then remember that the film is really about a blob. That blob not only attacks innocents, it also eats one of the major bad guys and a villain’s girlfriend.

Don’t get too excited about that blob. It really looks like several people under a sheet, which makes me so much happier than any special effect could. I also enjoy a bad guy who makes all of his men wear neckbands that gas them if they screw up.

Director Rubén Galindo also made Santo vs. the She-Wolves which flirts with gothic horror inside the world of the man with the silver mask. It’s great.

El Santo y La Tigresa (1973)

Also known as Santo y el águila real and The Royal Eagle, this movie puts Santo into a strange situation. He gets a call for help from Irma “La Tigresa” Morales (Irma Serrano*, known as La Tigresa de la Canción Ranchera (The Tigress of Ranchera Music) and the star of another movie made in 1973, La Tigresa, in which was directed by one member of this movie’s directing team, Alfredo B. Crevenna**). Her father and brother have already been killed for their land and she fears that she’s next on the list of the evil Manuel Villafuerte.

Santo is able to work his way into any genre and this time, he’s in a combination western and an exploration of the simple village people of Mexico. And these non-city folk seemingly love nothing more than the senseless slaughter of animals, as this movie features a flashback in which we see Irma’s brother go off a cliff on a horse that is completely real, as well as an honest-to-goodness cockfight. She also shoots a rabbit for real to show Santo her marksmanship abilities and then, after Santo’s wine gets drugged, he tests the poison out of a kitten. Later, La Tigresa’s protective eagle La Serrana is placed in a bag and smashed numerous times into a wall, yet somehow survives.

Who was under that silver mask, Ruggero Deodato?

Somehow, this movie also has numerous musical numbers, dancing scenes and a dungeon full of humanity malformed by incest, including an evil hunchback, who all beat the heck out of Santo before he starts giving back body drops to dudes into the hard dirt.

All Santo movies are wild on some level, but this one is one of the oddest ones. Santo is barely even the star of his own movie, standing back so La Tigresa can be tecnico Tura Satana and win over all of our hearts.

*Irma is amazing in this, fighting dudes with her fists and a bullwhip, boasting through song and owning her own cock — for fighting, you little raincoater. In real life, she bought her own theater where she put on highly erotic shows like her take on Emile Zola’s Nanå. In 1977, she collaborated with Jodorowsky to perform the stage play Lucrecia Borgia. They fought throughout and both ended up putting on their own version of the show.

She also put on plays like A Lady Without Camelias, Oh … Calcutta, Yocasta Reina, The Cross-legged War and A calzón amarrado, which was based on her controversial biography as well a series of adults-only midnight plays Emanuele LIVEJail for GirlsVampira! (Emanuele de ultratumba) and Carmen.

La Tigresa is a controversial figure, as she was jailed by Guadalupe Borja, the First Lady of Mexico, for traveling to Los Pinos, the presidential residence, and singing to President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. It would be more than thirty years before Irma owned up to the affair, defending his honor and saying that she was not the person who ordered him to attack the students in the 1968 massacre of Tlatelolco.

She won a senate race in her home state of Chiapas and a few years later, went to jail for brandishing a gun and threatening to kill an ex-tenant. She’s still alive at 87 and one assumes has lived an insane life.

**René Cardona Jr. is the other half of the directing duo.

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Based on the 1970 novella Fengriffen by David Case, this Ray Ward Baker (AsylumA Night to RememberThe Vault of Horror) is a rare non-anthology Amicus film.

After moving to her fiancé Charles Fengriffen’s family estate, Catherine (Stephanie Beacham, Dynasty) keeps seeing an undead man with a birthmarked face, no eyes and a severed right hand. In fact, a spirit goes so far as to assault her on her wedding night. So imagine how she feels when she meets a woodsman who lives on the grounds. He has the same birthmark as her horrible dreams.

Anyone that answers her questions about all of these strange happenings is killed immediately — by axe, by severed hand, by throwing down the stairs, bye bye.

Charles believes that his wife is mentally ill, but since she is with his child, he calls for Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing), who gets close to the truth before the hand shows up again and kills his witness. That’s when Charles reveals that his grandfather (Herbert Lom!) once assaulted his servant Silas’ wife and sliced off that man’s hand as punishment for trying to get revenge. The child grew up to be the woodsman, whose father Silas cursed the Fengriffen family. The next virgin bride to enter their home — Catherine — would be attacked by a ghost, her decency taken and her child possessed. Anyone who tries to help her will die.

The end of this movie is completely deranged. The baby is born looking exactly like Catherine’s vision — no eyes, the birthmark and missing a hand — so Charles shoots the woodsman in both eyes before digging up Silas and tearing his corpse apart.

This film was shot in Oakley Court, which you may recognize from several Hammer films and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Today, it’s a luxury hotel.

One more fact: producer Max Rosenberg attempted to use the title I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, which is a Harlan Ellison book. How quickly do you think Harlan ran to court to stop him?

You have so many options to watch this! It’s on Tubi, Shudder and available from Severin.

The Creeping Flesh (1973)

Directed by Freddie Francis* for Tigon, this film pairs Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing yet is made at the end of the era of British gothic horror. Yet despite how silly it gets, with Cushing holding a gigantic prehistoric finger that appears as sexualized as it gets, I love every single moment of this film.

Cushing is Prof. Emmanuel Hildern,a scientist who discovers an incredibly large skeleton — Anunnaki alert — that is older than other skeletons in the area, yet much more advanced. He hopes that this finding will win him the Richter Prize, but that award looks like its going to be won by his brother John (Lee), who has been looking over Emmanuel’s institutionalized wife for years. He plans on using his study of his brother’s wife to win that award and he also refuses to pay for the professor’s skeleton-finding trips.

Whatever this skeleton is, legend says that it was a monster that feared rain — maybe because the Great Flood wiped out the other Nephilim — and that it can grow skin when it comes into contact with water.

Hildern has a theory that if evil itself — the skeleton — can be a living being, then it can be biologically contained and treated like a disease. Using cells from the skeleton’s fleshy finger, he created a serum that can stop evil. After testing the drug on a monkey with good results, Emmanuel also immunizes his daughter Penelope, who may have inherited her mother’s mental illness.

Of course, the next day, the monkey has gone wild and now we have Penelope dancing on tables and slashing sailors. Soon, James finds out about the srum and kidnaps his niece and steals the skeleton, which gets exposed to the rain and becomes, well, a pretty goofy looking monster that I can’t help but completely be head over heels for.

I also love the ending of this movie, which is so open ended that you can see it as Lee’s character denying that his brother is related to him to sve his reputation or that Emmanuel was never a doctor at all, but just another patient. If that’s true, then who really took his finger in revenge? Does the monster exist?

You can watch this on Tubi.

*Don Sharp, who also made Psychomania, was the original director before Francis was hired to replace him.

Sssssss (1973)

Oh man, this movie. I can’t even believe some of the things that happen in it, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s another PG-rated 1973 movie — hello, The Baby — that is absolutely berserk.

Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski and written by Hal Dresner (Zorro the Gay Blade) and Daniel C. Striepeke (who also produced this film and did the creative makeup design*; he also did makeup work on everything from Planet of the Apes and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to Myra BreckinridgeJaws the Revenge and Can’t Stop the Music before doing make-up for several Tom Hanks-starring movies), Sssssss tells the story of Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin), a man who we first meet as he sells a mysterious creature to a carnival.

Beyond being a herpetologist, Dr. Carl has gone completely and utterly crazy, believing that man is about to undergo an ecological apocalypse and would be better served if we all became amphibians. He brings on David Blake (Dirk Benedict) as his assistant, slowly injecting him with medications that he claims will make him immune to snake bites. Obviously, Blake is a moron because such a vaccination does not exist**. He is not so dumb that he doesn’t instantly start pining for Dr. Carl’s daughter Kristina (Heather Menzies, who was Louisa in The Sound of Music and would appear nude in Playboy the very same year this was made in a pictorial all so creatively titled “Tender Trapp”).

And before you know it, David is having wild Keir Dullea dreams of reptiles when he isn’t turning green. The doctor keeps feeding people to snakes and sending snakes to kill people in showers and one wonders, how has he gotten away with all of these shenanigans in such a small town for so long? Also, the end of this movie is completely off the rails — and the movie is never normal, not for a second, so for it to get weirder is an accomplishment — when David transforms into a king cobra and battles a mongoose before the cops come in blasting with shotguns.

I kind of adore this movie because at once it’s a movie that has an incredibly scholarly take on snakes and how they actually operate while also being a movie with numerous sideshow scenes and two people — the other is Tim McGraw the Snake Man who is played by Noble Craig, a Vietnam vet who lost lose both of his legs, his right arm and most of the sight in his right eye and used that handicap to become a living special effect in movies like this, Poltergeist II, the remake of The BlobBride of the Re-AnimatorA Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Big Trouble In Little China — are transformed into snake men.

In case you think that this movie was safe to make, the venomous king cobras in it were not defanged. Instead, they were kept at their full potency and milked of their venom every day.

This movie has some great alternate titles, like O Homem-Cobra (The Snake Man) in Brazil, SSSSKobra and Ssssnake in Finland — and Sssssnake Kobra in Germany — as well as Ssssilbido de Muerte (Whisper of Death) in Mexico and Hissssss and SSSSnake in the U.S.

Honestly, drop what you’re doing and watch this movie right now.

*The actual effects are by John Chambers, who created Spock’s ears, and Nick Marcellino.

**I take that back. My research has show that there is a rattlesnake vaccine, so there you go.

Ron Marchini Week Wrap Up!

Phew. We did it! Twelve Ron Marchini films in two days. You know the drill! Yee-haw, let’s round ’em up!

Born in California and rising through the U.S. Army’s ranks to become a drill sergeant, in his civilian life, Ron Marchini earned the distinction as the best defensive fighter in the U.S.; by 1972, he was ranked the third best fighter in the country. Upon winning several worldwide tournaments, and with Robert Clouse’s directing success igniting a worldwide martial arts film craze with Enter the Dragon (1973), the South Asian film industry beckoned.

After making his debut in 1974’s Murder in the Orient, Marchini began a long friendship with filmmaker Paul Kyriazi, who directed Ron in his next film, the epic Death Machines, then later, in the first of Ron’s two appearances as post-apoc law officer John Travis, in Omega Cop.

Ron also began a long friendship with Leo Fong (Kill Point) after their co-staring in Murder in the Orient; after his retirement from the film industry — after making eleven dramatic-action films and one documentary — Ron concentrated on training and writing martial arts books with Leo, as well as becoming a go-to arts teacher. Today, he’s a successful California almond farmer.

In the annals of martial arts tournaments, Marchini is remembered as Chuck Norris’s first tournament win (The May 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles, California) by defeating Marchini by a half a point. Another of Chuck’s old opponents, Tony Tullener, who beat Norris in the ring three times, pursued his own acting career with the William Riead-directed Scorpion.

You can learn more about Ron Marchini with his biography at USAdojo.com. An interview at The Action Elite, with Ron’s friend and Death Machines director Paul Kyriazi, also offers deeper insights.


Ron, second from right, with Chuck Norris, shaking hands, 1965. Courtesy of Ken Osbourne/Facebook.
Courtesy of USADojo.com.

The Flicks!

The Reviews!

New Gladiators (1973)
Murder in the Orient (1974)
Death Machines (1976)
Dragon’s Quest (1983)
Ninja Warriors (1985)
Forgotten Warrior (1986)
Jungle Wolf (1986)
Return Fire (1988)
Arctic Warriors (1989)
Omega Cop (1990)
Karate Cop (1991)
Karate Raider (1995)

Black tee-shirt image courtesy of Spreadshirt. Art work/text by B&S About Movies.

We love ya, Ron!

About the Review Authors: Sam Panico is the founder, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and editor-in-chief of B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Lettebox’d and Twitter. R.D Francis is the grease bit scrubber, dumpster pad technician, and staff writer at B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Facebook.