Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 29th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1973
Director: Douglas Hickox
Writers: Anthony Greville-Bell, Stanley Mann, John Kohn
Cast: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Milo O’Shea, Eric Sykes, Madeline Smith, Diana Dors
BluRay released: May 19th, 2014
Approximate running times: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99
Theatre of Blood was Douglas Hickox who’s other notable films include, Brannigan and Zulu Dawn. Key collaborators on Theatre of Blood include cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky (Get Carter – 1971) and composer Michael J. Lewis (The Unseen). An alternate title that Theatre of Blood is also known under is Much Ado about Murder.
Vincent Price had a long career which spanned seven decades. And though his name has become synonymous with the Horror film genre, it was not until his association with American Film International that he would be so firmly entrench him in the genre for which his is now one of its most recognized Icon’s. Also by the time that Theatre of Blood had come around he was wrapping up his partnership with AIP and the Horror film genre was going through its own transformation.
Content wise one would be hard pressed to find a script that was not more tailor made for Price, an actor who own star was somewhat diminished in the eyes of critics due to his extensive work within the Horror film genre. The premise of having an actor track down his critics and disposing of them by using the works of Shakespeare is sheer poetic justice. And though this film is firmly rooted within the Horror film genre Price’s extraordinary performance proves without a doubt that he was an actor of great range.
Narrative wise the plot is flawlessly laid out with each new act of revenge distinctively different from the next. Also though there are deaths of onscreen and an ample amount of bloodshed, the way in which many of deaths are shown they often are laced with subversive humor. Most notably a scene where a critic is forced feed his two beloved dogs or the scene where Price’s character named Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart poses as a hairdresser and electrocutes another critic with hair rollers. Needless to say humor plays an integral part in the subject matter at hand.
Besides Price’s aforementioned performance there rest of the cast also show up with their ‘A’ game. Another stand out performance is Diana Rigg (‘The Avengers’, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) in the role of Edwina Lionheart. She gives a pitch perfect performance that perfectly contrasts Price’s performance. From top to bottom this a is superb cast that features several recognizable faces like Ian Hendry (Repulsion), Jack Hawkins (Zulu), Dennis Price (Vampyros Lesbos), Milo O’Shea (Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy) and Price’s future wife, Coral Browne (The Ruling Class).
Right from the get go this film establishes an infectious tone in which makes it near impossible not to root for the killer. Also unlike an atypical horror film where frightening the viewer is the number one adjective. This film’s goes against the grain with its tongue and cheek humor, which also helps lessen the blow on some of the more gruesome deaths. There are so many factors that make or break a film and in regards to Theatre of Blood is it one of those rare occasions where everything just seems to fall in place. With that being said, it is not difficult to see how this film was Vincent Price’s favorite film that he worked on.
Theatre of Blood comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The images looks great, colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels look consistently strong throughout. Details always look crisp, there no issues with DNR or compression. Overall this is another strong transfer from Arrow Video that greatly improves upon all previous home video releases.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM Mono mix in English. The audio sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout. And though the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented, range wise things sound rather limited. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 32 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio), four interviews – the first one with Vincent Price biographer David Del Valle (10 minutes 42 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), the second interview with actress Madeline Smith (9 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), the third interview with Victoria Price (11 minutes 46 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and the fourth interview with composer Michael J. Lewis (17 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and an audio commentary with The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.
Topics discussed in the interviews include the cast and how he met his future wife Coral Browne, Vincent Price – his work within the horror genre and how Theatre of Blood was his favorite film that he appeared in, Price’s thoughts on critics, working with director Douglas Hickox and the film’s score. The audio commentary is a lively track that is a entertaining mix of humor and information about the film and those involved in making it.
Rounding out the extras is limited Edition SteelBook packaging, a three minute bonus segment with Michael J. Lewis and a thirty page booklet that contains a new writing on the film by film critic Cleaver Patterson and a reproduction of original press book material, illustrated with original archive stills. Overall Theatre of Blood gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.