Madhouse [1974]

Genre: Crime, Horror, Mystery
If your sense of humor is even moderately twisted, you'll savor Theatre of Blood, a tasty course of well-cooked ham. Directed with delectable British wit by Douglas Hickox, the comedy is decidedly dark when Vincent Price--as effete has-been thespian Richard Lionheart--wreaks poetic justice upon the snobby critics who panned his performances and drove him to a failed attempt at suicide. Reciting his poor reviews and staging murders inspired by Shakespearean tragedies, the actor and his Dickensian coterie of accomplices (including Diane Rigg, sexy as ever) dispatch their victims with shocking ingenuity, and by the time Lionheart reenacts Titus Andronicus by gorging one dog-loving critic (the hilariously poofy Robert Morley) on toy-poodle stew, Theatre of Blood reaches giddy heights of outrageous vengeance. It's all in good fun, of course, and the film's esteemed British cast plays it to the hilt, none better than Price in one of his most entertaining roles. --Jeff Shannon Madhouse doesn't skimp on the horror-movie trimmings: Vincent Price in his campy post-Poe era, a crazy woman kept in the basement, the murder of an ex-porn star, and… Peter Cushing. All of which turns out to be barely tolerable as drive-in fodder, for this is the least of Price's run of revenge movies in the early Seventies. He plays an actor identified with his horror-movie roles (famed for playing "Dr. Death"), who attempts a comeback after a long layoff. Alas, his instability affects the production--or something does, not that you'll likely care about the explanation. Cushing has a collection of Price's old AIP movies to sit around and watch, and Adrienne Corri is the lady in the basement. Ham-handedly directed and confusingly plotted, this one's for diehard Price fans only. And their reward comes at the end, when the actor can be heard crooning "When Day Is Done" over the end credits. --Robert Horton

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