Boo! Did I scare you? It’s October, and, for much of America, that means horror movies for a month. The days are noticably shorter, the clouds have started rolling in, leaves are changing color, and the last of the crops are rolling in. Many fruits and vegetables will be slaughtered over these four weeks, as they finish ripening to be stored for the long hard winters ahead. To accompany the wholesale reaping of the harvest, we traditionally pay respects to the dead…by watching more of them get killed on screen in horrifically violent manners.
In all of horror history, no actor has so embraced the gothic horror genre with as much sly sinister joy as Vincent Price. Tall and gaunt, Price didn’t embrace his horror movie roots until he was 42 when he starred as the murderous wax sculptor and master of ceremonies in 1953’s House of Wax. He possessed a sprightly glee at the various sadisms he inflicted on both his victims and the audience, as he made people into exceedingly lifelike sculptures and then put them on display for an unsuspecting audience.
After decades of horror movies, frequently on the b-movie circuit, he finally made the movie that he would call his favorite. 1973’s Theater of Blood is a campy horror comedy that brutally mixes the high brow and the low brow while slaughtering the idea of critics determining the success of a working career. Vincent Price stars as Edward Lionheart, a very bad Shakespearean actor who was excoriated at the hands of the critics. After being humiliated at an awards ceremony, he faked his own suicide and the sets out to kill all of the theater critics who hated him while he was alive through Shakespearean methods.
On the surface, Theater of Blood is little more than a chain of graphic Shakespearean death scenes delivered in high camp, and it’s such fun. Vincent Price goes completely off the rails, chewing the already tattered scenery while delivering monologues from Titus Andronicus and King Lear and then following up with gleefully gory murder. In between, a variety of critics bitch about how bad of an actor Vincent Price is. There’s such a sharp tongue in cheek that everybody’s cheek is bleeding…and it’s SO DAMN FUN.
Theater of Blood streams on Hulu