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Theater of Blood

Theater of Blood (1973), starring Vincent Price, Diana Rigg

Synopsis of Theater of Blood

Vincent Price plays a Shakespearian actor Edward Lionheart, who re-enacts murder scenes penned by Shakespeare. He’s killing the nine theatre critics who have denied him the Best Actor of the Year award. With his devoted daughter (Diana Rigg), they seek revenge in a bloody and violent way.

Review of Theater of Blood

In short, if you enjoyed The Abominable Dr. Phibes, then you’ll enjoy Theater of Blood. The themes are very similar, and the acts of revenge are equally disturbing. In many ways, it almost feels like a remake of Phibes. Similarities to Phibes include

  • a presumed-dead protagonist seeking revenge
    • who is a professional performer
  • Nine intended victims
    • one of whom works directly with Scotland Yard and survives
  • themed murders rooted in literature
  • a young female sidekick

Murder victims in Theater of Blood

For those interested, the critics’ murders are based on:

  1. George Maxwell (Michael Hordern) is murdered by a mob of homeless people, suggested by the murder of Caesar in “Julius Caesar”.
  2. Hector Snipe (Dennis Price) is stabbed with a spear and his body dragged away, tied to a horse’s tail replicating the murder of Hector from “Troilus & Cressida”.
  3. Horace Sprout (Arthur Lowe) is decapitated while sleeping; as was Cloton in “Cymbeline”.
  4. Trevor Dickman (Harry Andrews) has his heart cut out by Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”, rewriting the play so that Antonio is forced to repay his debt with a pound of flesh.
  5. Oliver Larding (Robert Coote) is drowned in a barrel of wine as is the Duke of Clarence in “Richard III”.
  6. Solomon Psaltery (Jack Hawkins) an obsessively jealous man, murders his wife believing her to be unfaithful, as portrayed by “Othello”. Due to his age, it’s speculated that he would die in prison.
  7. Miss Chloe Moon (Coral Browne), the only female victim, is electrocuted to replicate the burning of Joan of Arc in “Henry VI: Part One”.
  8. Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley), a flamboyantly homosexual man, is force fed pies made from the meat of his dogs (who he regards as his ‘babies’) until he suffocates; replicating the death of Queen Tamara in “Titus Andronicus” who was fed her children in a pie.
  9. Having survived multiple lacerations during a fencing bout with Lionheart in the duel scene from “Romeo & Juliet”, Peregrine Devlin (
    Ian Hendry), the final critic, survives again, when he is rescued just before being blinded with burning knives, as was Gloucester in “King Lear”.

Trivia for Theater of Blood

  • Considered by Vincent Price to be his personal favorite of all his films.
  • Diana Rigg regards this as her best film.
  • Vincent Price fell in love with and married actress Coral Browne after the production. The film was released after Vincent Price’s March 18, 1973 appearance as the subject of “This is Your Life”, his last public appearance with second wife Mary, who knew nothing yet about his affair with Coral, set up by Diana Rigg, who noticed the chemistry between the two.
  • Credits include Tutte Lemkow as “choreographer of the meths drinkers”

Editorial review of Theater of Blood

If your sense of humor is even moderately twisted, you’ll savor this 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