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Saturday, August 2, 2014

REVIEW: Theatre of Blood (Arrow Blu-ray)

When I was in 8th grade I was confirmed as a member of the Presbyterian church of my own volition. This may shock some of you who know me now. I wasn’t always the strange hybrid Pagan, mad scientist that you see before you now. I went to church and stuff. In this process we had confirmation partners who were adults who would help us along our path. I happened to have a friggin awesome partner who steered me into some really cool stuff. She dug good music. She was into good movies. She made me try Bologna and Peanut Butter rollups, and when I made my confirmation, she gave me a copy of Theatre of Blood starring Vincent Price because she knew that I loved The Abominable Dr. Phibes. In the early 90’s on VHS it wasn’t exactly the most popular movie to come by. I’m glad to say that Arrow Video has made it available to the Region B crowd and to the region free folks of the world. The 8th Grade me could seldom imagine the complete package that would be created for Theatre of Blood or the almost Criterion cover art created for this release.

Synopsis from Arrow Video:

Vincent Price gives a career best performance as Edward Lionhart, a veteran Shakespearean actor who, when passed over for the coveted Critic’s Circle award for Best Actor takes deadly revenge on the critics who snubbed him.

Yes there are clearly similarities between Dr. Phibes and the antagonist in Theatre of Blood. They both like to kill en masse for being wronged by colleagues in their respective professions. They both like to kill in unique ways: Dr. Phibes in the style of the Pharaoh’s Curse from the Bible and Edward Lionhart using Shakespeare’s plays as a crude back drop for revenge. Theatre of Blood is disgusting and modern while Phibes has a Gothic feel (despite taking place in the same era in England). What truly separates the two films is the comedic approach in Theatre which makes it feel somewhat campy. Cheesy. Funny. This is wholly welcome because it kills like forcing a man to eat his own dogs into a celebrated scene of terror rather than an unsympathetic slaughter to which the humane society might take offense

The effects and violence are perfectly cheesy and absolutely indicative of that age in horror. It's not too much for your casual horror fan. I think I saw this when I was 12 years old. Price's performance is spot on, varied and must have been a perfect throwback to his early career which focused on Shakespearean adaptations. 

Extras include:
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
  • Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
  • A Priceless Potboiler: Victoria Price discusses Theatre of Blood
  • A Fearful Thespian: an interview with David Del Valle
  • Staged Reaction: an interview with star Madeleine Smith
  • A Harmony for Horror: an interview with composer Michael J. Lewis
  • Original Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sam Smith
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic Cleaver Patterson and a reproduction of original press book material, illustrated with original archive stills
As you can see Arrow has provided the bird with all the trimmings for this release including an interview with Price's daughter Victoria as well as David Del Valle and Madeleine Smith. I love how Arrow was able to get composer Michael J. Lewis for an interview as well. This era of horror film scores is some of the best in the business, the importance of which can go overlooked.

As a life long Price fan and a fan of Theatre of Blood I can say without a doubt that the Arrow release is a fine product with an nice extra package to bolster some excellent cover art and a terrific transfer. For folks who aren’t Region B or Region Free I’m sure we’ll be seeing a Scream Factory release in the US as part of a Vincent Price set.
This disc is available in either a standard edition or steelbook:



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