Limerwrecks limerick link

Another Childhood Chill over at Limerwrecks, the home of the movie rhyme.

Fiona: “How did they get such an amazing cast?”

Me: “It’s a film about murdering theatre critics. They could have cast it a thousand times over.”

Still, at age 12 or so, I found this one a bit much. Partly it’s the sadistic glee of the bloodletting, the grossness of the visuals (particularly Robert Morley being force-fed poodle pie through a funnel — an acquaintance reported that this scene put her off chicken pie for life), and the fact that Arthur Lowe is killed in his sleep, in bed, the place of safety. I actually had to glance around any room I entered for some weeks after seeing the film, for fear of being surprised by the severed head of Arthur Lowe. Not a very realistic fear, but there it is. Also, as a kid, I think black comedy was particularly disturbing to me — unpleasant stuff not being taken seriously threw me for a loop. Which may be why I’ve taken care to develop quite a strong tolerance for the stuff now, though some jokes still upset me (see review of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS).

22 Responses to “Limerwrecks limerick link”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Harold Bloom, the Shakespeare critic, is a big Vincent Price fan, citing his work in the Corman films as being the true spirit of Edgar Allen Poe.

  2. Though Theatre of Blood isn’t as visually gorgeous as the more original Phibes films, it gives VP much more to do (his paralysed mask of a face in Phibes was a counter-productive restriction) — he hardly ever appears as Lionheart the man, he’s mostly inhabiting a series of Shakespearian roles and “killing in character”. The stage musical, with Jim Broadbent, sounds delicious, and ought to be filmed.

    Beloved Brit comic Eric Sykes is in Theatre of Blood, and turned up again as the gardener in The Others. I await with baited breath the completion of his informal trilogy of terror.

  3. Just adore this one. Price and Rig make a delightful Father-Daughter team.

    OFF-TOPIC: My Nico salute is up at Dennis Cooper’s

  4. Arthur S. Says:

    Great. I hear a number of Garrel’s films are based on his relationship with Nico.

  5. I’ve included several Garrel clips.

  6. I also saw it on TV at about the same age: I found it brilliant, funny but also terribly frightening and, yes, awfully gross (I have *never* been able to see it again!!).

    I could say that I’m only able to stomach old horror films, the average 60s/70s Hammer films beind the treshold of my tolerance… the Dr. Phibes films and this one (and, by extension, any gory horror flic afterwards) are somehow off-limits for me.

  7. I still find the nastiness shocking in these, which it’s mean to be, I guess. It contrasts with the wit and compliments it, and seems worlds away from Hostel and its unsavoury ilk, but in itself it’s a bit alarming!

    Fiona was freaked out by the clockwork frog mask that crushes a man’s head in Abominable Dr Phibes. I didn’t see that one until years later.

  8. It’s very much related to the Phibes films, but staged in a contemporary setting rather than a stylized art nouveau one. I don’t find it quite as “nasty” as the Phibes — though Morley being force-fed his poodles is a bit much.

  9. specterman Says:

    God that ghastly Poodle-head pie scene has stayed with me. Truly grotesque. I must of seen it about the same age as you, I expected a run of the mill Hammer but got somewhat ambushed by this one. I’ve not seen it since, I doubt I could still get past that scene. Poor Morley.

  10. Did the experience of making this film inspire Rigg to compile her book “No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews”? The book came out in 1982, nine years after Theatre of Blood.

  11. My favorite black comedies are DR. STRANGELOVE and Tony Richardson’s THE LOVED ONE. I know you’re a fan of the former. How about the latter?

  12. I’ve enjoyed Theatre of Blood for years, and even had the privilege of writing my first-ever college paper on it for a Shakespeare on Film class. (It wasn’t very good.) It is surprisingly gory and vicious, sometimes to less effect (I think here of the weirdly campy Joan of Arc scene with Price’s future wife Coral Browne) and sometimes to more – I see feeding Robert Morley his dogs as a brilliant scene of queasy, gross dark comedy.

    If only the film had slightly more consistent writing or a little more of the visual ingenuity of the Corman/Price films… but oh well. It works on its own ridiculous terms.

  13. Price met Browne on this movie and not long after they were married.

  14. Tony Williams Says:

    This has always been one of my favorite Price films and the man himself was very touched when I met him in the 1970s in Manchester when I stated that it was one of his best roles. Yes, the poodle feeding sequence is very uncomfortable but you have to remember that the character is very versed in Jacobean revenge tragedy and Benjamin Kidd’s THE SPANISH TRAGEDY, an early version of HAMLET that is full of gore. The scene also evokes TITUS ANDRONICUS where the evil sons are served up as food at the banquet so it does have a rationale.

  15. Christopher Says:

    I miss Vincent Price :o(..He was always so pleasant and game for anything..

  16. I’m crazy about The Loved One. Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton as man and wife? Lionel Stander as an agony aunt? Paul Williams firing the deceased into space? What’s not to like?

    All the murders in Theatre of Blood are “dramatically justified” — except maybe the very funny offscreen assassination of Eric Sykes — and at least they didn’t bake human offspring in a pie, I suppose, but it always seemed that the more nauseating images didn’t quite help the laughs. But probably if I were seeing it for the first time today, I wouldn’t mind so much.

  17. Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton as husband and wife is one the greeatest bizarre pieces of casting ever. Say their names togehter and it sound insane, but the moment they hit the screen (arguing over how to bury a dead dog) they’re c0mpletely believeable as a Beverly Hills couple.

    The other great thing about the film is that the screenplay is by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood and you can tell who wrote what the moment the actors say their lines.

  18. Heh! Amazing how the additions don’t greatly alter the tone.

  19. Precisely. And they reveal the essence my antipathy to the Coens — especially when the signs are held up next to Bardem’s head.

  20. I love Theatre of Blood too – particularly the neat twist that the hero appears to be able to escape from the Saw-styled trap at the finale because of the villains forgetting that Gloucester might have been blinded with daggers in King Lear, but didn’t die from that, so their plans were fatally flawed from the fundamental ‘Shakespeare’s greatest deaths’ tribute sense!

  21. Well, they’ve played fast and loose with Shakespeare already, extracting a pound of flesh etc, so maybe the daggers are meant to drive right through to his brain. Anyway, Ian Hendrie’s eyes are famously “pissholes in the snow” so it’s no great loss.

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