Gort vs Shakespeare: Is Theatre of Blood the movie Saw should be?

Commander's log, Stardate 13092013.2

"Infamy, infamy, you've all got it in for me!" whined Steve the Engineer as he melodramatically whirled around the Mothership's briefing room. "First he beats me up for eating his bloody biscuits," he pointed to me, " and now you've both gone and blown the plot of this week's film!"

"He is overly emotional." Gort droned in a whisper, "shall I disintegrate him?"

"No, I can't be bothered to teach anyone else to use the coffee machine," I mumbled before launching into an apology.


Ah, Vincent Price. A more-magnificent actor has never before or since appeared in such a range of fantastically off-the-wall movies. His Dr Phibes was an incontrovertible legend in the field of camp super villainy and horror alike, and in 1973, MGM wanted to recreate the success of that one-two punch. The result of that intention was Theatre of Blood.

Price plays a talented thespian whose career has reached its pinnacle with his expected receipt of the Critics' Circle Award. Standing as the winner is announced, Price is humiliated when another actor's name is called out. Somewhat over-reacting, Price throws himself from the penthouse of a building in front of the critics who passed him over and his own daughter, Diana Rigg. Price refuses to let that get him down, however, and resurfaces as the leader of a ragtag gang of feral tramps.

"If you ever doubt Price's abilities, this is the film to pull off the shelf"

Aided by an oddly androgynous-looking hippy, Price sets out to get his murderous revenge on each of the critics who snubbed him by recreating the death scenes from various Shakespeare plays with a modern twist. He sword fights with one while quoting the duel scene from Romeo and Juliet and extracts the heart from another's chest in a spin on the "pound of flesh" ending from The Merchant of Venice. It all culminates with the, ahem, 'revelation' of who Price's assistant really is and both meeting their final comeuppance for their egotism.

We may have given rather a lot away here, but we hope this will carry you through Theatre of Blood's biggest flaw, its slow and clunky opening act. The film isn't nearly as subtle as it wishes to be, but it trying to be mysterious leaves you wondering where exactly the plot is going for a good half hour. The joy of Phibes is that it didn't mess around in getting to the point. When Theatre of Blood does finally get going, neither the plot nor the impotent gore will be enough to keep your attention through the Carry On-level comic relief.

So why are we recommending the movie? For the same reason Price enjoyed shooting it so much - he got to play a huge range of Shakespearean characters and he clearly had a whale of a time doing so. The Shakespearean scenes are beautifully acted and competently shot. If you ever doubt Price's abilities, this is the film to pull off the shelf.