‘Theatre of Blood’ (1973) Blu-Ray Review

Theatre of Blood Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review: Theatre of Blood” (1973)

Distributor: Twilight Time

Street Date: August 16th 2016

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio, English 1.0 DTS HD Master Audio

Runtime: 104 Minutes

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The Film:

“It’s curtains for his critics!” –Theatrical Tagline

When you think of the Horror greats of the past century, who comes to mind? There have been so many iconic performances from truly talented and memorable ladies and gentleman of the genre over the years, and it’s likely a hard task for any devoted film fan to pick just one. From Lugosi to Chaney, and Karloff to Lee, there are those masters of the stage and screen who simply understood their audience well enough to unleash the thrills in a focused onslaught of perfection. But for my money, there never will be anyone quite like Mr. Vincent Price. He was such a commanding presence on screen, from his tall stature to his iconic mustache; and a simple lift of an eyebrow or a tweak in his vocal inflection could bring a smile to his fans all over the world. He was a lover of art, a doting father, and a man that seemed content with his typecasting in the Horror genre, despite being a loveable, kind, and giving soul in real life (a far cry from some of the wicked men he portrayed on screen). He was also multi-talented, able to convey sinister dread in a non-speaking role like Dr. Phibes, saying so much with just his eyes and expression. He could portray damaged and desperate, such as his turn as Robert Morgan in The Last Man on Earth. Even in his later years, a minor role in Edward Scissorhands (as the title character’s genius creator) would leave us smiling and heartbroken at an elderly man’s glee and pride in caring for his unique “child.” Vincent Price was an iconic actor with a hypnotic presence on screen, and Twilight Time continues to celebrate the legendary actor’s filmography on Blu-Ray with their latest release of Theatre of Blood.

With 1973’s Theatre of Blood, Vincent Price stars as Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearian stage actor seeking vengeance against the critics who trashed his performances over the years. When Lionheart is overlooked for a critic’s award he feels he truly deserved, he thrusts himself into the river Thames and is presumed dead. A wandering group of drug-addicted vagrants soon rescue him from his watery would-be grave, and along with his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), assist him with tracking down the mean-spirited critics one by one. The delight in watching Theatre of Blood resides in its macabre blend of dark comedy and campy horror, and it’s easy to see why Vincent Prince considered this his personal favorite role. Not only did he get to recite some of Shakespeare’s most famous dialogue on the big screen, but he was also allowed to be creative with his performances, turning the “camp” pleasure of this outing up to full blast.

Director Douglas Hickox and screenwriter Anthony Greville-Bell offer up several clever death scenes for the critics, not to mention witty dialogue throughout, and it’s a pleasure to watch Price ham it up with several outrageous performances within one film. Having been at least a decade since I last had the pleasure of watching Theatre of Blood, I had forgotten how much fun this particular Price vehicle was, and I’m thankful to Twilight Time for releasing it in High Definition.

Video Quality:

Shot on 35mm, Theatre of Blood looks splendid on Blu-Ray from Twilight Time. MGM has treated the film well in its vault, and this high definition image features decent black levels, authentic and natural film grain, and a color scheme that seems more robust and authentic compared to past releases. There are some occasional scratches inherent to the print, which is to be expected, but overall the image is very stable and lovely to behold in high definition.

Audio Quality:

The included 1.0 DTS HD Master Audio track regularly balances dialogue, the wonderful film score by Michael J. Lewis, and background sound effectively. There are plenty of thrilling musical cues as tension builds throughout the film, and the track does a nice job of conveying the mood. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clear, and though this isn’t a multi-channel effort, I was surprised by how dynamic and strong the presentation came across.

Special Features:

Twilight Time has given Theatre of Blood a limited selection of bonus features for this Blu-Ray release, but the audio commentary alone is worth the price of admission! Here’s a list of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary- Film Historians David Del Valle and Nick Redman sit down to discuss Theatre of Blood. Offering up plenty of fascinating history behind the making of the film and an engaging discussion around Price himself on more than a few occasions, this is an insightful and entertaining commentary from two of my favorite film historians.
  • Isolated Score Track- Available in the “setup” section of the main menu, those who purchase this Limited Edition release have the option of watching the film with the isolated musical score. Twilight Time has come to be known for including this great option on their releases, and it always makes for an interesting way to view a film.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer- They just don’t make ‘em like this any more folks! The original theatrical trailer for the film runs 2 ½ minutes and is a wonderful showcase of plot elements and exciting scenes set to Vincent Price’s narration. For those who have yet to see the film, it’s a perfect enticement to sit back and enjoy the show.
  • MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer- This 2 minute trailer showcases select films from MGM’s wonderful catalog including Rain Man, The Man with No Name Trilogy, The Princess Bride, Dances with Wolves, Skyfall, Platoon, In the Heat of the Night, The Silence of the Lambs, and many more. There is some nice High Definition footage here to showcase how great these titles look on the Blu-Ray format.
  • Twilight Time Catalogue- Not necessarily a bonus feature per se, but I’ve always dug this helpful tool on Twilight’s past releases. This is presented on the main menu of the disc as a chapter selection to peruse their great catalog on Screen Archives, and even indicates which titles are now out of print.

The Packaging:

This limited edition from Twilight Time features the amazing original theatrical poster design on the front of the case, depicting Price and Rigg as the puppet masters controlling the theatre critics. With just hints of color splash and the bold blood red lettering for the title, it works beautifully for this Blu-Ray release. On the reverse you’ll find a short plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, and technical specifications. On the inside of the packaging is the disc itself, some finely crafted interior sleeve featuring the title amid a theatre curtain, and the booklet featuring production stills and an essay by the lovely and talented Julie Kirgo. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Kirgo’s essays are an absolute highlight on every Twilight release! She has a beautiful way with words, and I hope Twilight Time can someday publish a “collected works” featuring all of her essays (hint-hint, wink-wink!).

Final Report:

The delight in watching Theatre of Blood resides in its macabre blend of dark comedy and campy horror, and it’s easy to see why Vincent Prince considered this his personal favorite role. Not only did he get to recite some of Shakespeare’s most famous dialogue on the big screen, but he was also allowed to be creative with his performances, turning the “camp” pleasure of this outing up to full blast. This Blu-Ray release from Twilight Time features great video and audio quality, a captivating booklet essay by the lovely Julie Kirgo, and an excellent audio commentary with David Del Valle and Nick Redman. Fans of the late, great Vincent Price can delight with this clever mix of comedy and horror…because Theatre of Blood comes highly recommended!

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