Theater of Blood (1973)

R | 104 mins | Black comedy, Horror | April 1973

Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of the film was Much Ado About Murder , and some reviews listed the film's title as Theatre of Blood . The opening credits feature clips from silent film adaptations of plays by William Shakespeare, including the 1922 German production of Othello starring Emil Janning and Lya de Putti, and unidentified productions of Richard III and The Merchant of Venice , all of which are referenced in Theater of Blood. . The picture marked the final feature film appearance of British long-time character actor Robert Coote (1909--1981). As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot in London.
       The murders of the critics in Theater of Blood each correspond to murders in famous plays by Shakespeare: "George Maxwell" is stabbed to death in the middle of March (the Ides of March) mirroring the murder of the title character in Julius Casesar ; "Hector Snipe" is run through with a spear, then his body tied to the tail of a horse and dragged as is "Hector" in Troilus and Cressida ; the head of “Horace Sprout” is cut off while in bed, as is “Cloten” in Cymbeline ; “Trevor Dickman” has his heart cut out, completing the threat made but not acted upon by “Shylock” to “Antonio” in The Merchant of Venice ; “Oliver Sprout” is drowned in a vat of red wine as is the king’s brother “Clarence” in Richard III ; “Maisie Psaltery” is smothered to death by her jealous husband as is “Desdemona” in Othello ; “Chloe Moon” is electrocuted much as “Joan ... More Less

The working title of the film was Much Ado About Murder , and some reviews listed the film's title as Theatre of Blood . The opening credits feature clips from silent film adaptations of plays by William Shakespeare, including the 1922 German production of Othello starring Emil Janning and Lya de Putti, and unidentified productions of Richard III and The Merchant of Venice , all of which are referenced in Theater of Blood. . The picture marked the final feature film appearance of British long-time character actor Robert Coote (1909--1981). As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot in London.
       The murders of the critics in Theater of Blood each correspond to murders in famous plays by Shakespeare: "George Maxwell" is stabbed to death in the middle of March (the Ides of March) mirroring the murder of the title character in Julius Casesar ; "Hector Snipe" is run through with a spear, then his body tied to the tail of a horse and dragged as is "Hector" in Troilus and Cressida ; the head of “Horace Sprout” is cut off while in bed, as is “Cloten” in Cymbeline ; “Trevor Dickman” has his heart cut out, completing the threat made but not acted upon by “Shylock” to “Antonio” in The Merchant of Venice ; “Oliver Sprout” is drowned in a vat of red wine as is the king’s brother “Clarence” in Richard III ; “Maisie Psaltery” is smothered to death by her jealous husband as is “Desdemona” in Othello ; “Chloe Moon” is electrocuted much as “Joan of Arc” is burned in Henry VI and “Meredith Merridew” chokes to death while unwittingly consuming his pet dogs, similar to “Tamora” unknowingly eating a pie made of her sons in Titus Andronicus . In addition to these references, during the sword duel, “Edward Lionheart” asks “Peregrin Devlin” if he recalls the swordplay between “Mercutio” and “Tibalt” in Romeo and Juliet . The death of Edward Lionheart also mimics the conclusion of King Lear as the king dies holding the dead body of his daughter “Cordelia.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Apr 1973
p. 4586.
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1973.
---
Filmfacts
1973
pp. 12-14.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1972
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1972
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 1973
p. 3, 15.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
19 Apr 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1973.
---
New York Times
12 May 1973
p. 19.
Variety
25 Apr 1973
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cineman Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres
Exec prod
Exec prod
Prod
WRITERS
Based on an idea by
Based on an idea by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreography of Meths Drinkers
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to the prods
STAND INS
Stunts arranged by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Much Ado About Murder
Release Date:
April 1973
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 April 1973
Production Date:
early-July--late October 1972 in London
Copyright Claimant:
Harbour Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 April 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42700
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In London, theater critic George Maxwell is lured to an abandoned building where a group of homeless, methadone addicts brutally attack him with knives at the behest of Edward Lionheart, a stage actor believed to be dead. That afternoon, members of the Theatre Critics Circle, Peregrine Devlin, Trevor Dickman, Chloe Moon, Oliver Larding, Solomon Psaltery, Horace Sprout, Meredith Merridew and Hector Snipe, gather for a regular meeting only to learn of George’s vicious slaying. The next day, Hector receives an invitation to an old, abandoned theater where, to his surprise, he finds Edward. After chastising Hector for his vicious review of Edward’s performance as “Achilles” in Shakespeare's Troillus and Cressida , Edward demands to know why Hector did not vote for Edward to win the prestigious Critics Circle Award of the year. Although Hector explains that Peregrine, the group’s leader, dissuaded members from voting for Edward, the actor remains indignant and, recreating the play’s scene in which Achilles murders “Hector,” runs the real Hector through with a huge spear. The next day at the cemetery after George’s funeral, the critics wonder about Hector’s absence only to be startled by a horse galloping down the path toward them. Horrified to find a body dragged behind the animal, the men stop the horse and discover Hector’s now maimed body. Assigned to investigate George’s murder, police inspector Boot and his assistant Sergeant Dogge speculate that the murders of two critics in such quick succession may be connected. Meanwhile ... +


In London, theater critic George Maxwell is lured to an abandoned building where a group of homeless, methadone addicts brutally attack him with knives at the behest of Edward Lionheart, a stage actor believed to be dead. That afternoon, members of the Theatre Critics Circle, Peregrine Devlin, Trevor Dickman, Chloe Moon, Oliver Larding, Solomon Psaltery, Horace Sprout, Meredith Merridew and Hector Snipe, gather for a regular meeting only to learn of George’s vicious slaying. The next day, Hector receives an invitation to an old, abandoned theater where, to his surprise, he finds Edward. After chastising Hector for his vicious review of Edward’s performance as “Achilles” in Shakespeare's Troillus and Cressida , Edward demands to know why Hector did not vote for Edward to win the prestigious Critics Circle Award of the year. Although Hector explains that Peregrine, the group’s leader, dissuaded members from voting for Edward, the actor remains indignant and, recreating the play’s scene in which Achilles murders “Hector,” runs the real Hector through with a huge spear. The next day at the cemetery after George’s funeral, the critics wonder about Hector’s absence only to be startled by a horse galloping down the path toward them. Horrified to find a body dragged behind the animal, the men stop the horse and discover Hector’s now maimed body. Assigned to investigate George’s murder, police inspector Boot and his assistant Sergeant Dogge speculate that the murders of two critics in such quick succession may be connected. Meanwhile at the cemetery, Peregrine recognizes beautiful Edwina Lionheart who is nearby laying flowers at the grave of her father, Edward. Although Peregrine offers Edwina sympathy, she accuses him and the rest of the critics group of driving Edward to his death. That evening, Horace and his wife arrive home and are startled to find a large trunk in their bedroom. Dismissing the heavy, locked item until the next day, the Sprouts retire. Soon after, Edward and an assistant, who have been hiding in the trunk, sneak out and after injecting the Sprouts with a sleeping drug, use elaborate surgical instruments to cut off Hector’s head. The next morning after the beheaded corpse is discovered by the family maid and a terrified Mrs. Sprout, Peregrine, retrieving his morning newspaper from his doorstep, finds Horace’s head impaled on a milk bottle. Later that day, Edwina, disguised in a blond wig and short skirt, seeks out Trevor at a restaurant. After informing him of Horace’s death, she explains that Horace had promised to come to the rehearsal of her theater group. When she asks him to attend the rehearsal, Trevor, unaware of her identity, agrees and accompanies her to the abandoned theater. There Edward, disguised as “Shylock,” and the homeless addicts are performing The Merchant of Venice . After persuading Trevor to join in the reading, Edward has the others seize the critic for the climactic sequence when Shylock demands a pound of flesh from “Antonio,” and cuts out Trevor’s heart. Meanwhile, Boot assigns police protection to each member of the Critics Circle and agrees to meet with Peregrine privately. The critic relates his theory that Edward is behind the murders which correspond to plays from his final repertoire. When Boot asks about Edward’s death, Peregrine describes the night of the Critics Circle Award presentation two years earlier: After the award goes to another, Edward confronts the critics in their penthouse office to berate them. Snatching an extra award from the office, Edward goes out to the balcony where, after reciting lines from Hamlet , he throws himself into the Thames. In the present, Boot acknowledges that Edward’s body was never found. As Peregrine and Boot wonder what play is next on Edward’s repertoire, they receive a box containing Trevor’s heart. The next day, wine lover Oliver accepts an invitation to a tasting at the abandoned theater and is shocked to recognize Edward in costume as “Richard III.” Rebuking Oliver for drinking too much and falling asleep during his performance in the role, Edward then orders his minions to drown Oliver in a large wine barrel. That afternoon Peregrine confronts Edwina at her job as a makeup assistant with a film crew, but she insists that she knows nothing of the murders and that Edward is truly dead. Boot joins them to reveal Oliver’s murder and arrest Edwina as the only link to Edward. Later at Peregrine’s regular fencing lesson, which has been moved to an empty school gymnasium, he finds Edward is his instructor. After dueling some moments, Peregrine demands to know how Edward survived his suicide attempt and the actor reveals that the homeless addicts rescued him and provided him not only a home in their abandoned buildings, but a willing audience for his performances. After resuming their furious duel, the wounded Peregrine admits defeat, but Edward says he will wait to finish him off. At the hospital having his wounds treated, Peregrine meets Boot to reveal that Edward is alive. Despite his suspicions, Boot admits having to release Edwina for lack of evidence. As the men realize that Othello is the next play in Edward’s repertoire, the actor, having made arrangements several weeks earlier to become Solomon’s wife’s masseuse, arranges for Solomon to spot the couple together in her bedroom. Misinterpreting what he sees, Solomon is overcome by jealousy and smothers his wife as Edward strolls away. That evening, Chloe visits her beautician and, puzzled to find him absent, nevertheless accepts a new stylist, who is Edward is disguise. Helped by Edwina as his assistant, Edward hooks the unsuspecting Chloe up to an elaborate electrical hairdryer and then electrocutes her as her police guard sits in the next room. The next day while Edward arranges a gourmet meal for the rotund Meredith, Edwina telephones Peregrine to say she has heard from Edward who has admitted to the killings and wants to turn himself in. Peregrine agrees to meet Edward with Edwina, and Boot secretly arranges for Dogge to accompany him. Meanwhile, Edward succeeds in drawing away Meredith’s guards and, disguised as a chef, presents him with a surprise meal. Delighted, Meredith eats several mouthfuls, until Edward reveals that Meredith is feasting on his own pet poodles. Gagging in horror, Meredith struggles to leave, but Edward has his minions gorge the critic until he chokes to death. When Peregrine meets Edwina, she has her father’s helpers knock him out and carry him away, while she abandons the car on railroad tracks and Dogge, hiding in the trunk, dies when a train strikes the car. Edwina then meets Edward back at the theater where Peregrine revives to find himself bound to a contraption with two large knives pointed at his face. After the increasingly fanatical Edward reveals his intention to blind the critic, as in King Lear , he insists that Peregrine acknowledge his talent and declare him the true winner of the Critics award. Peregrine refuses and hearing police sirens in the distance, Edward wildly lights several torches and, flinging them around the dilapidated theater, declares Peregrine will die at last. Panicked by the fire, the frenzied and confused homeless addicts attack Edwina, but Boot and the police arrive in time to rescue Peregrine. Dragging Edwina's dead body to the roof, Edward recites from King Lear until the roof collapses into the pit of the theater, sending father and daughter to their deaths. Outside, Peregrine observes to Boot that at the end Edward was still overacting, but acknowledges that it was at least a good exit. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.