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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Theatre of Blood [Blu-ray]

 

(Douglas Hickox, 1973)

 

Arrow's Blu-ray is also available in a limited Edition steelbook:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Harbor Productions, Inc.

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:44:21.421

Disc Size: 48,145,128,389 bytes

Feature Size: 32,998,907,904 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.59 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray or Steelbook case

Release date: May 19th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

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 (11:46)
A Fearful Thespian: an interview with David Del Valle (10:42)
Staged Reaction: an interview with star Madeleine Smith (9:21)
A Harmony for Horror: an interview with composer Michael J. Lewis (17:37)
Original Trailer (2:32)
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

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: It’s never been tougher to be a critic than in THEATRE OF BLOOD, one of the greatest horror comedies of all time. 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.

With one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled for a horror film including Diana Rigg, Harry Andrews, Jack Hawkins and Arthur Lowe, THEATRE OF BLOOD is an dementedly funny and deliciously macabre cult classic.

 

 

The Film:

Lionheart, a veteran thespian who refuses to play anything other than Shakespeare. Piqued by a circle of critics, whom he feels were disrespectful in their notices and denied him his rightful Best Actor of the Year Award, he decides to murder them one by one in parodies of some of Shakespeare's grislier scenes. He's aided by his daughter Edwina (played by Diana Rigg, often in fake moustache and male drag) and a ghoulish company of dosshouse zombies.

Some of the murders are quite extraordinarily gruesome, despite their camp, comedic overtones. Arthur Lowe's henpecked critic has his head sawn off while asleep (in a parody of Cymbeline) and Robert Morley's plumply effete dandy is force-fed a pie made from his beloved poodles, choking him to death (cf Titus Andronicus). Jack Hawkins and Michael Horden also meet unpleasant ends. Theatre of Blood is a genuine and underrated oddity in the annals of British cinema and especially uncomfortable for those who happen to be in the reviewing trade.

Excerpt from Amazon located HERE

The darkly comic and sometimes quite gory Theatre of Blood is a vehicle tailor-made for its star Vincent Price, brilliantly capitalizing on his reputation as a master of period horror drawn from "literary" sources. Price portrays Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart, who becomes enraged after losing a prominent acting award and decides to seek revenge on the critics responsible. Fittingly, he using the works of the Bard as a guide, basing his killings on violent scenes from Shakespearean plays. Price takes full advantage of his meaty role, ominously reciting classic Elizabethan monologues while rigging particularly nasty torture devices. This hilarious turn is assisted by a colorful supporting cast, including Robert Morley, Richard Coote, and Michael Hordern as critics and Diana Rigg as Lionheart's devoted daughter and partner in crime. The end result is a wonderfully evil lark that, in its own way, proves surprisingly faithful to the often bloody spirit of Shakespeare; certainly the full implications of Shylock's demand for a "pound of flesh" have rarely been made quite as explicit.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Theatre of Blood gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow Films in the UK.  It is solidly in dual-layered territory with a max'ed-out bitrate for the 1 3/4 hour feature. The image is thick and rich with some appealing texture. Colors are heavy truer and there is no noise in the darker sequences. The 1080P supports solid contrast exhibiting healthy, rich black levels and some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail and there are really no flaws with the rendering. This Blu-ray offers a solid HD video presentation.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is in a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps. THere is a lot going on audio-wise in the film and the lossless supports it well. The score is by Michael J. Lewis (The Medusa Touch, 11 Harrowhouse, Julius Caesar) and has some surprising boosts with attention-getting depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Extras start off with an audio commentary by The League of Gentlemen, the quartet of writers/actors/comedians – Mark Gatiss (co-creator SHERLOCK and JEKYLL), Steve Pemberton (WHITECHAPEL), Reece Shearsmith (PSYCHOVILLE), and Jeremy Dyson (FUNLAND) – of the titular black comic series which pays homage to Hammer, Amicus, Tigon, and other sixties and seventies British horror. The quartet also provide an audio commentary for the Tigon production BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW, and THEATRE OF BLOOD is perhaps even more suited to their jokey interplay (which always conveys an obvious affection for the film and the genre). They discuss how they became familiar with the film, their own collaborations with some of the film's actors (including Diana Rigg and Eric Sykes [THE OTHERS]), as well as shots and lines of dialogue they used in their own shows.

 

Price's daughter Victoria appears in the on-camera interview "A Priceless Pot-Boiler" in which she recalls that the film was her father's favorite for a number of reasons: the opportunity to do Shakespeare (even playing the roles as a ham actor), getting to work with a cast of British actors he admired (and perhaps believed were better than him), and meeting future wife Coral Browne (who she affectionately describes as her "wicked stepmother"). She describes how the film tows the line between absurdity and horror, and as the end of a two decade era – starting with HOUSE OF WAX – before his rediscovery by pop culture in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video and Tim Burton's usage of him in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. Film historian David Del Valle – whose "Sinister Image" video and audio interviews with the late Price are available on Scorpion Releasing's Blu-ray and DVD of THE MONSTER CLUB – appears on-camera in "A Fearful Thespian" also recollecting that the film was a favorite of Price's for the same reasons stated by the actor's daughter, as well as discussing how Price's horror persona eclipsed his greater range and versatility for the public (and how he regretfully turned down playing Prospero in Katherine Hepburn's production of THE TEMPEST). He also recalls how Price may have relished murdering the critics in the film but had conceded offscreen that an artist needs to learn to take criticism since what they produce is out of their control once submitted to the public.

 

In "Staged Reaction", actress Madeline Smith recalls how director Douglas Hickox spotted her in the TV series THE TWO RONNIES and cast her because he thought she was a blond (she agreed to dye her hair blond in order to get to work with the caliber of cast in THEATRE OF BLOOD and did not think to just wear a wig). She remembers Hickox as a demanding task master, actor Ian Hendry being famously drunk on set, and Price and Browne falling in love on set. In "A Harmony of Horror", exuberant composer Michael J. Lewis (THE MEDUSA TOUCH and THE UNSEEN) performs selections from the score on the nineteenth century piano he used to compose it back in 1972 and shows us the manuscript pages for the score. He remembers not wanting to score a horror film (he had already refused a Hammer film) but warming up to it when it was pitched to him as a black comedy. The video extras conclude with a brutally cropped UK theatrical trailer that spoils many of the fates of major characters (including ones that figure into the climax).

 

NOTE: Statement from Arrow: "This morning we were made aware of an issue with one of the special features (A Harmony for Horror) which contains some very unfortunate glitches and errors. These issue were caused by a manufacturing error at the factory whereby during the mix a glitch was introduced when the data was prepared for pressing. This occurred after the project had been thoroughly QCed and signed off by us so we are investigating this unfortunate error with our suppliers to ensure this does not happen again.

Due to this incident we are having to push the release date for Theatre of Blood back to the 19th May at the earliest, this will allow us good time to recall all of the affected stock and press new discs.

For those of you that have ordered direct from us and have already received a copy of the film we will be sending out replacement discs to you in due course so please do keep checking back for updates on this. If you have recently ordered this title from our store but it has not yet shipped, your copy will be sent once we have the corrected stock.

We thank you all in advance for your patience and understanding and we hope to have this situation rectified as soon as we possibly can.
"

Eric Cotenas

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Theatre of Blood is quite the odd and unique film. Performances can be over-the-top and the violence gratuitous. It is definitely both bending the horror genre and mocking it. Not really my cup-of-tea but I can see the appeal. This is a well-made film! The Arrow Blu-ray provides an excellent a/v presentation with a ton of valuable supplements. For Vincent Price fans (let's not forget Diana Rigg!) and those who like bizarre cinema this is an easy recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

April 26th, 2014

Arrow's Blu-ray is also available in a limited Edition steelbook:


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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