The members of the London Theatre Critics Circle are murdered in scenarios lifted from Shakespeares plays by mad matinee idol Edward Lionheart who feels he should have been given a Best Actor award.
The crowning glory of Vincent Price’s career as the screen’s horror-comic bogeyman, this develops the ‘body count’ plotting of his Dr Phibes pictures as he slaughters his way through an almost-embarrassingly distinguished supporting cast while tossing off Shakespearean soliloquies even Sir Donald Wolfit would have found overblown and doing a series of in-disguise ‘turns’. Among the most priceless Price moments: got up in fab gear as gay hairdresser ‘Butch’, promising client Coral Browne ‘ash with flame highlights’ before setting fire to her head; in enormous false nose as Shylock carving chunks out of Harry Andrews, prompting Ian Hendry to muse ‘it must be Lionheart, only he would have the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare’; dressed as Richard III, haranguing tippling critic Robert Coote for drunkenly falling asleep during one of his greatest performances and then dumping him headfirst in a barrel of wine; as a TV celebrity chef, forcing bouffant-haired fusspot Robert Morley to choke on his beloved poodles in a crime derived from Titus Andronicus.
Price is partnered wonderfully by the equally versaitile Diana Rigg, who brings a moment of poignance to the fiery finish as the murderer’s Cordelia-like daughter, and among the acting greats siezing a welcome opportunity to caricature hateful critics and be bloodily despatched are Arthur Lowe (severed head), Dennis Price, Michael Hordern (stabbed like Caesar) and Jack Hawkins (duped Othello-like into strangling wife Diana Dors). With Milo O’Shea and Eric Sykes (who gets a funny death) as the plodding plods, and ‘70s pin-up Madeline Smith as pompous, foulard-wearing hero Hendry’s girl Friday.It’s a key influence on later gimmick serial murder pictures like Se7en.
Superbly Vincent Price!