10. THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973, Directed by Douglas Hickox)
Theatre of Blood is the ultimate revenge-fantasy for actors, especially actors forced to undertake work they consider beneath them. Vincent Price plays the marvellously named “Edward Lionheart” (the name is a good clue to the film’s wonderfully over-the-top silliness), a famed Shakespearean actor who is snubbed for a major award and consequently decides to take revenge on the critics who had overlooked him. And his is the most poetic revenge as he kills each critic in a re-enactment of a particularly bloody or brutal murder from one of Shakespeare’s plays, culminating in his attempt to blind the head of the critics’ circle in a manner similar to the blinding of Gloucester in King Lear. (A critic to the last, he would rather die than alter his original judgment.)
Despite (or perhaps because of) its inherent ridiculousness, Theatre of Blood is telling about the desperate need of actors to try to assert some degree of control over what is usually the most uncertain of existences. My best friend is an actor – indeed, that rarest of things, a working actor – and I know from him how wonderful, but arbitrary an actor’s life is. And not even successful actors are immune from that uncertainty and lack of autonomy. Vincent Price himself always regarded his performance as “Edward Lionheart” as one of his finest on screen, largely because he himself had been typecast as a “horror-movie star” when, like most actors, he longed to tread the boards and declaim Shakespeare. In Theatre of Blood, he finally does (and rather well, too).