Edward Lionheart is a Shakespearean actor who has more ham than talent. His plays have been savaged by the London critics who now have denied him a great acting honor. He shows them the error of their ways.
In Theater of Blood Vincent Price plays Lionheart in one of his most amusingly grotesque roles. Price actually does an effective job of showing Lionheart in a sympathetic manner. His reading of Shakespeare (when he's not doing it as Lionheart on the stage) is just fine. Diana Rigg as Lionheart's daughter, Edwina, is as psychotically humorous as Price. Only leather and a whip (maybe just a riding crop) could improve her performance.
Lionheart sets out to prove his critics wrong by dispatching them in ways drawn from Shakespeare's plays. Among the methods, one is set up to kill his wife in a jealous rage and then is taken off stage mad (Othello). One is upended in a butt of wine (Richard III). One has a pound of flesh removed (The Merchant of Venice). One is stabbed and hacked to death in a crowd (Julius Caesar). And the funniest (and sickest) is reserved for Meredith Merridew (Robert Morley), who at first finds great pleasure in his two poodles that he loves dearly (Titus Andronicus). For those who enjoy this scene, I highly recommend Julie Taymor's Titus with Anthony Hopkins.
Among the actors playing the critics, in addition to Morley, are some of Britain's finest: Dennis Price, Jack Hawkins, Harry Andrews, Michael Hordern, and others.
Price is known now, I suppose, as a hammy horror specialist. He made a lot of money and enjoyed himself immensely doing so. But the man could be a good actor. I thought he was effective as Shelby Carpenter in Laura. Occasionally you might come across a Samuel Fuller movie called The Baron Of Arizona. Price is excellent in it.
Theater of Blood is a witty, well-made movie, but it's best enjoyed if you have a passing knowledge of Shakespeare. The movie is camp, literate and gory. What an inspiring combination.