Theatre Of Death (1965)

Theatre Of Death is cursed by association, really. I know I can' be the only person to ever have taped it expecting to receive Vincent Price, Diana Rigg and assorted violent Shakespeare-related deaths.

Unfortunately, what you get (instead of the awesome, and similarly-titled Theatre Of Blood, for those of you who are slow to catch on) is one and a half hours of un-gory melodramatics, saddled with a performance by Christopher Lee so bland and derivative of his other 200 performances that you wonder whether the man only ever bothers to act in every 50th film or so.

The titles won't do anything to stop your false sense of security, either, featuring, as they do, lots of photographs of skulls with eyeballs popping out of them etc (a la those Dennis Wheatley novels of the mid 70s).

"This building, located in the backstreets of Paris... it's speciality is horror..." Julian Glover's sonorous voice-over tells us, after we're treated to an unconvincing guillotineing. "... together with murder, mystery and mayhem make up the principal ingredients of... the Theatre Of Death..."

Oh, if only. Anyway, on with the "plot".

Charles (Glover - why are they always called Charles?) is our square-jawed, four-square stiff-upper-lipped, what's-he-doing-in-Paris, English hero. His girlfriend Danni works at the Theatre du Mort, which is run by a bloke called Darvis (Lee). At a "swinging" party we find out that Darvis enjoys spying on his guests through eye-holes in paintings (one of the few actual times that old clunker appears in a Brit horror, by my reckoning). Darvis makes his grand entrance to the party after a spot of fortune telling goes wrong for Danni's room-mate Nicole, and immediately starts barking orders at people, showing off his very hairy knuckles and scaring small children with his Noel Gallagher eyebrow-and-bad-hair combination.

Poor Nicole appears to be under the influence of Darvis, and nearly kills her friend Danni during rehearsals for a witch-burning segment in the theatre's new show. Meanwhile, Charles (who, it turns out, is a pathologist) has been called in to investigate three murders, in which a strange-shaped blade has been used to stab the victim in the neck and drain them of all blood.

As another tramp is offed (the action freeze-framing before anything of interest happens) and Nicole moves in with Darvis and his amazing hypno-ray eyes, Charles comes to the conclusion that the murders are the work of a "haemotaijac" (I'm unsure of the spelling of this obviously made-up word) or to put it another way, a vampire.

The plot carries on muddling along, with mucho kettle drums and bongos on the soundtrack for some late 60s reason, with everyone being suspected of being the murderer (including Charles) before Darvis goes missing. But is he the murderer, or has he already been killed?

To be fair to the film, it does turn on a rather spectacular twist towards the end (well, I didn't see it coming), but then ruins it with a huge and pointless chase. Theatre Of Death is an okay way to spend 90 minutes, it's just not hugely exciting. For a vampire flick there's a shortage of actual vampires, very little blood, and not enough of the awful women in it (particularly whingeing Danni) actually get killed. I'd suggest you make the effort to watch Theatre Of Blood instead.

Director: Samuel Gallu Writer(s): Ellis Kadison, Roger Marshall

Cast: Ester Anderson - La Poule, Peter Cleall - Jean, Ivor Dean - Micheaud, Joseph Fürst, Julian Glover - Charles Marquis, Lelia Goldoni - Dani Gireaux, Leslie Handford - Joseph, Miki Iveria - Patron's Wife, Fraser Kerr - Pierre, Evelyn Laye - Madame Angele, Christopher Lee - Philippe Darvas, Julie Mendez - Belly Dancer, Suzanne Owens - Girl On Scooter, Steve Plytas - Andre, Evrol Puckerin - Voodoo Dancer, Lita Scott - Voodoo Dancer, Terence Soall - Ferdi, Jenny Till - Nicole Chapel, Dilys Watling - Heidi, Betty Woolfe - Colette


Last updated: February 27, 2010

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