Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Titus Andronicus in Theater of Blood

Theatre of Blood. Dir. Douglas Hickox. Perf. Vincent Price and Diana Rigg. 1973. DVD. MGM, 2001.

While working on an article that deals with film versions of Titus Andronicus, I remembered Vincent Price's Theater of Blood. I first saw the film when I was in eighth or ninth grade. It was broadcast as a Saturday Morning Film on KPLR-TV (Channel 11) in St. Louis, and what they were doing screening this film I'll never be able to figure out. But the happiest outcome for me was that it introduced me to Titus Andronicus. Before seeing the film, I had no idea that the play existed.

I don't want to say anything too negative about the film—partly because of its plot. The story involves an actor (Edward Lionheart, played by Vincent Price) who has been panned throughout his career by the critics. He decides to take his revenge by killing them off using the same methods Shakespeare used in his plays. The clever-beyond-clever tagline provided on the cover (pictured above) reads "It's Curtains for his Critics!" To give you an idea of the variety the revenge takes, here's the original trailer for the film.

Note: This is a horror film, and the trailer is absolutely horrific. The back of the DVD case boasts that "the filmmakers used over six gallons of movie make-up blood" in making this film, and the trailer gives some indication of that. Watch at your own risk. Or skip this clip and watch the second. That clip is threatening and horrific, but it doesn't show any actual violence.

The trailer doesn't show the film's use of Titus Andronicus, but that play enters the plot of this film when we learn that one of the critics marked for destruction has two poodles. Based on that fact and on your knowledge of the play, you can pretty much guess what happens. Here's a clip that introduces that part of the plot.

Note: There's no actual violence in this clip, but Vincent Price's character quotes a threatening line from the play and the policeman attempting to protect the critic provides a rough outline of the plot.

The film horrified me (it was intended to do so, after all), but, strangely, it fascinated me as well. On the basis of the film, I re-read all the Shakespeare plays I'd already read and read the ones I hadn't—which number included Titus Andronicus.

Note: If you know of any other allusions to Titus Andronicus in film or television, would you please tell us about it in the comments below? I will be extremely grateful to you, and my article will be all the better for your help. Thanks!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Papa Pantaloon said...

Where were your parents?

kj said...

I'm not sure, but wherever they were, they were probably thinking (like 98% of the rest of the world) that the possibility of KPLR-TV broadcasting Shakespeare-related horror films on Saturday morning was pretty slim.

Also (probably) cooking and / or studying.


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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