THEATRE OF DEATH (1967) Reviews of Christopher Lee ‘vampire’ movie

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‘Where acting can be murder’
Theatre of Death is a 1967 British horror film involving killings centred around a Parisian theatre company with a tyrannical director. Naturally, he initially becomes the main murder suspect. Also known as Blood Fiend

Directed by Samuel Gallu (Arthur? Arthur!; The Limbo Line; The Man Outside) from a screenplay co-written by Ellis Kadison and Roger Marshall.

Produced by E.M. Smedley-Aston [as M. Smedley Aston]. Executive produced by William J. Gell.

The movie’s cinematographer was Gilbert Taylor who also lensed Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Macbeth; Hitchcock’s Frenzy; The Omen; Star Wars; Dracula (1979), Flash Gordon (1980) and Venom (1981).

The soundtrack score was composed by Elisabeth Lutyens (The Psychopath; The Skull; Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors; The Earth Dies Screaming; Paranoiac).

The Pennea Productions movie stars horror icon Christopher Lee plus Julian Glover (Nemesis; Alien Uprising; The Internecine Project; Quatermass and the Pit), Lelia Goldoni (The Unseen; Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978; Good Against Evil; Hysteria), Jenny Till (The Masque of the Red Death; Help!), Evelyn Laye, Ivor Dean, Joseph Fürst, Betty Woolfe, Leslie Handford and Fraser Kerr.

Reviews:
Theatre of Death is oftentimes a little overwhelming, and all the expository dialogue doesn’t help. The pace picks up and the plot strands are pulled together as it nears its climax though […] Upon second viewing Theatre of Death is actually peppered with crafty clues and allusions to what is going on.” Behind the Couch

“There is a reasonably witty screenplay, a lot of fake gore and considerable enthusiasm, plus a few twists as well as some attractive tongue-in-cheek performances from a strong cast to help to keep this excellently photographed (by Gilbert Taylor in Technicolor and Techniscope) horror mystery busy, involving and just a touch scary.” Derek Winnert

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“There’s an old-fashioned feel to Theatre of Death which must have looked out of time even then. It’s coy about its bloodletting, there’s a Phantom of the Opera-like figure skulking beneath the boards, and sliding doors leading to hidden passageways, all straight of a 20s Gothic. For a film about vampires, we see remarkably little of the red stuff…” The EOFFTV Review

“The movie has several interesting moments, some of which are creatively photographed; there’s no doubt that some skill went into the direction, editing and cinematography here, and the acting is quite solid. The story also has some interesting twists and revelations. Yet, for some reason, the movie is mostly dull…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The fantastic Mr Lee gives his usual commanding performance, easily dominating the other less impressive actors. Unfortunately, he is burdened with a weak story that progresses in one predictable direction but then leads to a twist that makes absolutely no sense. And Lee’s character disappears some time before the unconvincing conclusion…” Michael Wilson

“Director Samuel Gallu outfits the show with lots of Gothic elements – sliding panels, sinister Svengali-like hypnotists, hooded killers, vampire murders and of course the Grand Guignol theatre setting – but animates none of the atmosphere. We hardly even get to see any of the killings, for instance.” Moria

” …some sluggish pacing, a couple of strange plot twists and the disappearance of the leads for a chunk of the running time. But that cannot detract from seeing Lee tear up the screen as Darvas, a maelstrom of menace and charisma that could comfortably sit alongside his most memorable roles.” Movie Ramblings

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“It’s a bit silly at times, but quite well-made and well-acted by a solid cast led by Julian Glover, and stolen by Christopher Lee. A bit underrated, even if the first half is a bit more compelling than the second. A solid B-movie worth seeking out if you can find it, especially for Lee completists such as myself.” Shameless Self Expression

“Though Christopher Lee would get top billing in this picture, he was really only in it for about half of the movie which was a real shame. Obviously, it made sense due to the script by Ellis Kadison and Roger Marshall, but should he have stayed in somehow, the movie might have been much better than it was.” The Telltale Mind

“A moderate horror in the style of a late ’60s Hammer horror […] Based on the real Theatre du Grand Guignol, this middling horror has some modest atmosphere – and the presence of Lee – to recommend it. But ultimately, it’s an average, rather grey affair that fails to distinguish itself.” The Terror Trap

“The film, unfortunately, squanders its potentially intriguing premise, has a habit of bogging down frequently and overall is really boring to tell you the truth. While the identity of the real killer is something of a surprise, the murderer comes to an unsatisfactory end. So does the movie.” The Video Vacuum

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