Launching at this year’s FantasyCon alongside Jez Winship’s Martin is Theatre of Blood, the second title from PS Publishing’s new Midnight Movie Monographs series, edited by Neil Snowdon. Dedicated to outstanding but neglected offerings, the Midnight Movie Monographs series showcases the film writings of a disparate group of genre authors and filmmakers as well as film critics. Certainly, Snowdon could not have chosen two more different films to launch the series, signalling the range of movies and approaches that Midnight Movie Monographs promises.
The Vincent Price vehicle Theatre of Blood is a cult curiosity that richly deserves the epithet Midnight Movie. Directed by Douglas Hickox in 1973, it was reviled on first release (a review in Monster Mag described it at the time as having more blood and violence than in the whole of World War 2) but has since become critically acclaimed as a savage satire of the acting profession. It’s a delightfully campy, grisly film, and Probert’s Midnight Movie Monograph does it ample justice.
Probert is a novelist whose books, The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine and The Hammer of Dr. Valentine, are, by his own admission, inspired by the films of Vincent Price in general and Theatre of Blood in particular. Fascinated by TOB from an early age, and possessing a similar tongue-in-cheek macabre theatricality in his fiction, Probert is the perfect choice of author for this Midnight Movie Monograph and Probert’s book is filled with deliciously meaty morsels about the making of the film, as well as witty and erudite comments on the film itself.
Probert approaches Part One of the book as a commentary in eleven Shakespearean chapters, and this makes for an informative and enjoyable read as we spot the many references to the Bard. As Probert guides us through the production of the film, providing plenty of background on the actors and filmmakers, he also gives an amusing commentary on the action of the film itself. Part Two is devoted to an appreciation of Vincent Price’s performance as Edward Lionheart; followed by an essay on the score composed by Michael J. Lewis. Part Two concludes with a lengthy interview conducted with Lewis himself, which is both entertaining and in-depth, followed by an account of the 2005 stage version of Theatre of Blood (which saw Jim Broadbent taking the Price role). As a finale there are a few words of appreciation from Probert’s Dr. Valentine in the flesh!
Much like the film it explores, Probert’s Midnight Movie Monograph on Theatre of Blood is rife with witty Shakespearean revelry; in short, it’s highly enjoyable, and highly recommended.
THEATRE OF BLOOD (MIDNIGHT MOVIE MONOGRAPHS) / AUTHOR: JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT / PUBLISHER: PS PUBLISHING (ELECTRIC DREAMHOUSE IMPRINT) / RELEASE DATE: 24TH SEPTEMBER