Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 12

Theatre of Blood (1973)

"You must admit, he did know how to make an exit."

Quick summary: Bitter actor Vincent Price methodically offs his harshest critics in brilliantly convoluted, Shakespearean-themed poetic executions.

This was great, campy fun. In one amazing moment, there's a fencing battle in which both participants are bouncing on trampolines. How could anyone not fall in love with this film?

Nice to see another horror film about the entertainment industry after last night's Starry Eyes. This time, the critics are the target. I was trying to think of other films where critics have important roles - Lady in the Water (embarrassing), Ratatouille (sweet), and Birdman (well, I'd rather watch this film again than Birdman if I'm being honest).

I really enjoyed Vincent Price's performance. And his disguises! Oh, his disguises. In one scene, he pulls a fake moustache away to reveal... a different coloured moustache underneath! Brilliant.

Diana Rigg was great too. Particularly, her obvious, but still enjoyable reveal at the end.

I'm probably revealing (more of) my ignorance here but I didn't realise what now gets called "Immersive theatre" was then called "Living theatre" and that it had existed since the 1940s. My only real experience of it is the Punch Drunk productions.

In a way, you can see the themed serial killings having an influence on things like Seven.

Also managed to fit in:

The Stone Tape (1972)

Quick summary: Seventies, unkempt Reece Shearsmith heads up a team of scientists in a victorian mansion which appears to be haunted, so they try and harness the ghosts via technology.

This is another of those cult seventies horror classics that I'd still not seen - by Quartermass writer Nigel Kneale (I'm also yet to watch Quartermass and the Pit). Apparently the Taskerlands setting and team were based on the BBC research and development department who were based in a remote Victorian house in Surrey.

I can see this film influenced a lot of things. There's the obvious, like Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, and comedy stuff like League of Gentlemen and Garth Marenghi's Dark Place (the washing machine guy seems to be a direct inspiration for the very existence of Matt Berry), plus things like Ghostwatch.

The BBC Radiophonic workshop did all the sound which is really effective and still feels contemporary.

Lot of uncomfortable seventies racism and sexism in this. Jane Asher, one of the lead computer programmers, is up against a lot of dismissive male chauvinism.

The idea that ghosts are the projected recordings of past events by the physical environment is now apparently known as the "Stone Tape theory" - genuinely used by parapsychologists.

Excitingly, director of Berberian Sound Studio (still on my list) - Peter Strickland - is directing an audio remake of The Stone Tape (starring Julian Barratt and Jane Asher) for Radio 4's Fright Night this halloween. There will also be an audio adaptation of Ringu and The Exorcist. Can't wait!

Tonight: Going to a friend's house for Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) and hopefully Lair of the White Worm (1988).