Vincent Price, a ham Shakespearean actor thought dead, revenges himself on members of the Critics Circle who refused him their special drama Award. His tramp companions slay Michael Horden (as in "Julius Caesar"), and then Vincent spears Dennis Price whose boy is dragged by a horse ("Troilus and Cressida"). Circle director Ian Hendry sees Price's daughter Diana Rigg, a movie makeup woman, at her father's monument. Price cuts off Arthur Lowe's head ("Cymbeline"), removes Harry Andrews' heart ("a pound of flesh" from "The Merchant of Venice"), drowns Robert Coote in a vat of wone ("Richard III"), then has jealous Jack Hawkins murder his wife Diana Dors ("Othello"). As a hairdresser, Price burns Coral Browne to death ("Henry VI, part I); as a chef, he forces gay Robert Morley to eat his poodles ("Titus Andronicus"). Hendry is nearly blinded by Price as Rigg is revealed as the "boy" assisting the mad actor-father. Dather and daughter die and their theatre sanctuary burns.
Vincent Price, most comfortable in a role perfectly tailored for his talents, brings a Grand Guignol character to life as an insane Shakespearean actor taking revenge upon nine critics who denied him a drama award and have ruined his stage career. Eight of the nine critics meet bizarre deaths in a series of murders freely adapted from Shakespearean roles that have starred the defamed Edward Lionheart (Price) in the past.
Structured somewhat like The Abominable Mr. Phibes, Price's role is quite reminiscent of Rod Steiger's various impersonations in No Way to Treat a Lady. Given such a wide variety of disguises and accents, Price as a field day inspiring chills and humor in the best black comedy tradition, rivaled only by Diana Rigg as his daughter, with one regret: Diana never did a Lady Macbeth scene though the film was a perfect opportunity for such a takeoff. Included among critics who become Price's victims is an array of some of Britain's best actors, such as Robert morley, Ian Hendry, Jack Hawkins, Dennis Price and Robert Coote. Setting the right mood from the very first frame, the production begins with scenes from silent Shakespearean works that include the 1922 Othello with Emil Jennings.
Unlike the usual run of horror films, this one seems to have had a good deal of money sunk into it...and it shows on the screen.
Surprisingly literate, intelligently spoofy (for a change) British black comedy that is almost a remake of Dr. Phibes. Vincent Price is excellent as a mad Shakespearean actor who takes comically ghoulish revenge on critics who knocked his Shakespeare season and denied him an award; in return, he kills each one in a grisly manner derived from the Bard's plays. Exquisitely produced with superb cinematography by Wolfgang Suschitzky; and the score by Michael J. Lewis is quite lovely. Humor is a neat mixture of high- and low-brows, classically camped up by an outstanding cast (Rigg, Andrews, Morley, Coote, etc). Deftly directed by Douglas Hickox (who seems to have got his start with Eugene Lourie directing some of Giant Behemoth), who does especially well with the "to be or not to be" scene.