Film Music Review
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Product Details

Theater of Blood (1973)

Music composed and conducted by Michael J. Lewis.

15 Tracks (Playing Time = 53:14)

Album produced by Ford A. Thaxton. Orchestrations by Lawrence Ashmore. Digitally edited and mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. CD Art direction by Mark Banning.

La-La Land Records 1136

Rating: ***

Limited edition of 1200 copies.


Vincent Price fans have a special place in their hearts for the black comedy THEATER OF BLOOD. This 1973 film allowed Price to play a number of Shakespearean roles as the underappreciated actor Edward Lionheart. Lionheart deviously decides he is going to give solo command performances for each of his critics and unleashes his serial killer assault in some of the most ingenious ways, always connected to particular of the Bard’s plays. Played pretty straight with its moments of camp, the film features some of the actor’s best “what could have been” moments, especially his deliverance of the famous Hamlet speech. Michael J. Lewis (THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT) provided what is evidently his first horror score for the film.

The “Main Theme” is a delightful and lushly orchestrated theme (connected with Lionheart’s daughter Edwina) for mandolin and accompanying strings. The idea will continue to recur throughout the score providing an aural reference point that warms the music in the midst of the horrors. Lewis occasionally slips into some fascinating atonal segments that pile clusters together in one register while adding in percussive ideas underneath. The music shifts effortlessly to play against some of the murder sequences as well. The most delicious is a beautiful melody that plays with piano and strings for “Cymbaline” against a set up of one of the many grisly murders. It is hard to believe that the music itself would be for a horror film lending the whole effect to be humorous as well as bizarre. To say that this is a fun score may appear odd, but THEATER OF BLOOD has many light-hearted scoring moments that play counter to the film as casually as Lionheart carries out his murders. The atonal moments appear just enough to remind us of the horror of a particular scene. The approach is quite similar to those taken in Price’s DR. PHIBES films. Here a more Elizabethan musical presence hints (quite lightly scored in the cue “Now is the Winter of our Discontent”) at the Shakespearean contexts for some of the sequences.

There are many fine musical moments and a few surprises for those familiar with the film. One of these is the inclusion of a harpsichord version of “Edwina’s Theme” in the cue “Partita of Blood.” The duel sequence, “Alive in Triumph,” is connected to this track and has a semi-Baroque feel in its string writing and is itself a fascinating piece of writing with angular leaps and jumps and glissandi in brass. It does a great job of creating tension where the viewer is not sure who might come out on top this time. The battle continues in “Fugato.” Also worth noting are the two sequences that conclude the film’s fiery finale which begins as part of one lengthier track and finishes in the final track of the disc. Another little surprise is the inclusion of a piano and string concert version of “Edwina’s Theme.”

The accompanying booklet features a few color stills and complete track-by-track analysis as well as a brief essay by Randall D. Larson. THEATER OF BLOOD is like many Lewis scores, a true little gem and guilty pleasure all at once. Fans of the film should be thrilled at this limited edition release.

reviewed by Steven A. Kennedy , 3 July 2010

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