A Deadly Comeback – Rediscovering ‘Madhouse’ (UK 1974 – 89 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - October 27, 2015
A Deadly Comeback – Rediscovering ‘Madhouse’ (UK 1974 – 89 mins)

A pretty good tale of jealousy and revenge from low-budget specialists American International Pictures, ‘Madhouse’ was one of their better productions, involving a plot which allowed its lead actor to again relish the role of playing a once-popular horror star who, after years in the wilderness, makes a rather ‘deadly’ comeback.

Famed Hollywood actor Paul Coombes (Vincent Price) announces the return of his recurring character Dr. Death, as well as his upcoming marriage to a sexy blonde ingénue. The news of his nuptials doesn’t go down well with his producer friend Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry) and old flame Faye Carstairs (Adrienne Corri). After learning that his bride-to-be used to make adult movies, she is promptly despatched by a figure dressed as Dr. Death, leading to Coombes having a nervous breakdown, but acquitted of the murder. After 12 years away and with a newfound interest in his cult character, Coombes’ writer friend Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing) invites Paul to England to develop ‘Dr. Death’ for television. Terrified of resurrecting the character he blames for his breakdown and possible murders, it’s not long before things take a darker turn when the bodies start piling up again.

In a role similar to his bitter thespian in the previous year’s ‘Theatre of Blood’ (’73), Vincent Price hams it up wonderfully as the troubled actor who finds it hard to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Peter Cushing has the smaller role of Price’s friend and ‘Dr. Death’ creator Herbert Flay, who harbours jealous feelings that he should have played the character he created. Horror regular and ‘Count Yorga’ lead Robert Quarry plays an adult movie producer, and Adrienne Corri enjoys a showy role as Price’s one-time leading lady and wannabe bride. Linda Hayden has a minor but memorable bit as a budding starlet and petty thief, who meets a nasty end courtesy of Dr. Death’s famous pitchfork.

Oscar-winning editor Jim Clark directed, while the screenplay was adapted from the novel ‘Devilday’ by Angus Hall. There are some mild horror moments, including a gore-free decapitation, and a pitchfork through the neck, plus some nicely inserted clips showing Coombes’ earlier horror movies, using actual films of Vincent Price. I loved the make-up scene at the end where we’re not sure if it’s Cushing or Price donning Dr. Death’s infamous look, comprising of white skull-like face paint. It’s a corker of a moment and leaves the viewer pondering who’s who!

A decent tongue-in-cheek chiller, ‘Madhouse’ is ideal for a late-night viewing, and although there’s plenty of scenery chewing to be found, it’s both enjoyable and amusing, with some dollops of blood thrown in and a lively cast giving it their all.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *