Vincent Price is Paul Toombes, a horror actor famous for his long series of Dr. Death-movies. This is the sixties and during a release-party of the last episode in this popular franchise, someone – maybe Toombes himself – kills his young trophy wife brutally. Paul goes insane and it’s not until twelve years later he feels ready for combat. He’s offered the lead in a new British TV-show where he’s gonna reprise his Dr. Death-character. But someone wants him to go insane again, and people are starting to die around him! Is Paul really mad, or is it someone se who wants to bring him down once and for all?
Now, this movie has gotten a lot of negative reviews over the years – and I can’t understand why. It don’t have the same black humour as the Dr. Phibes-movies or Theatre of Blood – but that can be a good thing. Madhouse is instead filled with almost only shitty people. Even Toombes himself is self-obsessed, paranoid, mean and spoiled – and so is everyone else, except maybe Julia, his production assistant (played by Natasha Pyne). Everyone else has either something to hide or just wants someone else dead. I like that. It’s a nice way of showing the cynicism in the movie-business, and it’s not far from the truth either.
In a way Price plays a more bitter version of himself, stuck in horror movies and during this time starting to become a star from the past. He do it with excellent, and it’s always fun to see him play such unsympathetic characters. Gone is the tongue in cheek, and instead we’re getting a very dark and complex version of a character Price played so many times. Peter Cushing and Robert Quarry is very competent co-actors here, especially Quarry who has a lot more interesting character than Cushing’s friendly writer-colleague.
The movie gets weirder and weirder, and the end has a hint of supernatural – which kinda not work that good. The final scene also has another tune over it in the old tape I have somewhere, and I think that music worked better. But it’s fun to hear Vincent sing a little bit of course.
Another weird thing is the PG rating. It’s has not nudity, but it’s still a quite intense and dark movie with some blood and gore (not in the same amounts as Theatre of Blood though), nasty and scary scenes. Madhouse isn’t perfect, it lacks the same wonderful pace as Phibes and Theatre, but it’s still a great seventies slasher/horror-hybrid with a great cast!