Directed by Jim Clark [Other horror films: N/A]
Madhouse isn’t the greatest movie I’ve ever seen. No doubt it’s a fun film – what more could you expect from a movie starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing? – but it’s not necessarily the most original film, and while I certainly had a good time with it, I’m not sure it will stand the test of time like many of the films each have otherwise been involved in.
Of course, the story is decent, albeit in a been-there, done-it way, as Price’s character has to decide whether someone is trying to frame him for the murders going on around him or he’s having a mental break-down, as he has in the past. We’ve all seen films like this before, and to be sure, it was based on a novel titled Devilday, written by Angus Hall, so it’s not entirely the film’s fault, but given the fact Price and Cushing are here, I’d have hoped for a more original story.
Even so, they work decently well with what they have. I don’t think the finale is great, and I pretty much suspected who was behind the killing somewhat early on, but at the very least, the film is quite serviceable, and though it may not be as memorable as something like The Abominable Dr. Phibes or Theatre of Blood, it’s not a shabby film.
Vincent Price, as readers may know, is perhaps one of my favorite actors, and there are plenty of clips in this movie of his past works (among them, House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Haunted Palace), and there’s even a joke made in-movie about him previously playing the Invisible Man (as he did in both The Invisible Man Returns and the ending of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). Price is a lot of fun here, as he always is, and seeing him with Cushing is a treat.
And speaking about Peter Cushing, he’s another actor of whom I have a deep appreciation for. He appeared in a ton of horror films, including, but not at all limited to, The Abominable Snowman, The Mummy, Dracula, The Flesh and the Fiends, The Skull, Horror Express, Incense for the Damned, and Night of the Big Heat. Cushing was quite solid, and though there are times when he doesn’t appear too often on screen, you alway know he’s lurking about, which is good enough for me.
Others here obviously have difficulty standing out, but they still did well, all things considered. Natasha Pyne, Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire, Moon in Scorpio, and Deathmaster), Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Blood on Satan’s Claw), and Ian Thompson were all pretty solid, though I will say, both Catherine Willmer and Ellis Dale felt way, way too goofy with their characters.
The kills here weren’t what I’d call great. You did see a double impalement on a sword, and a woman stabbed with a pitchfork, but being a mid-70’s British film, they’re just quick sequences with little to them, so though this may well be an interesting proto-slasher, it’s not always the most engaging when it comes to the death sequences (though there is the after-effects of a decapitation near the beginning which wasn’t half bad).
Madhouse is a decent movie, but given the names involved, I was sort of expecting more than decent. Maybe that’s on me – God knows it’s not the first movie I went into with possibly unrealistic expectations. As it is, I found the movie a decent and fun watch, but ultimately, I do think it rests somewhere around average.