Theatre of Death (1966)

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Released 8-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 85:54
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Samuel Gallu
Pennea Productions
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Lee
Julian Glover
Lelia Goldoni
Jenny Till
Evelyn Laye
Ivor Dean
Joseph Fürst
Betty Woolfe
Leslie Handford
Fraser Kerr
Dilys Watling
Steve Plytas
Miki Iveria
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Elisabeth Lutyens

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This is a Christopher Lee film that I had not seen before, so when the opportunity came to review it I jumped at the chance. While not one of his best, this is still an interesting diversion from the vampire films and other horrors he was making for Hammer films. It is not really a horror film, more a mystery with horror overtones.

    Lee plays Phillippe Darvas, owner of the Theatre de Mort in Paris. The theatre specialises in Grand Guignol, a popular dramatic entertainment consisting of short sensational or horrific pieces staged in succession according to my dictionary. Basically, murders and executions are re-enacted with considerable attention to detail. Darvas also directs the entertainment, and in typical Svengali fashion he is demanding, rude and arrogant.

    Charles Marquis (Julian Glover, unusually in a leading role) is a police surgeon whose hand injury prevents him from plying his trade, so he spends his spare time romancing Dani (Leila Goldoni), an actress in the theatre. Dani's friend Nicole (Jenny Till) comes under Darvas' spell, and even allows him to psychoanalyse her. Meanwhile, there are a series of grisly murders in process involving a knife with a triangular blade, and the victims have been drained of blood. Is Darvas really Dracula in disguise?

    As a film, Theatre of Death is very much caught between a rock and a hard place. There is not enough suspense to make it work as a mystery or a thriller, and not enough horror for it to succeed as a, well, horror film. The script does not exploit the opportunities the story provides, and the direction by the unknown (to me) Samuel Gallu is pedestrian. It has some good moments nonetheless, and I am glad that I took the time to watch it, if only because Christopher Lee plays a different character to his usual gallery of supernatural creatures.

    The film is included on a dual-feature disc with Rasputin the Mad Monk, a Hammer film starring Lee in the title role.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a pretty sharp transfer but the sharpness is compromised by artefacting detailed below. Shadow detail is average, with some very dark sections, but it seems to me that this was the look of the film and I do not think I missed anything. Contrast seems to be set just a bit too high, though this is not a major concern.

    Colour is vibrant and rich, almost too rich at times, with very bright reds present. There is no evidence of colour bleeding. Black levels are good, but there is a sheen to some of the darker sections that does not look lifelike.

    The major problem with the transfer is a lack of fine detail, which appears to be due to motion blurring possibly caused by excessive noise reduction. While not causing the "floating face" phenomenon, detail levels drop whenever there is any movement. The effect is not overly severe, but it is annoying. There are also some comet trails visible, for example at 39:06, and posterisation at 43:30.

    Film artefacts are thankfully few, with occasional small white specks and coloured blemishes, but nothing to worry about.

    There are no subtitles provided.

    This is a dual-layer disc, but in keeping with the rest of this series of releases, the film is contained on a single layer and there is consequently no layer change during the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The original audio would have been mono, so nothing has been lost.

    Dialogue is quite clear and distinct, and overall the sound is quite satisfactory for a mono original of this vintage.

    Elisabeth Luyten's music score is pretty good, adding atmosphere but not distracting the viewer from the action. There is fine use of a guitar, and the closing voodoo dance music (a scene censored from US prints, but included in full here) is excellent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release is naturally from Anchor Bay, and includes the following extras:

    There is also a UK Region 2 release, which sounds as if it has the same transfer and extras as the Region 4, so the Region 1 is a marginal winner.


    A minor but rare and reasonably entertaining film, though not one of Christopher Lee's best.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Audio Synch is a long way out .. - REPLY POSTED