NINETEEN SEVENTY THREE was a busy year for Peter Cushing, and on January 4th he recorded two BBC television shows, in one day! The first was an invitation to the Michael Aspel children's show. A relaxed Cushing, chatted about requested clips children asked to be shown again. In the evening, a spot of promotion and an interview, centred on his most recent films on the news and magazine programme 'Nationwide'. Just a week later, Cushing took the stage of the National Film Theatre in London, to take part in a John Player Lecture. Cushing talked at length to a packed house about his childhood, his trip to Hollywood and his stage career. Strangely, there was little about his time with Hammer films or any of his fantasy genre movies. Later a transcript of this interview would form part of the body of his first autobiography. A project he began, after his wife's death, as 'a form of therapy' . . .
FEBRUARY brought an appearance on the BBC MORECAME AND WISE SHOW. Singing and dancing! April, he visited Paris to attend the Second International Horror Film Festival and was presented with the Licorne D'Or award, for his role as Arthur Grimsdyke, in Amicus films, 'Tales from the Crypt' plus special for his horror film work over the last decade. While in France, he also filmed an episode of the ITC television show, 'The Zoo Gang' entitled, 'The Counterfeit Trap' with direction from John Hough, who Cushing had worked with, in Hammer films 'Twins of Evil', just a sixteen months before.
MAY 14TH. Cushing arrived at the tiny Twickenham studios, to begin another film for Amicus. It's title would be MADHOUSE. Producer Milton Subotsky, had bought the rights to a book by Angus Hall entitled, Devilday, which upon adapting and completing into a screenplay, wasted no time in pulling together a cast and crew, using his own very successful and unique 'value for money' balancing and budgeting. Jim Clark was his director of choice and the more appropriate shooting title of 'The Revenge of Doctor Death', was rolled out to attract and entice a leading cast. Peter Cushing was signed to play Herbert Flay, a twisted, bitter, revengeful actor and screenwriter, who forms a nightmare of quite diabolical revenge! Vincent Price stars as a very successful horror film actor, Paul Toombes, who is also not without HIS problems, but not as many as he thought!
ONE OF THE VERY ENDEARING and well planned features of the film, are several sequences of film clips, from Paul Toombes many Doctor Death, horror film features, also starring Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone! These clips are in fact, genuine pieces from the Roger Corman films, that Price actually appeared and starred in, now being convincingly passed as jewels from Toombe's successful career! MADHOUSE plays something akin to the successful formula that was adopted in Price's 'Theatre of Blood' and the Phibes movies. Horrible and yet, amusing deaths, with more than a sprinkle of black comedy. Here however, it's played quite straight and the whole thing swings into a fight to the death and a climax, that not only comes as a surprise, but even after several screenings, might leave you wondering, just who is who?
THE MADHOUSE of the title, doesn't really refer to a particular building, but more to a state of chaos and the unsettling manner of Cushing's character Flay and the unravelling of Price's character's mind. There are lots of red herrings, and not wanting to give any plot pieces away, all that can be said is, fans of Cushing and Price, should enjoy the twisting of the plot and the way both actors spare no cobwebs or spiders and go all out, when the cheating and horrors are revealed! Check out the cast in the rare photographs of this gallery, and you'll see Subotsky did his 'sums' well, and managed to gather quite a gathering of a company! Up until this time, Amicus were enjoying quite a successful run of releases, their portmanteau films were extremely popular and Price, who was managing almost a hit a year, from his contractual annual yearly production visit to the UK. Which makes it confusing, as to why the box office was not as expected. Even today, reviews are mixed and the jury of Cushing and Price fans, are mostly still out . . .
MADHOUSE is film that seems always to get a mix bag of comments, whenever it is featured at our FACEBOOK PCASUK FAN PAGE. A regular response and routine, that always confuses me. I can think of half a dozen or more films, from the careers of both Price and Cushing, that fall well below the standard of this film, and yet excuses are aired, failings thought out - so forgiven, praise and mostly positives garnishes dress the mess, of what is often a film of less meat and too much gravy. It's true, everyone can and does have their own and personal tastes and takes on any film, but a film that plays up the real and the fantasy world of film making, the ego's and off set going on's, I would have thought, had little chance of failing. Here today and back then, we are dealing with true nightmares and often quite crazy people! With tongue in cheek, for all those who can see it, MADHOUSE is a worthy addition to the other Price 'amusing slay and display' black comedies, mentioned previously. The extra value here is, we have the very entertaining and unique chance to watch two actors, who sadly rarely had the opportunity to work on screen together. It's MADNESS it didn't happen more often . . ..