The title is misleading as the Madhouse in question is not a
building but the inside of actor Paul Toombes’ (Vincent Price) head. At least
that’s what this co-production from spook meisters AIP and Amicus want us to believe.
As a protean slasher pic it’s got a lot going for it; a maniac who could be the
template for later crazies Ghostface from Scream  and – it’s
a personal favourite – the chainsaw wielding madman from Pieces; and
plenty of everyday objects put to creatively destructive use.

Toombes can’t quite remember if he did kill his wife
not-to-be following the revelation that she learned her best moves in adult
movies. It all took place a long time ago in a prologue somewhere in Hollywood
providing us with a tantalising glimpse of the cloaked killer resplendent in
grisly mask, jaunty black fedora and a very shiny letter opener! But is it him?

Following a spell in therapy, Toombes cruises into the UK to
have his career rejuvenated by TV keen to cash in on the cult status of his
famous creation ‘Dr Death’.  Brits
obsessed with old horror movies – surely not!

Keeping tabs on the ‘Doc’ are Peter Cushing as ex producer
Herbert Flay (!) and – via several odd celluloid appearances – legends Basil
Rathbone and Boris Karloff. There’s also a brief cameo from the luscious Linda
Hayden (although not as revealing as her demonic ingenue in Tigon’s Blood on
Satans Claw).

It’s difficult to see who’s in the driving seat in this film,
other than the appearance of Price, AIP’s contribution seems to consist mainly
of lending bits of their Roger Corman film library which are shown at various
points in the story to remind people of how great Toombes once was and to keep
people amused while someone gets bumped off.

There are some nice ‘nasty’ set pieces; the four poster bed
is particularly heavy! While a spell in the gym leaves someone out of breath.
It’s his madhouse so Toombes gets the last laugh. A bit of a muddle but
surprisingly enjoyable. Madhouse certainly delivers the comic book elements
Amicus have been known to revel in and there are some unusual performances
among the support – a blackmailing couple who fall on their own sword certainly
had me clutching my sides.

It’s not a classic but it’s good bloody fun – and it really
does create a brand-able icon for its bad guy – an approach that has become de
facto in commercial horror cinema with merchandising potential as part of the
business model. Go mad for it.

Review by Dancemakr


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