Madhouse (1974 film)
|Directed by||Jim Clark|
|Produced by||Samuel Z. Arkoff
|Written by||Angus Hall
|Music by||Douglas Gamley|
|Editing by||Clive Smith|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
Price plays Paul Toombes, a horror actor whose trademark role is 'Dr. Death'. Years after a scandal ends his film career (his fiancee is murdered and Toombes ends up in an asylum, suspected but never convicted of the crime), the embittered Toombes revives his skull-faced character for a television series. Cast and crew begin to die in ways that suggest scenes from Toombes's films (which are represented here by clips of Price's AIP efforts, including The Haunted Palace, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, Scream and Scream Again, and House of Usher), and they all point to Toombes. Now, Toombes must find and confront the real killer, before he becomes the next victim.
Madhouse is very loosely based on a novel called Devilday (1969) by Angus Hall, which bears very little similarity to the finished film. In the novel, the character Paul Toombes is an overweight and dissipated sexual predator, who may very well have murdered his wife. His famous cinematic alter ego is named Dr. Dis, not Dr. Death. A reprint of the novel was issued under the title Madhouse to coincide with the release of the film.
Other titles considered for the film were The Return of Dr. Death and The Revenge of Dr. Death. Possibly, neither title was used because the producers did not want the film to appear to be a sequel to some other film. Also, another unrelated film called Dr. Death, Seeker of Souls had been released by another company (Freedom Arts Pictures Corporation) not long before.
In the film, there are five movies in the "Dr. Death" canon. Three are mentioneed by name: Dr. Death, The Legend of Dr. Death, and Dr. Death and the Hangman.
The film is the last horror movie that Price made for American International Pictures, where he had worked consistently (mostly on Edgar Allan Poe adaptations) since 1960. Co-star Robert Quarry was being groomed to replace Price, but low-budget horror films fell out of fashion after the release of The Exorcist.
Robert Quarry appears in a costume party sequence in the film dressed as his famous screen chrarcter Count Yorga.
One of the victims of the killer, a director who is crushed in a prop bed, is played by Barry Dennen, famous for his portrayal of Pontius Pilate in Norman Jewison's film version of Jesus Christ, Superstar.
An episode of the TV series Ghost Story called "Graveyard Shift", broadcast in February 1973, featured John Astin as a washed up horror actor haunted by some of his former screen characters, one of whom is coincidentally named Dr. Death.