I'm still not that knowledgeable at all about this era of horror films. I do know, however, that I love Vincent Price and what I've seen him in, and I'm slowly becoming familiar with Peter Cushing and all the Hammer films. Maybe because of this much of the symbolism for what the film has come to represent was a bit lost on me and that is of course not the movie's fault at all. What I got out of Madhouse was something very different, very confusing, and yet very well done. The story reminded me very much of the one in Targets, which has another titan of horror - Boris Karloff - basically playing himself as horror actor at the end of his era. There's also a hint of a giallo feel with the unknown, masked killer and the constant shots of the killer putting on black gloves.
Madhouse boasts a fair bodycount with not a lot of blood. The murders are similar to those that occur in Toombes's movies and are quite varied. Things start off with the beheading of Toombes's fiancée Ellen, and there's a great shot there of her head falling onto the dresser and Price's reaction. Then a random annoying actress gets a pitchfork to the neck; next is a hanging, and then another neck stabbing. Hm, all stuff having to do with necks. Strange.
The turn that the film takes at the end is a little hard to swallow for me. There was no indication up until that point that anything supernatural or otherworldly was going on, so it feels completely out of nowhere. They do a neat little thing with Flay's wife's pit of spiders and there's a hilarious "red herring" joke to try to make up for it, but though I totally get the ending, I still can't help but think it's out of place. Maybe a different ending wouldn't have been better. It would have made more sense, though.
Despite any personal preferences, Madhouse gets the thumbs up! Price is always a joy to see and he rules the film just like he always does. Not to mention the fact that he wears beautiful pink pajamas in the film. My goodness, I love him even more after seeing that.