Scream and Scream Again Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Twilight Time
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Christopher Wicking
1970, 95 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 27th, 2015
Limited to 3,000 copies.
Vincent Price as Dr. Browning
Christopher Lee as Fremont
Peter Cushing as Major Heinrich Benedek
Judi Bloom as Helen
Alfred Marks as Detective Supt. Bellaver
Marshall Jones as Konratz
Michael Gothard as Keith
Uta Levka as the Nurse
A runner suffers a heart attack and wakes in a hospital only to discover he is missing a leg. An officer named Konratz tortures prisoners in an unnamed eastern European country. London’s Det. Supt. Bellaver is hunting down a blood-sucking maniac who has claimed many beautiful young victims. What do these three scenarios have in common? The short answer is that a secret organization is plotting a conspiracy to change the world. Their identities and allegiances remain secret, but soon the truth will be known and humanity will never be the same. This is actually a fairly generous plot synopsis for a film that plays out like it has been cobbled together from numerous sources. The main attraction here is the casting of legendary actors Vincent Price (From a Whisper to a Scream), Christopher Lee (The Horror of Dracula) and Peter Cushing (The Vampire Lovers). These gentlemen know the material by heart, and it is always a treat to see them on screen.
Amicus Films was primarily known for their anthology pictures and A.I.P. (American Independent Pictures) was a home for Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe features. The studios teamed to make Scream and Scream Again, which on the surface looked like it would be a dream come true for horror fans, as it prominently promised to unite the powerhouse cast members, but sadly this was not the case. Price and Lee share only a brief moment in the finale, while Cushing is relegated to a brief, one-scene cameo without the others. The trio would go on to share screen time together, most effectively eleven years later in House of the Long Shadows (1981). So it’s not a Poe pic, nor an anthology or even a classic tale familiar from Hammer Films. The question becomes, what exactly is this movie?
The novel The Disoriented Man by Peter Saxon (pen name to a staff of studio writers), served as the inspiration for this picture, although much of the narrative was changed to remove clunky science fiction elements. Screenwriter Christopher Wicking (To the Devil a Daughter) streamlined the story, but it still feels disjointed, as it takes a while for the three plotlines to converge. Director Gordon Hessler (KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park) does a fine job making the police procedural segments, but never really connects with the sinister elements. There is a lot of impressive camerawork on display from cinematographer John Coquillon (The Changeling), including several complicated long takes and some nice hand-held work. The centerpiece of the picture is an elaborately staged car chase that is quite harrowing and very impressive, but has more in common with action films like Bullitt (1968) than anything within the horror genre.
The material is well below the cast’s standards, but a new regime of younger actors was taking over the film industry and these seasoned performers started appearing in less than stellar material. Of the three leads, Price is given the most to do as the mysterious scientist Dr. Browning. He was the employer for the latest victim in an ongoing murder investigation and has gained the attention of the local police inspector. Lee is given the challenge of selling some stale espionage dialogue that has something to do with secret government agencies, and he is a strong enough actor to keep the banality to a minimum. Cushing is given the least amount of screen time and likely shot all of his material in a single day. Nice to see him, but the man deserves so much better.
Despite all of its flaws, I have always had a soft spot for Scream and Scream Again. The cast obviously helps as does the camera work, but there is something about watching this film come so close to flying off the rails on more than one occasion that keeps it interesting. There are certain elements that really click, including the plotline involving the unfortunate jogger repeatedly waking to additional amputations, the murderer chewing off his own hand to avoid capture and the wacky night club party scenes. If you are willing to overlook the missed opportunities and simply run with the story being told, the film will grow on you.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture quality is a step up from the previous MGM DVD release, offering an overall increase in clarity, particularly in small-object detail in hair and fabric. This is still a flawed transfer that is at times littered with specks of dirt and retains reel change markers in the top corner of the screen. Colors and black levels are rich and well-balanced and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The default DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track is clear and strong with dialogue levels remaining clear and free from distortion. There is a bit more activity in this audio than I anticipated, especially during the extended car chase. Fans of the film will be happy to learn that original music rights have been cleared for this release and the theme song performed by Amen Corner is finally restored.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The audio commentary by film historians Tim Sullivan and David Del Valle is a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out, as these guys are having a blast watching this freaky movie together. Their knowledge is priceless and Del Valle particularly shines when delivering his Vincent Price tales.
Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at AIP (23 minutes) features vintage interviews with Hessler intercut with an assortment of contemporary filmmakers and historians reflecting on the classic director’s work. Participants include screenwriters Steve Haberman (Dracula: Dead and Loving It) and Courtney Joyner (Prison) and director Jeff Burr (Pumpkinhead II), all of whom are fans and are happy to share their knowledge of Hessler’s work.
Actress Uta Levka sits down for a charming interview titled Uta Screams Again (9 minutes) in which she reflects on her time making horror films. She openly admits to having little memory of this picture and is surprised to learn it has earned a cult following. Her memories of Price and Lee are particularly entertaining.
The original theatrical trailer is filled with spoilers and when promoting the three horror legends with title cards, they show the wrong actor for Peter Cushing! This is a terrible trailer.
A scratchy radio spot also reveals a bit too much of the plot, but is nice to have included.
A photo gallery offers a look at the marketing items for the film including images of the cast, lobby cards, international poster art and assorted home video cover boxes.
The original music score is included on an isolated track and is also well worth a listen.
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