Synopsis: They hunger for power, thirst for blood- and make each helpless, pleading victim Scream And Scream Again! Horror legends Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing star in this “masterwork of style and suspense” (Los Angeles Times) about a group of sadistic madmen plotting to take over the world- One Severed Body Part at a Time!
eyelights: its illustrious cast. its unusual structure.
eyesores: its initial opaqueness. its facile ending.
“Fastest transition in the world: from human to corpse.”
Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. These masters of terror were only twice united together on the silver screen: once in 1970’s ‘Scream and Scream Again’ and much later in 1983’s ‘House of the Long Shadows’.
It’s a match made in Hell, the perfect trio for horror aficionados.
Sadly, ‘Scream and Scream Again’ wouldn’t exactly make their fans’ dreams come true, given that the actors only had secondary parts in the picture: combined, they were on screen for merely a fraction of the total runtime.
But they steal the show.
Based on Peter Saxon’s novel ‘The Disorientated Man’, it follows the investigation of a series of murders revolving around some London dance clubs. Little do the police know that their quarry is more human than human.
Interestingly, the picture also follows two other plot threads. One of them revolves around a jogger who suffers a cardiac arrest and who wakes up to find himself in a hospital bed, amputated – and his fate will worsen.
The other plotline concerns a conspiracy that’s rooted in a fascist regime of undisclosed origin, in which a government agent returns to the fold only to assassinate his superior and anyone else getting in his way.
The big mystery is: How do these all converge?
As I watched this puzzler, I was baffled by how disjointed the picture was: it kept cutting from one disparate scene to the next and it was impossible to know what to make of them. It was like following three films in one.
Thankfully, they slowly wind together, but it seemed incongruent at first, especially since the onus was on the investigation, which led to a super long chase through the countryside between the culprit and the authorities.
This picture truly lacks balance.
Furthermore, it was hard to make sense of any of the individual pieces as the secret behind each was only really revealed at the end – and, in the case of the amputated jogger, the truth remained slightly muddy even then.
But it kept me on my toes, something that many films can’t at all boast. Since director Gordon Hessler refused to spoon-feed his audience, at least until the great reveal, one has no choice but to be alert to follow along.
Despite this, the picture leaves a lot of questions unresolved:
- What’s with the killer Vulcan nerve pinch?
- Why doesn’t anyone connect the fascist government agent with his superiors’ deaths?
- Why do the police go see the first victim’s employer and ask him about her friends and family?
- Why does the fascist regime capture and torture its citizens?
- What’s with the vampiric killer, in light of the final reveal?
- How can a superhuman being break off its own hand but not bleed to death?
- What’s with the unsecured vat of acid on Dr. Browning’s property?
- How could the vat be emptied and moved so quickly?
- Why wasn’t the amputated hand not properly secured, as the superintendent demanded?
- How could the research facilities be unlocked and unguarded, given its secrets?
And, most importantly…
- What’s with the hipster jazz score?
Seriously, as quirky as the picture was, the music was the weirdest part of it. Though it was in key (!) with the times, it’s the kind of score that doesn’t fit in very well with science fiction, horror or action films.
And ‘Scream and Scream Again’ is all three.
It jumbles its genres as much as it jumbles its plots, and yet it’s a uniquely entertaining motion picture that only really stumbles at the end, with its reveal and dénouement; it seemed as though the writers just gave up.
But, let’s face it, most people who will give ‘Scream and Scream Again’ a look are going to be fans of Price, Lee and Cushing. All three are quite excellent here, even though their parts are spare and mildly undefined.
And, truth be told, this picture is unusual enough that some will enjoy it; it certainly doesn’t serve up run-of-the-mill, pre-chewed, fare. Naturally, this might explain why it’s become a cult favourite over the years.
It’s curious enough to make you want to watch it again and again.
Date of viewing: May 6, 2017