Thursday, December 06, 2007

Scream and Scream Again – review

Director: Gordon Hessler

Release Date: 1970

Contains spoilers

Some films contain surprisingly few ideas. Not this one, indeed there is a surfeit of ideas and that is its problem. It throws so much at you that you have very little idea of what is going on. It also, ‘stars’ three of the horror greats – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. However that is a misnomer. Price has a little screen time, though hardly enough to suggest that he is starring in the film. Lee has a couple of scenes and Cushing has virtually no screen time what so ever. Indeed his filming schedule lasted one day.

There seems to be four disparate plots as well. Firstly a runner collapses in London and awakes in a hospital somewhere to discover he has lost a limb. The film cuts back to him occasionally and each time he has lost another limb. In another plot we see the rise to power of a man named Konratz (Marshall Jones) in some unnamed fascist state (where they have an obviously swastika like logo and call each other comrade). He seems a little too interested in torture and kills his enemies with a version of the Vulcan death grip. There are high level talks in the British corridors of power in the third thread. Finally a vampire killer is stalking women.

It is, of course this thread that we are interested in but all the threads do seem to come together in the end and I’m afraid, as I explore the vampire thread, I must spoil the key to the plot.

There isn’t really that much to say regarding the vampire plot. We begin with Supt. Bellaver (Alfred Marks) – a no-nonsense detective – investigating the death of a woman. She has been raped and had her throat cut, though there are also punctures on the wrist and extensive damage to the body. Through the investigation David Sorel (Christopher Matthews), a young pathologist, becomes involved. The first victim worked for one Dr Browning (Price).

We see Keith (Michael Gothard) approached by a woman in a club. The club patrons seem rather bored to be honest, so it is little wonder they got out of there and went for a drive. He pulls over but is a little rough and she runs. He chases after her and attacks her. When the police find her body they realise that, again, there is no blood at the scene (they had assumed it had been soaked into the ground at the first murder but this was on a street). She, again, has two punctures on her wrist.

To trap the killer a police woman is wired up and sent undercover. She is immediately approached by Keith (funny that) and they leave together. He pulls up on the heath, not knowing the police followed. It appears, listening in, that they are kissing (actually he’s strangling her) much to the chagrin of her copper husband. Then they hear slurping.

They investigate and he is feeding from her wrist. He fights off the coppers and drives away. Her shoe (with a tracking device in it) is in the car and we get an overly long chase scene – firstly in car and then on foot in a quarry. Given his inhuman strength the dialogue from the police is laughable. To escape the police he starts climbing a sheer cliff face but falls.

Much to their shock he is stunned not dead and so they handcuff him to a car and radio in their success. Whilst they are self congratulating he runs off – he has ripped off his own hand to escape. They chase again and end up at Browning’s clinic, where he opens a trap door and jumps into a vat of acid – killing himself.

Here’s were things get lost plot wise. They have the hand and discover that the tendons and muscles were synthetic, much stronger than naturally created. We then discover that Browning has been creating composites – think Frankenstein, mixed with Terminator. Keith was the prototype thinking model. Odd really as many of these composites are already in positions of power. Freemont (Lee) is a composite in the UK secret service. Konratz is also one – though it appears that he does not know Freemont is. Browning is creating a new world order of supermen, for the benefit of mankind, but some have gone bad – absolute power corrupting absolutely.

This doesn’t gel at all with the fact that Keith is drinking blood. It is never explained as to why. We could except that he is psychotic – something having gone wrong with his mind but why the blood, how did he puncture the wrists, how did he manage to drain a victim dry and then walk away? The film simply can’t be bothered telling us.

There are some spectacular goofs as well. Jones plays Konratz, according to the credits, but every character calls him Konrad. We get a character called Schweitz (Peter Sallis), murdered by Konrad, whom is referred to thereafter as Sallis. This is not really a horror but a silly spy ‘thriller’ but it is not that thrilling. The direction is done by the numbers and fails to hold any real spark of brilliance.

Concepts like the couple trying to run away from the fascist country and being shot at, captured and tortured seem to be there for no good reason.

That said this is quite a reasonable watch – the first time you watch it - mainly because you sit wondering what the Hell is going on and supposing that the plot lines will never meet. I can’t imagine, however, sitting through it again and by spoiling the main plot twist (the artificial supermen) I’ve probably spoiled any reason for you to sit through it also. Some call this a classic because it brings three icons of horror together, but they are not really together and their top billing is a bit of a con. Disappointing, 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Mark said...

Thanks for this review. I've never seen this movie but have always been curious because of the three horror icons being "together" in one film. I had a feeling this might be a disappointing movie, and now I know. I imagine I'll pick it up someday, but now I can safely put other curiosities on the list before it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mark

I would say that I was happy to see it the once, but it doesn't deserve any of the praise that seems lauded upon it simply because of the 'stars'. I have to say all 3 are on form (for the 2 minutes of Cushing and just a little longer of Lee) Price is is usual consumate self.

I think you have thr right idea putting it onto the someday list.