Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Scream and Scream Again (1970)

          How badly do the makers of Scream and Scream Again contort themselves while trying to generate pulpy thrills? Consider this line, spoken by policeman Detective Sergeant Believer (Alfred Marks): “Well, either this is coincidence—some kinky freak burglary turned tragic—or we’ve got more than one supernormal maniac on our hands.” Like that cumbersome dialogue, Scream and Scream Again contains too many elements for its own good. Although the picture features iconic horror stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price, it’s not a straight horror film. Rather, it’s more of a Twilight Zone-style head trip involving experimental surgery, a fictional Eastern European nation run by a Third Reich-esque government, quasi-invulnerable killers, and, to make sure Price has something to do, a mad scientist. There’s also a musical number.
          Made in Britain, with Price the only American star in the cast, the picture is confusing and jumbled. For the first 30 minutes or so, director Gordon Hessler bounces around between espionage-type scenes involving mysterious characters played by Lee and Marshall Jones, investigative bits featuring Marks and Price, and nightclub scenes during which arrogant young stud Keith (Michael Gothard) picks up ladies. Somewhere in the bewildering mix is Cushing’s brief appearance, which includes little more than one scene. Then, in the middle of the movie—once audiences and authorities have figured out that Keith is a serial killer—Scream and Scream Again stops dead for an interminable chase scene while cops pursue Keith through city streets, country roads, a quarry, and finally a secret laboratory. After the epic chase scene, the movie shifts into biological-horror mode, with lots of gruesome scenes during which unethical doctors and nurses steal body parts from victims. And finally, Scream and Scream Again reaches a long operating-theater scene dominated by Price’s character delivering a trite monologue about his grand scheme for genetic engineering.
          The overarching story of Scream and Scream Again, which was based on a novel by Peter Saxon, makes sense in a comic-book sort of way, but the Grand Guignol Lite conclusion raises as many questions as it answers. It’s hard to imagine whom this movie might satisfy, since horror fans will be disappointed that Cushing appears briefly, Lee plays a non-monstrous role, and Price delivers a terrible performance owing to the script’s overripe treatment of his character. Similarly, fans of conspiracy and/or sci-fi movies will probably find the chase scene painfully boring and the horror aspects silly. On the plus side, the title song—yes, there’s a title song—is actually a pretty happening ’60s blues-rock number, performed onscreen by the real-life Welsh band Amen Corner.

Scream and Scream Again: FUNKY

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