Scream and Scream Again: Film Review

Amicus Films greatest strength as a studio has been, in their films I’ve previously reviewed (like Tales from the Crypt and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) has been their anthology films. Their films were always fairly low budget, but the short form anthology film format allowed them to get good actors in for short narrative works. Scream and Scream Again shifts things by doing a more ambitious narrative, but one which stumbles out of the gate and is fumbled in its execution.

Scream and Scream Again’s plot is more like 3-4 plots stuck together, and cut together in a manner not unlike a DVD that’s skipping between chapters. One plot involves the head of intelligence of some central/eastern European dictatorship who is slowly taking control of the country, while possessing some strange power. One plot involves a serial killer in the suburbs of London, and the police attempts to catch them. A third plot involves a person in a hospital bed who keeps waking up to discover limbs have been amputated.

All of these plots eventually do come together, but it’s all very awkwardly handled. Narratively, it’s 12 pounds of plot stuffed into a 5 pound bag. The film does gamely try to stitch them together, but it doesn’t quite work, as the narrative keeps bursting out at the seams.

What makes this more aggravating is the cast – specifically how very good they are and how tremendously under utilized many of them are.

Vincent Price is part of the A-plot, involving a mad scientist making artificial humans, and he puts in a tremendous performance. Not quite with the range of The Haunted Palace, but it does get into the elements of his acting range that Roger Corman tended to be less interested in with his direction (and later directors tended to pay less attention to as well). Of the names in the film, he’s also probably got the most material.

The cast also boasts Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and of those actors, only Lee and Price have any scenes together. They’re very light on material, but they do have good chemistry together, but in a way makes this more disappointing, as you’d want them to have more scenes. Cushing, on the other hand, has a sum total of one scene, which consists of a monologue that he’s killed at the end of.

And then there’s actor Alfred Marks, who apparently walked right out of an episode of Life on Mars, and is now how I imagine Detective Seawoll from the Rivers novels. He plays Detective Superintendent Bellaver, who is working on the serial killer investigation, and he’s basically in a different movie than everyone else. On the one hand, this makes for a strike against the rest of the movie, due to a dramatic tonal clash. However, on the other hand, it gives a sense of cohesion to the rest of the serial killer part of the story, and probably makes that the strongest part of the film.

Ultimately, if the two halves of the film – the Serial Killer/Mad Scientist part, and the Spy Thriller With Superpowered Aspiring Dictator part – had each been their own movie, they probably would have been fine. Together, they fit about as well as using an allen wrench to screw in a flathead screw.

The thing is, I can’t be certain who to lay fault for this with. Having an overstuffed plot is, to an extent, the fault of the script, but the way it’s so spectacularly disjointed is aggravated by how the film is edited. That said, if there isn’t enough material for the editor to work with they can’t turn the story into something more coherent. Certainly the film’s big action set-piece, a car and foot-chase through suburban London, is well put together. So that leads the question of whether they had the budget for the coverage they needed.

In all, it makes for a film with very solid performances and some barely competent production. Currently, Scream and Scream Again is currently available for scream-er-streaming on Amazon Prime. Buying anything through that link helps to support the blog.

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