Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Scream and Scream Again (1970)

scream and scream again movie poster
Review by Tom Parnell

A quick glance at the cast list of SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN should be enough to excite any horror fan.

Featuring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price this 1970 film could easily have come from the Hammer stable if it wasn’t for the utterly bizarre, convoluted and ultimately confusing plot which encompasses vampire superhumans, oppressive Eastern European regimes and vats of acid.

Adapted from a Peter Saxon novel by Christopher Wicking (who years later co-wrote the David Bowie flop/cult classic ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS) SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is a film that constantly keeps you guessing and generally proves your predictions wrong.

As the opening credits roll we are treated to a serene scene of a jogger crossing a green somewhere in suburban England. The dramatic title freeze frames the action for a moment accompanied by an upbeat David Whitaker jazz number. So far, not so sinister. What’s going to happen to him?

Not vampires, not violent dictators or rubber-masked monsters, but a sudden heart attack does for our jogger and suddenly we cut to him tucked up safe in hospital. Or is he? A nurse arrives and wordlessly attaches one of those weird suction pipes which drain your saliva to our jogger’s mouth. When she leaves he takes stock of himself. One arm. Two arms. No legs! Let the screaming begin.

Now from here most watchers would expect the rest of the film to focus on the jogger’s ongoing torment and potential escape attempts, but actually the film’s focus shifts entirely to an unnamed Eastern European country ruled by some sort of Gestapo-like organization headed by Peter Cushing. This is where things begin to get confusing.

I would like to say that I could give the plot away at this point, but having watched this film twice in quick succession I still can’t claim to fully understand it. One of the tricks which this film constantly manages to pull is, just as you start to get the hang of what’s going on and who everybody is, it suddenly changes location and story thread.

Apparently Vincent Price repeatedly said in interviews that he didn’t understand the script at all and he had no idea what he was talking about in his final, supposedly explanatory, monologue. I’m with him.

If you sit back and let the various convoluted plot points wash over you however, you are left with a highly enjoyable, stylish and sometimes genuinely innovative film. Disappointingly Peter Cushing never appears with the other two main stars, but we do get to see Peter Sallis (Clegg from LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE) meeting an unfortunate end (and not in a bathtub rolling out of control down a hill).

Bizarrely the best bit of the film has none of the top-billed stars in it, as the British police chase a (literally) blood-thirsty murderer around Betchworth Quarry and to a very surprising end.

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN may not have gone down in history as a classic, but for its uniqueness and elaborate plot alone it is worth a watch for any horror fan.

Tom Parnell is a writer and former journalist who spends too much time sitting around at home watching Doctor Who DVDs.


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