Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Scream and Scream Again" (1970) d/ Gordon Hessler

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Tigon Studios really left the crazy cage wide open on this one, a minor masterpiece of espionage and mystery, well seasoned with elements of  horror and sci-fi, purveyed upon the screen by an all-star genre cast of casts, the first time the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and no less than Vincent Price himself all share the marquee, though I warn you up front: the elder statesmen of horror never appear in the same scene all together. Still, that's a small complaint to register against such a dizzy nuthouse of a cult classic as this one. Veteran genre director Gordon Hessler, who'd done movies like The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee(1970) for A.I.P., builds a rambling, schizophrenic narrative off the foundation of a sci-fi novel by Peter Saxon, but pulls it all together nicely for a wild finish if you can manage to stay on board the whole time.

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"Sometimes I'm not very nice at all... a dreadful chap to make your acquaintance, really."
Just as London's getting it's swing on, the groovy partying is disrupted by a series of modern-day vampiric slayings, only this Dracula's more on the Thin White Duke side, with flash clothes and motor, go-go birds and draining their blood just as they're thinking they've landed themselves a real keeper. Meanwhile, a poor heart-afflicted bloke gets poorer by the minute, waking up in hospital significantly less of a man than he was the last time he checked. Also, there's a cyber-bully uber-fascist (Marshall Jones) who's been rising through the regime's runic ranks via a neat little trick he learned from Sifu Spock: the old Vulcan nerve pinch-to-the-shoulder, Achilles heel to both intergalactic dictators and Peter "One Scene" Cushing, alike.

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" ...I think I'll just skip this round of 'If You're Happy and You Know It', if it's all the same."
When the Old Bill finally gets the bead on the young psycho (Michael Gothard) after a well-lengthy chase sequence, he pulls his own hand off while handcuffed to a car bumper, proceeds to ascend a real nose-bleed of a vertical climb, only to get pegged in the dome with a rock by one of the unarmed constables below, causing him to tumble awkwardly back down to justice. Was that trip worth it, young man? The trail leads to a private clinic that specializes in organ replacements and transplants, as run by Dr. Browning (Price), who's been secretly building a super race of cyber-men for that shadowy militaristic organization we saw earlier, and he's paid a visit by the synthetic uber-fascist, which leads to an enjoyably hammy nerve pinch-off between the two, culminating in the good doctor dunking the hit man in his nifty acid bath like a two hundred pound glazed kruller in coffee. Finally, Fremont (Christopher Lee) makes the scene, revealing himself as the real head honcho in the insane precedings, and wills Browning to dip himself into his own acid tub, which he does, emotionlessly.

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"These swollen tonsils should be removed right away!"
You'll remember Gothard from Russell's The Devils the same year, and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce(1984), while Yutte Stensgaard later made herself famous as Carmilla/Mircalla in the Hammer production of Lust For a Vampire (1971), the sequel to it's own Vampire Lovers(1970). Welsh pop group Amen Corner also appear in one of the nightclub scenes. Originally, the final reveal was to be aliens behind the sinister plot, just as in the novel, "The Disoriented Man", but the film's producers chose to roll with unexplained and mysterious, instead, which worked out just fine, I think. On the scale, Scream earns a well-deserved three Wops, and stands as an enjoyably ludicrous ride that comes with my recommendation. See it!

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Say, what's that your ham is soaking in...
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