A Movie A Day: SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)
You say my mind is affecting my legs. You’re wrong. My legs are affecting my mind
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Here we go with what feels like two AMADs in one day thanks to me using the Lord’s Day to play catch up and keep this column from getting more than the few hours behind track it has become.
Not doing too shabby so far considering last year I ended up running the last three AMADs all at once on Halloween because I was so backlogged.
Scream of Fear showed up on this list because I had the Icons of Horror Collection of Hammer titles. You’ll remember I watched another from this box set earlier on in the column, THE GORGON.
I read nothing about this, just saw that Hammer regular Jimmy Sangster wrote it and that Christopher Lee was in it. Sold!
One of my issues with The Gorgon is that Christopher Lee was given the short end of the stick. Watching this one, I’m now thankful Lee was in as much of The Gorgon as he was. He was a cameo in the first half of The Gorgon, but ended up co-starring for the second part. Here he pops up a couple of times throughout, his character serving little more use than a red herring for the audience.
Reviews like this are the most difficult to write. The film has a very effective finale, with a little slight of hand twist that totally had me looking in the wrong direction. So even though I thought I had the movie pegged from early on, it still surprised me.
But getting to the end felt a bit like a chore, so I ended up decidedly mixed about the whole experience.
The opening and closing are by far the best parts. They begin by making you feel almost like a lost tourist who doesn’t belong. We’re on a boat watching a police officer and boatman staring at each other with a group of people on the shore calling out in a foreign language. Sounded German to me, but later in the movie there was a mention of Italy being the location. Sounded German and with the nice matte painted mountains in the background it looked like Switzerland.
Either way, there are no subtitles, no transition to English or any of that. Just these men in a boat. The officer leans over the side and pokes at something, which eventually brings a pale corpse bobbing up to the surface of the water. Like it’s nothing but a day in the life, the cop pulls this woman up into the boat and covers her with a sheet.
Then we’re in a car with our lead, a crippled young woman long estranged from her rich father. Susan Strasberg (yes, daughter of famous acting coach Lee Strasberg) plays this woman, Penny Appleby, with a nice mixture of vulnerability and strength. As we meet her she’s en route to France patch things up with her father and meet her mother-in-law for the first time.
Ann Todd plays the mother-in-law the total opposite of what you’d expect in a film like this. She’s kind, warm, welcoming. But Penny’s father isn’t there and something just seems… off. Suspicious.
On her first night, she hears a banging and wheels her way out past a natural pool and into a pool house where she meets the dead, staring gaze of her father propped up in a chair, a candle burning at his feet.
Of course no sign of him or the candle are found when her claims are investigated.
This is when I thought I had the movie figured out. “It’s Gaslight,” I thought. The more the film unfolded the more it seemed like I called it right. If Penny was to either die or be declared insane the father’s fortune would go to her mother-in-law.
Christopher Lee plays a friend of Penny’s oddly absent father, a doctor by the name of Pierre Gerrard, who always seems to be around when strange things are happening.
We know Penny has had a history of what Lee and Todd keep calling “an overactive imagination,” and had a traumatic experience witnessing her best friend drown herself, presumably the girl from the opening of the movie.
Yep, I kept thinking. Gaslight. But I wasn’t exactly right. I won’t explain why in case anyone of you guys decides to seek the flick out, but I will say that I was happy with being tricked. It was a little more Tales From The Crypt-ish than I was expecting. And I will say no more!
So, how do I feel when the stuff that felt like a chore to get through was actually setting up an ending I really liked? I guess in the end it was worth the journey, but I’ll tell you I’m not itching to re-experience the story. I’ll probably never watch this flick again, but I’m happy I viewed it, if that makes any sense at all.
Again, Lee is great, but a tiny part of the movie. Maybe it’s just me being a Christopher Lee fanboy, but I keep feeling the dude should be the star of every one of these Hammer movies I see where he’s given a bit part. Lord knows if I was King of Movies back in the ‘60s I would have let Lee star in everything. Comedy, horror, drama, crime, western, sci-fi, fantasy… Doesn’t matter.
I like what they do with his character here, but it’s a part that should have gone to “some guy” not “Christopher ‘Muthafuckin’ Lee.” It’s fairly insignificant.
Final Thoughts: If any of the plot sounds intriguing at all, I urge you to first seek out Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury. Lord, that’s a beautiful film and note perfect tonally. Such a great suspense story. There’s enough to like with Scream of Fear, especially some really creepy underwater corpse shots that reminded me of that great moment in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, and fine, layered performances throughout, to give it a recommend, but it’s not a strong recommendation. It’s perfect as a box set movie, so if you pick up the great Icons of Horror set that’s the perfect way to watch the film, amongst other of the more obscure Hammer flicks.
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Upcoming A Movie A Day Titles:
Monday, October 25th: THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)
Tuesday, October 26th: THE OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981)
Wednesday, October 27th: THE EVIL (1977)
Thursday, October 28th: THE DEVIL DOLL (1936)
Friday, October 29th: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)
Saturday, October 30th: SCARECROWS (1988)
Sunday, October 31st: RAZORBACK (1984)
Ah, it feels nice to be all caught up! One more week ‘till Halloween (feel like singing the Silver Shamrock song now) and we got 7 really damn good looking titles to take us up to my favorite holiday of the year! See ya’ tomorrow for some Satan stuff with THE MEPHISTO WALTZ!
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Previous AMAD 2010’s:
- Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attic (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Mad Love (1935)
- Repulsion (1965)
- The Church (1989)
- The Black Cat (1981)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
- Dolls (1987)
- The Silent Scream (1980)
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!
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Oct. 24, 2010, 6:38 p.m. CST
Now I know what to rent.
Oct. 24, 2010, 7:18 p.m. CST
It's time for me to watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch. About to start watching it. To be slightly on topic, I just want to say that I look forward to reading about almost every movie this week.
Oct. 24, 2010, 7:19 p.m. CST
Not really a horror movie so much. More of soldiers double crossing each other movie. It's kind of an odd movie. Didn't really like it nor hate it.
Oct. 24, 2010, 7:51 p.m. CST
I thought Susan Strasberg was pretty cute, too. Great b&w photography.
Oct. 24, 2010, 8:54 p.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
I have the DVD set, but I've never gotten around to watching this one. I've always more appreciated Hammer's monster movies and gothic horrors than their crime films and psychological thrillers. Maybe I'll go ahead and check it out. Quint's review is pretty much how I expected to feel about it.
Oct. 24, 2010, 9:23 p.m. CST
And don't forget to wear your masks.
Oct. 24, 2010, 10:02 p.m. CST
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Oct. 25, 2010, 12:20 a.m. CST
Thanks again Quint, you're the only reason I keep coming back
Oct. 25, 2010, 1:17 a.m. CST
Did they finally release that on DVD? I'm really wondering what the quality is cause that's a great looking flick.
Oct. 25, 2010, 8:48 a.m. CST
Some good atmosphere but found it kinda dull.
Oct. 25, 2010, 8:55 a.m. CST
That's the flick I remember Susan Strasburg from. Weird late 70's horror also starring Tony Curtis. Haven't seen it since cable in the 80's. Just recall Strasburg growing a big hunch on her back that eventually gives birth to an evil little Indian dude. Nutty stuff, but kinda cool...from what I remember
Oct. 25, 2010, 1:53 p.m. CST
Mother-in-law(her husbands mother) is not the same thing as stepmother (her father's wife). How do you not know this?
Oct. 26, 2010, 7:55 a.m. CST
Ironic thing about Christopher Lee getting "the short end of the stick" as Quint so politely puts it - Mr. Lee's wife has often complained that she gets the short end of her Chris's stick.
Oct. 27, 2010, 12:03 a.m. CST
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