Thursday, November 26, 2009

Scream and Scream Again

Scream and Scream Again? Sigh. With a name so dull can we really expect anything much from this 1970 UK horror flick? I mean, Scream and Scream again? How prosaic.

What could it possibly offer us to whet our appetites? Oh, Vincent Price is in it, you say? [One eyebrow raises...] Now there's something, Mr Price has a bit of a reputation as horror supremo of the 60s/70s... perhaps you could tell me more?

Peter Cushing? Well I'll be damned; not one, but two of the best horror actors to hit the screen. [Second eyebrow raises] This almost sounds worth watching: to hell with the plot, it's got Price and Cushing in it. So... a little more info?

Christopher Lee? [Damn, no more eyebrows to raise] Christopher Lee as well? What a trio! Now I really don't care what the plot's about. Who could? It hardly matters at all! But, you know, since we're here, tell me something about the actual story...

Mad scientists? CraZed killers? Genetically created Frankenstein-a-like super-beings? Shady (Soviet-in-all-but-name) foreign powers? Vats of acid?

The ingredients of this film are so good as to be almost untrue. In fact, if I'm brutally honest, the ingredients are too good; the film simply can't live up to its summary. Though (a lot of) fun, Scream And Scream Again is sadly less than the sum of its parts. It's as if we have several films here at once; the foreign spy adventure is treading on the heels of the police-detective thriller which in turn keeps bumping into the mad-scientist sci-fi body horror. There's just too many films happening at once here.

Perhaps if it were made nowadays it would've hit the two hour mark and made the story a bit more clear with an extra 30 mins. Or, then again, perhaps there was no clear story. The disappointing thing is that this film really does feel like it should make sense; we have several characters fleshed out in detail, we have wonderful ideas and we have a really fast paced story but... it's just too fast for its own good. Whether it was always intended to be this way or was cut down for running-time's sake I may never know; it certainly seems as if it's just a little too savagely edited.

All this sounds like I didn't enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it immensely. From start to finish there wasn't a single dull moment (which puts it above nearly every other film on this blog...) and I loved it. I just didn't necessarily understand it all very well..

Price, Lee and Cushing are all as reliably smashing as you could hope for, which it makes it all the more remarkable that Alfred Marks, as Superintendant Bellaver, completely steals the show. Grumpy, rude and oh-so-British, this is a fantastic performance and one that the film would be poorer without.

If you come to watch Scream and Scream Again with expectations as high as its ambitions you will be sorely disappointed; it's ambitions are just far too high. If you come to watch it expecting middle of the the road 70s Brit horror you'll be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended and good fun; just make sure you pay attention or you'll be far too confused.

Oh, and the whacky science towards the end is just great...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Poster Hunt #5 - The Erotic Adventures of Zorro

What with November being quite busy and the poster for The Killer Shrews being quite so fab, Poster Hunt got left somewhat by the wayside this month.

Still, just over half-way through, the showcase of fabulous and/or strange posters returns with the Erotic Adventures of Zorro. How classy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Killer Shrews

If I asked you to think of a fictional movie-title that would be undoubtedly awful, entirely silly and should probably never be made, do you think you could come up with better than The Killer Shrews?

Sometimes I really do wonder how on earth these things get pitched before creation. THis is low budget, but no so low that it didn't have some funding. The conversation must have gone something along the lines of:

Mr Money: So, what is this film you were asking for funding for?

Jay Simms (screenplay): Ah, well. It's going to be an exploration of the dangers of science. We're talking themes of genetic mutation, we're talking science going bad, human achievement getting so far ahead of itself that it puts humanity in danger. We want people to think about science, about whether it's a good thing, about where the limits of 'playing God' lie.

Mr Money: (yawning) yeah, yeah. Ok, same old, same old. Isn't that what every science fiction book and film has tried to do? So what makes you the new HG Wells? What's the actual premise?

JS: Well, let me buy another round first. Whiskey as well? Yep? Good.

[goes to bar]

JS: Where were we?

Mr Money: You're explaining the premise of your story? Where's it set?

JS: Well, we're opting for an island. You know, our heroes are trapped on an island with these beasts. We're going to set it up so that they can't leave: I'm thinking hurricane or tropical storm, that conveniently imprisons these people on the island at exactly the worst moment, when these monsters are at their most dangerous.

Mr Money: You mean like full moon or something? Are we talking werewolf?

JS: Erm.. not exactly. No. We're talking animals that have been made larger and more vicious through scientific experiments. They've escaped from the lab and are roaming the island. So our heroes arrive just as they're running out of food and turning on their creators. More drinks?
Barman! Two pints, two whiskies ... make them doubles!

Mr Money: Go on...

JS: Well we'll obviously go for the trapped-survivor tensions. We've got it mapped out perfectly, pair of scientists - one completely work-obsessed - pretty blonde girl with nasty coward boyfriend and one handsome rogueish seaman. Oh and we'll throw in a black guy and a Mexican as well

Mr Money: They're the expendable characters?

JS: Oh yes, we'll kill them off with little or no time wasted on characters or emotions.

Mr Money: Well, I must say, that all sounds rather good. What did you say the monsters were again? Was it savage dogs? Spiders?

JS: Not exactly...

Mr Money: Well come on, tell me, I want to know...

JS: Ah... shrews.

[Long silence]

Mr Money: Shrews?

JS: Shrews. Savage, dog sized shrews with massive pointy teeth.

Mr Money: Shrews? I think I'm going to need another drink before I sign that cheque....

And, after that next drink he signed over his cash and so The Killer Shrews was made. Replete with dogs-in-furry-costumes playing the shrews, this is one of the most ridiculous films I've seen. It's not even that bad: well paced and you're guarranteed to be laughing throughout...