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...

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