Release Date(s)1970 (October 13, 2015)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/Orion/MGM/20th Century Fox (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
Gordon Hessler’s genre-bending Scream and Scream Again isn’t your atypical A.I.P. movie, nor is it an atypical genre film for that matter. Far from the gothic horror movie in the usual sense of what came before from A.I.P., Scream and Scream Again is more of sci-fi conspiracy thriller, with only the mildest of horror elements. It managed to turn a small profit, but it left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of horror fans who lined up to see the first movie ever that featured Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing together.
The story features a surgeon (Price) who is an organ transplant specialist, an enigmatic man who kills high-ranking officials (such as Cushing) by simply squeezing their shoulders, a group of London police officials out to stop a murderer of women that he meets in nightclubs, and a British intelligence agent (Lee) who is overlooking it all.
Scream and Scream Again was based upon the novel “The Disoriented Man” which was ghost-written by Peter Saxon (a pseudonym). Although the film follows the plot of the book pretty well, several plot elements are left out of the movie that give most of the main characters their motivation in the story. As is, it can be a bit of a muddled mess, and nothing really seems to coalesce. There are still many things that the film has going for it, including its star power, but also some impressive camera work by cinematographer John Coquillon, who would later famously lens the ghost story classic The Changeling.
The major selling point for the movie, as previously mentioned, was the fact that it was the first time that Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing had been in the same film together. The ultimate letdown was that they are never all in the same scene together. It was a cheap marketing hook dreamed up by A.I.P., leaving many cinemagoers and genre fans unhappy. Cushing is in the movie for not much more than a cameo, and both Price and Lee have very little to do as characters. Price and Lee do share the screen in the film’s finale, but ultimately, it’s not a pairing that yields any great results. However, it isn’t the direct fault of the director. Hessler was brought onto the project purportedly without a finished script, making the best with he had. Price was also unhappy with the project and felt used for marketing purposes, which of course he was.
One can go on and on about the behind-the-scene dealings on Scream and Scream Again, but what it boils down to is that in the end, it just isn’t a strong film. What it is instead is a very interesting film with an incoherent plot, well-filmed sequences (including a very long car chase), and a good cast. It’s disappointingly far from the horror film that its theatrical poster makes it appear to be, but it’s worth seeking out and has more digestible material upon a second viewing, especially once the shock of understanding that it isn’t a horror film wears off. Many feel that it’s Hessler’s best work, and to some extent, I suppose I have to agree – even with the problems that it has.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray transfer of the film features a presentation that’s a little problematical, especially if you’re expecting top of the line quality. It isn’t that, but it has the appearance of a well-worn film print running at a local drive-in. It’s very grainy, but quite organic in appearance from scene to scene. The cinematography itself can sometimes be soft, particularly during outdoor scenes, but facial textures in close-ups and on clothing are often sharp. The color palette is sometimes inconsistent, especially skin tones, but it can be lush given the right opportunity, especially outdoors. Blacks are also inconsistent, sometimes ripe with thick noise. Shadow detail is also lacking, which is on the edge of crush during certain scenes, but a lot of this is built into the original photography so it can be difficult to tell. And although it’s very clearly seen, it could have been brightened up a bit more with a lower contrast. However, it’s a very honest presentation with no digital anomalies to report, but there are lots of film artifacts leftover, including lots of scratches, speckling (both black and white), and cue marks. The only available audio track for the film is an English mono DTS-HD track. It’s not a track that will wow you with expert sound, but it’s an appropriate track nonetheless. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear, and both sound effects and score have some heft to them. Sometimes the mix can be a bit too overpowering, particularly during scenes in the nightclubs when it’s difficult to discern dialogue over the blaring music, but other than that, it’s a solid track. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
For the extras selection, you get Twilight Time’s usual inclusion of an isolated score audio track; a terrific audio commentary with film historians David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan; the also terrific Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at American International Pictures documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; Uta Screams Again!: An Interview with Uta Levka (who plays the nurse in the film); a still gallery; a radio spot for the film; the original theatrical trailer; an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer; a scroll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue; and a 6-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
Scream and Scream Again certainly isn’t one of the finest films of the A.I.P. era, but it’s definitely an interesting one, especially considering what it was originally meant to be VS. what it eventually became. It looks very good at least, and Twilight Time has done a good job at making a less than stellar print of the movie quite watchable. It could use some more restoration work down the road, but as is, it’s definitely a big step up from its DVD counterpart.
- Tim Salmons