Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Scream and Scream Again' is a movie as pointless as Cushing's appearance in it

Scream and Scream Again (1970)
Starring: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Marshall Jones, Peter Cushing and Christopher Matthews
Director: Gordon Hessler
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

One day, during the Swingin' Sixties, three clerks collided in the hall of American International Productions. Each and been carrying a film script--one was a supernatural/political thriller set within a fictitious East bloc country, the other was a modern-day psycho-vampire flick set in London, and the third was a mad doctor/Frankenstein flick--and the pages went everywhere. They tried their best to sort them out properly, but in the end the three scripts were hopelessly jumbled together. In the hopes of covering their sloppiness, they simply put the three mish-mash "scripts" in for review. One ended up being gree-lighted by an indifferent executive. A shooting script was then approved by a drunk producer. Directors went about finding actors, and soon principle photography on "Scream and Scream Again" was underway.

I don't know if that story accurately describes how "Scream and Scream Again" came to be produced, but it's a more generous explanation than one that assumes this incoherent and disjointed movie was intended to be this way.

For more than 3/4ths of the picture there is barely a connection between the various plots, except for a single actor who crosses over between the two. And when they do come together, it's only barely and it's not in any way that seems terribly well thought out. (A sign of the complete confusion that reins in this film is even evident in the theatrical preview where the actor who is identified as Peter Cushing is actually Marshall Jones.)

The story, such as it is, starts with a series of "vampire murders" in London. It turns out that these are being perpetrated by the creation of a mad scientist (Vincent Price) who is working as part of a global secret scientific society to create a superior human race through surgery. When the police refuse to investigate due to political pressure a young coroner (Christopher Matthews) starts doing his own investigation. He is soon in over his head and that's when things get really stupid.

Although Cushing, Lee, and Price get top billing, Cushing is only in one scene (and it's a pointless one at that) and Lee's presence isn't much more than Cushing's. Price's role is larger and very important to the story, but his screen time is still very limited and he doesn't have much to do. His presence is almost as big a waste as that of Cushing and Lee.

And the score, the easy-listening rock/jazz fusion score, is almost too painful for words!

All in all, this film should go on the "must-miss" list, except for those who might be looking for the worst "day-for-night" shots since Ed Wood stopped making Z-grade thrillers and turned to Z-grade pornos. It makes the worst of the Hammer Film efforts look like the work of Orson Wells. What's even more embarrassing for this film is that it looks like it probably had a bigger budget than several Hammer Films combined, based on the number of locations and aerial shots featured.


  1. The film actually started out as a pretty good novel (if you can believe that) that was in the same vein as the Quatermass series. Somehow, they managed to replace the alien storyline with one involving a politcal conspiracy. Looking back, one can only remember this as the first teaming of Price, Lee and Cushing (the three "Titans of Terror") and nothing more. The director and writer said at one time that they were trying to make a horror film along the lines of: "Coogan's Bluff meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Price and Lee both commented later that they had no fucking clue what the hell was going on. The film now seems like a mish-mash of so many ingredients (including a chase scene a la Bullitt) with little else to say about it. Cushing was indeed utterly wasted. The film did not even deserve his brief walk-on appearance. Director Gordon Hessler went on to direct episodes of CHiPs and Wonder Woman. In hindsight, it's hard to believe he could find any work at all.

  2. Thanks for sharing some backstory on "Scream and Scream Again." I was so underwhelmed by the film that, although curious, I didn't feel like spending time researching it. (The name Gordon Hessler is strangely familiar. I think I've reviewed one or two other movies he directed. It will be interesting to see what I uncover as I dig through the archives and repost to these blogs.)

  3. Thanks to you too, Steve. Keep up the good work reviewing this great man's films.

  4. If you've got the same version I have, the terrible score is an overdub, due to copyright problems on the original. Still doesn't explain why it has to be SO awful, though...
    I thought the film was okay, however.

  5. Aw, c'mon, the film isn't all that bad. It's got a crackerjack performance by Alfred Marks and a spiffing car chase with a bunch of Jags.