Scream and Scream Again (1970)
"HORROR that nightmares are made of!"
A psychopath is on the loose, killing young women and drinking the blood of his victims. The finger of suspicion points towards a mysterious doctor who somehow seems to be linked to each of the victims. Meanwhile, an intelligence operative returns to his home in a totalitarian Eastern European state where he begins murdering top ranking officials.
Less horror and more a science fiction thriller along the lines of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Scream and Scream Again is a curious offering from Amicus which tries to straddle too many separate genres and fails badly at meshing them all together. Taking ideas such as vampiric murderers, Frankenstein-style body building, police procedural dramas, duplicates replacing high-ranking officials, James Bond-style espionage, Cold War propaganda and slapped together with an extremely unhealthy dose of swinging sixties nostalgia, Scream and Scream Again is quite frankly a shambolic mess.
Based upon the novel The Disorientated Man by Peter Saxon, it was hard to condense the plot for Scream and Scream Again down into a few lines for the synopsis above. Nothing really makes sense until the conclusion and so the first fifteen minutes or so appear to be just a confusing array of scenes, almost like you’re watching some anarchic TV comedy sketch show like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which meanders from sketch to sketch though without the laughs. The film’s narrative is fractured along three plot threads and it is not until the climax that you are able to connect the dots, even if the eventual connections are loose and shoulder-shrugging. Admittedly, one sub-plot involving the Eastern European totalitarian state could have been completely eradicated and it would make not a jot of difference to the rest of the film. As a result, there isn’t a main protagonist that the audience can get behind right from the start. Even having three separate smaller protagonists for each of the different threads could have worked, bringing them all together towards the end of the film so that the narrative could coalesce.
Scream and Scream Again has lots of ‘potentially good’ moments but they are wasted. One recurring sequence involving a patient who wakes up to find another one of his limbs has been amputated is devoid of any horror or suspense. We never find out anything about him (though the scenes have been referenced in The X-Files episode Kill Switch, where Mulder finds himself trapped in a virtual reality hospital and is periodically amputated). Other sequences involving the ‘composites’ and acid baths had the potential to be bloodier or more gruesome but as the film isn’t a horror, it shies away from getting too nasty. The worst you’ll get is an odd dismembered hand, in arguably the film’s most memorable moment.
The centre piece of the film is an extended chase through London, as the police chase the vampiric murder suspect on foot and by car, but without anyone behind the camera who could make it exciting. The fact this sequence lasts for about ten minutes is crazy and it just keeps on going and going. The cheesy 60s soundtrack does little apart from dampen down any sort of thrills or tension, which are in short supply anyway, and seriously date the film badly. How can I get excited about a car chase when there are some swinging hippy tunes banging on in the background? I honestly can’t express how much of a time capsule this film appears to be whilst watching in 2020.
Despite heavily promoting Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and the fact that this was the first time that all three men had featured in the same film together, the script does little with them. Cushing has a solitary scene with no interaction with the others, whilst Lee gets a few more sporadic appearances. Price comes off the best out of the three, delivering a decent performance in his bigger role, and he does manage a brief minute or so of screen time with Lee in the finale. But it is a tragic waste of talent – all three men were at the height of their horror popularity in the 60s and it would have been a no-brainer to get them all involved in a meatier production. Sadly, the only time all three would ever share the screen again would be 1980s House of the Long Shadows and it’s one of horrors biggest regrets to never give them a more fitting feature - something like The Expendables of horror.
With a grossly misleading title which infers horror and delivers none, deceitful promotional work which promises Price, Lee and Cushing and scrimps on the amount it offers of all three, and with a disjointed, anarchic “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to the story, Scream and Scream Again is an oddity of a film, a metaphorical car crash if you will, which is one that needs to be seen by any lovers of British horror from that time period, just to see how crazy things get.
Scream and Scream Again
Director(s): Gordon Hessler
Writer(s): Christopher Wicking (screenplay), Peter Saxon (novel "The Disorientated Man")
Actor(s): Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Judy Huxtable, Alfred Marks, Michael Gothard
Duration: 95 mins