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American-born Sheila Wayne has lived in Switzerland since childhood. Now newly married, she has a recurring nightmare about an ominous old house she can't recall having seen in waking life. Returning with husband Philip to Florida, they go to live at a country house...the house in her dream. Mysterious events multiply; who is responsible and why? Who is crazy? The answer is rooted in dark days of the past... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although the practice of using subliminal advertising--that is, flashing messages on a movie or TV screen for a fraction of a second, too quickly to register with the human brain but capable of having a subconscious effect--was banned by television stations and by the National Association of Broadcasters in 1958 (and, years later, was claimed to be ineffective), it wasn't in time to prevent the first big-screen film from using the technique. That picture, originally released under the artier and more appropriate title "My World Dies Screaming," and years later, for home viewing, as "Terror in the Haunted House" (a somewhat misleading appellation), turns out to be an interesting enough little film that hardly requires this tiresome gimmick (presented as "Psycho-Rama" here!). In it, we meet a pretty newlywed, Sheila, who has been going to a psychiatrist in Switzerland to cure her of recurring dreams involving an old house, and, most particularly, of a flight of steps in that house leading to a cobwebbed attic. And when Sheila's new husband, Philip, brings her to America to stay at that EXACT SAME HOUSE, her nightmares become a living reality, and the viewer is thrown into a state of confusion about whether Philip is trying to help his new bride or, a la "Gaslight," perhaps drive her insane....
For a cheaply made "B picture," "My World Dies Screaming" is surprisingly effective, and most of the credit for the film's success must surely go to Cathy O'Donnell in the lead. O'Donnell, who most viewers might remember from the 1946 classic "The Best Years of Our Lives" as well as for appearing in the cult item "They Live By Night" and the excellent film noir "Side Street" (both from 1949 and both costarring Farley Granger), is truly excellent here, lovely and appealing, and appearing in every single scene of the film. Gerald Mohr, playing Philip, gives a nicely ambiguous portrayal (many viewers will remember him from the following year's "The Angry Red Planet"), and the film's other three performers (Barry Bernard as Sheila's shrink, John Qualen as the house's uberstrange caretaker, and Bill Ching as Philip's cousin) are all fine as well. Harold Daniels directs his picture competently, eliciting chills on a regular basis, although it must be said that the film seems a bit eerier in its first half. Still, the mystery of Sheila's nightmares, and her familiarity with a house she's never been in, is a fascinating one, and keeps the viewer involved throughout; to the film's credit, the resolution of that mystery entails a surprisingly complex backstory that does manage to tie up every loose end. As to those subliminal messages, they ARE visible, although only a frame-by-frame viewing on your DVD player will reveal their contents. Basically, they consist of demon masks with the following captions: "Scream." "Scream Bloody Murder." "Prepare To Die." And "Die Die Die." (One message, very amusingly inserted by the DVD manufacturer, exhorts us to "Buy Rhino Videos Every Day"!) As I mentioned before, these flashes of...something become hokey after a while, and the film is good enough to stand on its own without them. It's nothing great, surely, but is an engaging entertainment nevertheless. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to wrap up this little review and run down to the grocery store. For some strange reason, I've just developed a sudden urge to purchase popcorn, Goobers and Raisinets....
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