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Roy Ward Baker
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Robin Atkin Downes,
The uncle of an executed murderess relates four stories of his hometown, Oldfield, to a reporter: an elderly man pursues a romance with a younger woman, even to the grave and beyond...a wounded man on the run from creditors is rescued by a backwoods hermit with the secret to eternal life...a glass-eating carny pays the ultimate price for looking for love on the outside...and Civil War soldiers are held captive by a household of orphans with strange intentions for them. Written by
Brian J. Wright <email@example.com>
Four Morbid Tales, Presented by the Ultimate Master of the Macabre
The magnificent Vincent Price can be seen in several great Horror omnibuses from the 60s ("Tales of Terror", "Twice Told Tales"), and while the Horror-deity's screen-time is sadly limited in "The Offspring", this 80s feature is yet another highly recommendable omnibus starring Price. The popularity of Horror omnibuses/anthologies (more or less) began with the British 1945 classic "Dead of Night" and had its heyday in the 60s with films such as the aforementioned Vincent Price classics or the great Mario Bava's masterpiece "I Tre Volti Della Paura" ("Black Sabbath"/"The Three Faces of Fear", 1963, my choice for the greatest Horror omnibus out there), and 70s. The British Company Amicus even specialized in only doing Horror omnibuses, which resulted in such wonderful flicks as "The House That Dripped Blood" (1970) or "Torture Garden" (1967). A thing most of these anthologies have in common is that the separate tales they tell usually differ in quality, with one or two (depending on how many tales per film are told) usually standing out from the others. This cannot really be said about "From a Whisper to a Scream" as each of the tales is quite creepy and atmospheric and about equally memorable, and the question which is the best lies in the personal taste of the viewer.
The film, which is entirely set in the small town of Oldfield, Tennessee, starts with the execution of a female serial killer (cult siren Martine Beswick). When reporter Beth Chandler (Susan Tyrell), who witnessed the execution, pays a visit to the convict's sinister uncle Julian White (Vincent Price), he tells her that the town of Oldfield has always been evil, which he exemplifies by telling her four macabre stories.
All four stories are macabre, morbid and delightfully creepy. The first one (starring Clu Gulager) is a weird, quite explicit and very creepy tale deals with delicate psycho-sexual topics. The second chapter, a haunting tale about a lowlife crook who stumbles upon the secret of eternal life, is more elaborate and maybe even creepier than the first one. The third tale is about a traveling circus and voodoo, and as everyone who knows anything about Horror knows, circus folks are amongst the creepiest creatures one will ever stumble upon. Rosalind Cash is fantastic as a diabolical voodoo witch. Another creepiest species present in Horror cinema have always been... creepy children, and the fourth and final tale is another proof that kids can be more terrifying than anything. Set in the final days of the Civil War, the fourth story tells the tale of a bunch of brutal and ruthless soldiers, who happen to find an equal in a town full of orphans....
My main complaint about "From a Whisper to a Scream" is the fact that icon Vincent Price, who happens to be my favorite actor of all time, has too little screen-time. He merely serves as a narrator and sadly doesn't appear in any of the stories. Otherwise, the film actually surpassed my expectations. While it isn't the best Horror anthology ever made, the tension and creepiness doesn't stop and each tale macabre and highly entertaining. The film is gory, and its sense of humor is very morbid. Apart from Price, notable cast members include former Bond-girl, cave-babe and 'Sister Hyde' Martine Beswick, as well as Lawrence Tierney.
This was only the second film by director Jeff Burr ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre III"), and for that one must say he did an amazing job. "The Offspring" is a surprisingly good and highly entertaining 80s Horror omnibus, the only disappointment being that Vincent Price has too little screen time. Highly recommended.
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