England, 1795: the young Catherine has just married Charles Fengriffen and moves into his castle. She becomes the victim of an old curse that lays on the family. On her wedding night she is ... Read allEngland, 1795: the young Catherine has just married Charles Fengriffen and moves into his castle. She becomes the victim of an old curse that lays on the family. On her wedding night she is raped by a ghost and gets pregnant.England, 1795: the young Catherine has just married Charles Fengriffen and moves into his castle. She becomes the victim of an old curse that lays on the family. On her wedding night she is raped by a ghost and gets pregnant.
I can vaguely remember not thinking too highly of this film when I watched it in my youth. However, now some years have passed and my tastes have matured - along with my age - I find I appreciate the hell out of this movie.
For one thing, the "future ghosts" that Catherine Fengriffen sees aren't as confusing for my old nogging as they once were. Truthfully, the entire story is superb. I love tales about ghosts and curses, and this is probably the best of its kind.
Roger Marshall wrote the screenplay, which was based on a novel by David Case - which I'm keeping a sharp eye peeled for; the film's so good I want to read the book. It's a wonderfully constructed tale of the supernatural and revenge. I won't go into too much detail as I don't want to spoil the picture for you, especially as Marshall does a beautiful job of peeling back the layers.
Marshall's screenplay is interesting and entertaining and will keep the audience's attention locked to the screen. Thankfully, Roy Baker's direction strengthens the story and adds to its drawing potential. He has a creative eye for composition and atmosphere and is happy to combine both to achieve some outstanding results. Two of which stood out for me.
One is when Catherine is cautiously examining the portrait of Henry Fengriffen. Baker uses a slow closeup zoom to draw you into the painting. He cuts to Catherine: She's looking worried and more than a tad apprehensive. Back to the slow zoom. Back to Catherine. Back to the painting... and... POW! You must watch the film (no spoilers here) to find out how the scene concludes. Bakers composition of the sequence and his use of the slow zoom and cuts builds the tension of the scene. You know something is coming though you won't expect what does... I didn't.
The second being the vision of the ghost through the leaded light window. This works on so many levels. We can see the fear on Catherine's face and know she's seen something unpleasant. Baker flips the camera lens onto the stained glass window. The darkened hues of purples and greens in the window's leaded design are visible... but behind that, there's a blurred image. The colours and shades are so similar that you can't discern what you're looking at. Until Baker uses the slow zoom again. This time it draws you towards the window. However, your attention's fixed on what stands beyond. As we draw nearer the blurred vision sharpens until we can see the empty eye sockets and the missing right hand. This is a beautiful and disturbing shot. I loved it.
Luckily for us, the audience, the entire movie's filled with the same excellent camerawork. "Screaming" is one hell of a lush, plush, and classy film. A stunning piece of eye candy.
However, if neither the acting nor the special effects had possessed the same attention to detail, the entire film would be a lot worse. Thankfully, they did. In all truth, this flick has the best eyeless make-up and severed hand I've seen. The FX people were artists.
Stephanie Beacham is superb in the role of Catherine Fengriffen. Catherine's a determined youthful woman who is wholly interested in her husband, his ancestry, and his estate. Beacham uses her full acting range to reflect Catherine's emotions. She does this, not only through her dialogue but by using facial features and body language, especially to show Catherine's fear and worry. Baker uses this talent to inject most of the eeriness into the film. This combination of Baker's direction and Beacham's acting hooks and holds the audiences' attention. Based on this performance, Beacham deserved the top billing in this film.
However, it's the heavy hitters and crowd-pleasers who take pole position.
As always, Peter Cushing is impeccable in his role as Dr Pope. Though it's easy to understand since there are elements of Baron Von-Frankenstein and Dr Van-Helsing in this character. Therefore, Dr Pope is a snug fit for Cushing and he wears him as he would his favourite smoking jacket.
Herbert Lom, though, extends his repertoire with the nasty piece of work that is Henry Fengriffen. Lom comes across as weighty, strong and indignant to the thoughts of others. He is the lord of the manor and that puts him second only to God. I wouldn't want to cross Henry.
Then we have Patrick Magee. Who's at his dithering, doubtful, and hesitant best as Dr Whittle... and whittle he does.
Ian Ogilvy plays Charles Fengriffen, husband to Catherine. He's the doubter of the pack. He doesn't fully trust in the family curse or that his beloved has visions of ghosts. He fears for her mind and her sanity. Ogilvy gives a splendid performance as the worried and concerned hubby. It would have been nice to have Charles Fengriffen in a few more scenes, especially with his missus - they have just wed, after all. I felt Charlie to be slightly under-used. It would also enhance Catherine's character more.
Geoffrey Whitehead is outstanding as the woodsman Silas. He carries himself with an air of confidence. Silas is a sturdy man. He possesses a keen mind and has a pragmatic sense of right and wrong. This persona gives him a palpable ominousness, which makes it clear why people are wary of, and even fear, him.
All horror fans, all lovers of films and filmmaking, and anybody looking for a great waste of time gather around and lend me your ear. Get off your chairs and find yourself a copy. "Screaming" should be on all your watch lists. If it isn't, then scribble it down... now!
I won't say this is a must-watch film, but it's one you should think twice about before missing it.
Ratings: Story 1.5 : Direction 1.5 : Pace 1.5 : Acting 1.5 : Enjoyment 1.5 Total 7.5 out of 10
Now jump in your horse and trap and take a jaunt over to my Absolute Horror list and see where the bloody hand crawled into my charts.
Take Care and Stay Well.
- May 26, 2020