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Scream and Scream Again (US Blu-ray review)

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: Gordon Hessler
Writer: Christopher Wicking
Cast:  Alfred Marks, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gothard
Year: 1970
Region: A
Disks: 1
Label: Twilight Time
Release Date:  October 13, 2015

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Type: Color

Audio

Audio:  English: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Subtitles: English SDH

Extras
  • Audio commentary with David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan
  • Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at AIP: Featurette chronicling Hessler’s stay at AIP
  • Interview with Uta Levka
  • Stills Gallery
  • Radio Spot
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer
  • Isolated Score Track
SSA_CovMost will remember the first time that famed horror actors Vincent Price and Christopher Lee teamed up together as being the Edgar Allan Poe adapted, Gordon Hessler directed feature The Oblong Box. Their second teaming up, however, would prove to be far less iconic, despite being the first to feature Lee, Price, and Peter Cushing in the same film (although Cushing doesn’t share screen time with the former two). Produced only a year later, Scream and Scream Again also proved to be a far less conventional title for the actors, although that is part of the film’s charm. Scream and Scream Again is a clear product of the cold war, a strange little conspiracy thriller. Yet, the film also harps on the genre in which both of its top billing stars — despite their diminished roles — were known for. The result is a stylish hybrid that nearly spoofs the genres in which is owes a debt of gratitude for. As part of their genre-related releases this fall, Twilight Time released the film for the first time ever on Blu-ray, limited to 3,000 copies worldwide.

The Film

A runner collapses mid-run and wakes to find his legs have been amputated, a killer is on the loose in London and women keep showing up dead and drained of their blood, while in Eastern Europe, a leader in an unidentified totalitarian state continually kills his superiors in order to rise in ranks and keep his secret operation in action. While these events all seem unconnected, it is not long before their worlds begin to collide. When British detectives find themselves hot on the trail of the mysterious killer ravishing London, he leads them to a Dr. Browning (Price) and the mystery slowly begins to unravel.

Scream and Scream Again was Gordon Hessler’s second feature film. Since The Oblong Box was a success for AIP — following in the footsteps of the numerous Corman-Poe releases throughout the 60s —, AIP were smart to know how to bill his next film. The title pivots itself on the names of its three “leads,” however, these actors — especially Lee and Cushing — are hardly in the film. Price is given a far more substantial role but is still only in a fraction of the film. While it would have been marvelous to see the actors working off each other more — for this, one will have to watch House of Long Shadows — its still a treat to see all of their presences collected in a single film. Sadly, Cushing only appears for around two minutes before perishing.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Hessler is not really an artistically inclined director but Scream and Scream Again is a well-crafted picture. While the color spectrum is rather bland, Hessler really capitalizes on an eccentric, paranoid atmosphere. It takes awhile for the film to find its footing but, once it does, it is really captivating. Viewers may be inclined to turn the film off partially through, but if you stick around through some of the stranger or more understated scenes, the ending offers a fantastic pay off. What works the best in the film is the very inexplicit nature. It has a similar feeling as something like Blue Sunshine, where a palpable, disorienting sense of dread is far more important than logical statements.

Scream and Scream Again also benefits from having a nice political allegory, even if the parts are a bit more coherent than the whole. In the novel in which the film was based — a pulp fiction piece called The Disorientated Man the villains were aliens, however, Hessler and his screenwriter Christopher Wicking (who also wrote The Oblong Box and a few other of Hessler’s films) supplant the aliens for a much more tangible fear: fascism. While the Eastern European country that is figured in the film is unnamed, it is a clear amalgamation of Nazism and the growing presence of totalitarian communist states. While film’s use of human medical testing is a clear reference to Nazi experimentation during World War II, the creation of the robotic-like, complacent humans places the film in conjunction with movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other Atomic Age horror films.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Video

While AIP have quite a number of colorful and quite stunning films, sadly Scream and Scream Again is not one of them. British films can at time have a very cold, removed look and that can be said of the makeup of this work. There are moments where the film has a vivid look, but a great deal of the film is presented in a somewhat pale form. With that said, Twilight Time’s 1.85:1 HD transfer is victim to the original elements. This master was struck from a print that has seen better days, meaning there is a decent amount of grit, dirt, and scratches left intact on this disc. However, none of the damage is terribly distracting and the film is free from any digital noise removal — we will take a dirty but faithful print over a polished up and scrubbed clean one any day. As its first ever outing on Blu-ray, Scream and Scream Again looks good but it’s not a hallmark for the format.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Audio

The disc features only a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix but the track does feature a nice, balanced mix. There are fewer issues on the audio track, which features a damage-free presentation of the original aural elements in fine form. Perhaps the track is somewhat limited in range but offers a pleasurable listening experience.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Extras

Scream and Scream Again has to be one of the best discs from TT in terms of supplementary features. First up, David Del Valle is joined by Tim Sullivan for an extremely entertaining and informative take on the film. Del Valle always does a fine job contextualizing these classic horror films, so this track is a high recommend for anyone looking for a better understanding of the film and its production. There is also a very enjoyable, exclusive featurette produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, entitled Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at AIP, which tracks Hessler’s many collaborations with the famed studio. Finally, in addition to trailers, an illustrated booklet, and radio spots, there is a brief, archival interview with Uta Levka about her role as the nurse in the film.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

At face value, Scream and Scream Again’s may suggest that it us yet another gothic horror rehashing but once you dive in, the film you find is far from that. In reality, Scream and Scream Again is a complex film that has a unique, otherworldly atmosphere that really begs to be seen. There are some pacing issues throughout but if you are willing to invest your time in the film, it will really pay off. While the billing somewhat overshadows the film, beneath the stunt casting lies a film that is severely under-seen or at least under-written about. Packed with far more special features than Twilight Time generally offers and featuring a modest transfer, this release is a surefire win for those that place atmosphere above narrative. However, its eccentricities may leave some cold, so mileage will definitely vary with this release.

Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again (1970) [click to enlarge]

Most will remember the first time that…

Review Overview

The Film
Video
Audio
Extra

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About Joe Yanick

Joe Yanick is a writer, videographer, and film/music critic based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the former Managing Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Noisey.vice.com, and Stagebuddy.com. In addition, he has worked with the Cleveland International Film Festival as a Feature reviewer. He is currently a Cinema Studies MA Candidate at New York University.

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