It’s not every day you can say three TV movies got the Blu-Ray upgrade they deserved. Kino Lorber spoiled horror fans last month by releasing three of ABC’s TV movies from the ’70s with newly commissioned cover art by Vince Evans. Scream, Pretty Peggy isn’t quite the Bette Davis vehicle it purports to be (rightfully Sian Barbara Allen would be the one featured on the cover), but Elizabeth Montgomery and Olivia De Havilland come close to giving one-woman shows in their respective movies.

Jack Smight’s The Screaming Woman (1972) stars De Havilland as Laura, a wealthy woman with the bad timing to find a woman buried alive the same week she was released from a sanitarium. Nobody believes her, and while her story is incredible, there’s being skeptical and there’s not even entertaining the possibility that Laura might be telling the truth. 

Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury (Merwin Gerard wrote the teleplay), this isn’t the only time it’s been adapted. As film historian and screenwriter, Gary Gerani, explains in his commentary, “The Screaming Woman” was also the basis for an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater that adhered more to Bradbury’s story in which a child (played by Drew Barrymore) hears the woman.

What’s amazing about De Havilland’s performance is how physically demanding it is. Laura is constantly being made to run around. She has to climb down a steep, dirt hill in heels. It’s really brutal. Then there are Laura’s hands, which are supposed to have bad arthritis, and while it would be easy for De Havilland to forget sometimes (like an actor forgetting their character has a limp), she never does, which you see in moments like when Laura has to open a garage door or the way she dials a rotary phone.

It’s not the most pleasant film to watch. Most of the time it’s infuriating, given the way Laura is treated and the way her claims are completely dismissed. You can’t convince someone who’s already made up their mind to believe you. The Screaming Woman also suffers from a conspicuous lack of music. There’s a reason for that – according to Gerani there was a musician’s strike going on – but in some scenes, there isn’t even white noise, just very loud footsteps.

Like The Screaming Woman, Herschel Daugherty’s The Victim (1972) also features a teleplay written by Gerard. McKnight Malmar wrote the short story the movie’s based on and while Black Christmas (1974) wouldn’t come out until two years later, The Victim beats it to the punch, in terms of using POV shots and creating the same ‘is the killer still in the house’ dread. 

Kate (Montgomery) is worried about her sister, Susan (Jess Walton). She’s getting a divorce from her husband (George Maharis) and while Kate is dead set on coming over, Susan would rather be alone. All Kate needs is an excuse, though, and when she can’t get in touch with her sister later that day, she does what she wanted to do anyway and drives from her apartment in the city to Susan’s home in the woods. 

Apparently, as film historian and author, Amanda Reyes, goes over in her commentary, the shoot had a lot of good weather (which figures since most of the film is supposed to take place in the rain), but The Victim was Montgomery’s first film after Bewitched and she sells every moment. There’s a sequence towards the end, especially, where the film acknowledges that Kate’s been through a traumatizing ordeal. IMDB doesn’t list a credit for hair and makeup but there’s a real consistency when it comes to Kate’s hair getting wet and staying tussled (her sister’s missing – she’s not combing her hair). The locations are a real treat as well. Both sisters are supposed to be wealthy, and it shows in the set designs by James W. Payne and Henry Bumstead’s art direction. 

With Scream, Pretty Peggy (1973) it’s like director, Gordon Hessler, took Eileen Heckart’s character from The Victim (she’s a maid obsessed with Susan’s husband who keeps popping up everywhere) and gave her an origin story. Peggy (Allen) is a college student looking for a job when she hears about an opening for light housekeeping at the home of Mrs. Elliot (Davis) and her son, Jeffrey (Ted Bessell).

It’s only a few hours a day and the pay is below minimum wage, but for some reason, the prospect really appeals to her. It turns out Peggy’s familiar with Jeffrey’s work. He’s a sculptor (Don Chandler made the statues for the film), and far from being this innocent flower, who’s come to help this family out of the kindness of her heart, Peggy proves to be someone much more interesting, if less pleasant, and presumptuous for an employee. As film historians, Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, acknowledge in their commentary, Scream, Pretty Peggy does cheat at times and, of the three films, it’s definitely the most salacious. If you’re looking for a well-crafted thriller, The Victim’s the best, but if you prefer films like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, then Scream, Pretty Peggy’s a safe bet.