‘Death is the only way out!’
The Night God Screamed is a 1971 American horror film, independently made on a low budget by Lasky/Carlin Productions – producers Ed Carlin and Gil Lasky, with Lasky writing the screenplay. Due to the sensitivities connected with displaying such a provocative title, theater owners in some communities were offered the option of using the short appellation, Scream.
Released by exploitation producer Jerry Gross’ Cinemation Industries, it was directed by Lee Madden (Night Creature). The film stars Jeanne Crain, Alex Nicol (The Screaming Skull; A*P*E), Daniel Spelling (Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde), Barbara Hancock, Dawn Cleary, Gary Morgan and Michael Sugich.
A hooded figure, dressed like a monk and carrying a six-foot cruciform staff, walks through a forest, stopping on a hill to observe a lakeside baptismal ceremony conducted by a Christ-like figure (Michael Sugich) who starts making a speech to God. He tells God that all those present “were just a bunch of sinners”, but “I saved them”, because “I made them see that using dope was the way to turn on to you”. He continues, telling the assembled young followers that one among them was sent to “spy on us and try to bust us”. He focuses on one of the girls and announces, “there’s a chick that don’t want to be baptized — she don’t want to follow me” and finishes by pronouncing, “Oh, yes, Lord, in our happy flock, maybe we got us a Judas”.
When the girl (Andrea Darvi) gets up and tries to run, she is quickly caught and held, as the Christ-like figure, now revealed to be the leader of a Charles Manson-styled cult, calls for “the Atoner” who, appearing from the bushes, is the initially-seen silent hooded figure with the tall cross/staff. The cult leader, whom the girl addresses as “Billy Joe”, forcibly “baptizes” her, with the Atoner holding her underwater, until she drowns…
“On the film’s plus side, Madden does a good job with the pacing, pulling you right along and never letting things get too boring. This is especially impressive during the siege section of the film, since the director sets himself the challenge of building tension from the victims’ POV without ever showing the attackers themselves. He accomplishes some of this with sound (the ominous phone calls and Fanny’s “voices”), some with light (the hippies hit the breaker box) and occasionally even with a creative tracking shot or two.” Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies
“The movie is a total blast from start to finish, and the plot is constantly changing direction on you, up till the very end with, in my opinion, a very surprising twist ending. The movie is short, and for the most part very fast-paced, only slowing down to build tension in the last act. The soundtrack is memorable, if a little dated (nothing wrong with that), and it is very well shot and acted.” Johnny Dickie, Deaf Sparrow
“The Night God Screamed one could say uses its visual cues as a way to depict the poor as nefarious predators, dangerous and not worthy of redemption or compassion. The world in this film is a dark, dire and nihilistic place inhabited by human failings, frightening predators, false prophets and faint victims who seem to call the wrath of God upon themselves., showing the intersectionality between religion and class.” The Last Drive-In
Related: Coming Down Fast… Charles Manson on Screen – article by David Flint
“Everything is ugly… and old.”