‘Makes you quiver and quake!’
Sound of Horror – original title: El sonido de la muerte “The Sound of Death”- is a 1965 Spanish horror film directed by José Antonio Nieves Conde from a screenplay co-written with Sam X. Abarbanel (also storyline), Gregg Tallas and producer Gregorio Sacristan. It stars Arturo Fernandez, Soledad Miranda, James Philbrook and Antonio Casas.
Here’s a funny thing: a gruesomely violent, though otherwise family-oriented Spanish horror picture from 1965, showcasing a couple of to-be-major cult actresses and a clutch of stiff macho actors.
The unbelievably appealing premise is that a small group of people are terrorised by an invisible dinosaur, whose presence is signified mostly by an unearthly roar and a very occasional superimposed outline of a rubber monster. Mostly, you get characters screaming and waving in the air as bloody gashes appear on their faces and the soundtrack is filled out by the cat-like growls of the monster.
Given the lunatic central idea, it’s amazing how much other stuff the film works in. In rural Greece, a bunch of treasure-hunters, archaeologists and passers-by get involved when a delve into forbidden caves unearths a Neanderthal mummy (?) and a couple of stone eggs.
One egg hatches right away, producing a lizard-thing that disappears (maybe it absorbs the colour of its background as protection and becomes invisible immediately?) so it can gorily slice up minor characters. The other is taken off — against the advice of soothsaying housekeeper Calliope (Lola Gaos) — and put on the mantelpiece of the cottage where everyone is holed up. The warmth of the fire cracks it open, and a couple of eyes glow from the egg-fragments before the creature is smashed with a poker. Then its sibling gets really angry.
Dark, pretty Soledad Miranda, later muse of director Jesus Franco, is Maria, innocent niece of one of several obsessive fortune-hunters who learn the price of his greed for ancient relics. Meanwhile, well before her Hammer Films period, blonde Capri pants-sporting Ingrid Pitt, is Italian glamour puss Sofia Minnelli and gets to do a terrific jive sequence early on (Miranda responds with some ‘Greek’ dancing) but spends most of the film hiding behind the shoulder of the nearest available man.
Like The Birds and Night of the Living Dead (well, more like The Killer Shrews), much of the movie is siege: the survivors barricade themselves in the house chewing over their life experiences (“we three spent our youths dancing to bullets the way they dance to music”), personal problems, matters of significance (“it’s like living under the atom bomb”) and scientific theories.
And the tail-dragging monster attacks slashing poor old Calliope, rattling furniture in many long slow pans around empty spaces where it’s supposed to be, making footprints in the soft earth or a carpet of flour.
The climax involves thrown axes (a hilarious superimposed shot has two axes float across the screen as the beast attacks) and a self-sacrificing character blowing up Diana the temperamental Jeep (“you know how women are in the mornings”) as the dinosaur tears at the roof. As the monster burns, a man-in-a-rubber-suit shadow is glimpsed. Lessons are learned, and all the survivors get happy endings.
Director Jose Antonio Nieves Condé does what he can with the material: the sitting-around-the-house-waiting scenes play surprisingly creepily and there’s an excellent use of moving camera whenever the visible characters are in peril or action.
The Sound of Horror isn’t a bad effect and, rather pleasingly, the penny-pinching, labour-saving premise (imagine telling Ray Harryhausen he was wasting his time animating Gwangi frame-by-frame because this dinosaur is just as convincing so long as no-one can see it) is delivered with the utmost seriousness.
“Manuel Berenguer’s classy monochrome photography, some surprisingly grisly clawings inflicted on the expedition members, another early role for Soledad Miranda, and the first ever appearance from the Polish actress Ingrid Pitt – none of these things quite compensates for the turgid pace and the swelling tide of verbal diarrhoea in the dialogue.” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic
“It does manage to raise a chill from time to time, the ‘sound of horror’ made by the monster is scary enough, and I actually find the characters somewhat likable. Unfortunately, the script is very uneven; once the monster manifests itself, there are way too many conversations about the treasure…” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
” …the film is short on effects, but does have a drawing premise and some memorable scares. You never see the monster (well, at the end you sort of see it and it kind of looks like the outline of “Barney”), but there’s some pretty graphic killings and other unusual scenes.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“The film’s great failing is that its’ provision of an invisible monster is not for any reason that allows it to be subtle and create something by suggestion or psychological ambiguity as in Cat People, The Haunting et al, but simply one that has allowed it to be as cheap as possible and avoid any special or creature effects. Indeed, this may well count as quite possibly the world’s first (almost entirely) effects free monster movie.” Richard Scheib, Moria
“It’s a movie about invisible dinosaurs. Of course, it is a clever idea if you want to make a monster movie without any budget for special effects. But the filmmakers “show” by filming long scenes of empty cave sets. I’m not kidding. Almost as bad a choice are dance routines by Soledad Miranda and Ingrid Pitt.” Steve Miller, 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See
” …though we never really see the monster, we do see the damage as its dished out and the ghastly end results of its claws and teeth. It isn’t as laughable as you’d think. Kudos to editor Margarita de Ochoa for making this work so well, and to composer Luis de Pablo, whose pulsing riffs really drive the terror home.” 3B Theater Micro Brewed Reviews
Cast and characters:
- James Philbrook as Dr. Pete Asilov
- Arturo Fernández as Pete
- Soledad Miranda as Maria – She Killed in Ecstasy; Count Dracula; Vampyros Lesbos
- José Bódalo as Mr. Dorman
- Antonio Casas as Professor Andre
- Ingrid Pitt as Sofia Minelli – The Wicker Man; The Vampire Lovers; Countess Dracula
- Lola Gaos as Calliope, the housekeeper – The Female Butcher
- Francisco Piquer as Stravos
Image credits: 3B Theater Micro Brewed Reviews