Scream and Scream Again – UK, 1969

scream and scream again

‘Triple distilled horror… as powerful as a vat of acid!’

Scream and Scream Again is a 1969 (released January 1970) science fiction horror feature film directed by Gordon Hessler from a screenplay by Christopher Wicking (To the Devil a Daughter; Demons of the Mind; Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb; et al), adapted from Peter Saxon‘s novel The Disorientated Man. 

Rights to the novel had been bought by Milton Subotsky of Amicus Productions. He obtained  financing via Louis ‘Deke’ Heyward, head of European operations for American International Pictures (AIP). Subotsky’s script was subsequently disregarded in favour of a Christopher Wicking version. Director Gordon Hessler commented:

“That was really a pulp book, a throwaway book that you read on a train. There was nothing in it, just empty pieces of action. But it was Chris who gave it a whole new level by using it as a political process of what might happen in the future. That is what made the picture, he’s the one that came up with all those ideas, yet he still managed to keep the nuances of the sort of pulp fiction novel.”

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Director Gordon Hessler had previously made The Oblong Box with horror stars Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. However, here they only share a brief scene in at the climax, however. Third-billed Peter Cushing has a cameo role as Benedek, a military official in an unidentified Eastern European country.

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

On April 2, 2019, KL Studios is releasing Scream and Scream Again as a Blu-ray Special Edition with an audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, Trailer from Hell with Mick Garris, plus a slew of trailers such as Tales of Terror; Twice Told Tales; Madhouse and House of Long Shadows.

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Review [contains spoilers]:

Scream and Scream Again follows three seemingly unconnected stories.

In the first — and, the most disturbing — story, an unnamed London man collapses while out jogging.  When he wakes up, he finds himself in hospital.  He is tended to by a nurse who refuses to speak to him.  Whenever he falls asleep, his limbs are surgically removed one-by-one.  While we never learn much about the man, his scenes are perhaps the most difficult to watch.  Everything from the starkness of the hospital to the nurse’s lack of concern and empathy for her patient contributes towards making these some of the most genuinely nightmarish scenes that I’ve ever seen.

While the unnamed jogger is being slowly taken apart, the police are far more interested in solving the “Vampire Killer” case. Keith (Michael Gothard) is a serial killer who picks up young women in nightclubs and then drinks their blood.  When, after an exciting and lengthy chase, the police finally do catch him, they handcuff Keith to a car bumper.  However, he responds by ripping off his own hand,  running off and jumping into a vat of acid!  The investigation eventually leads to an eminent scientist named Dr. Browning (Vincent Price).  However, Fremont (Christopher Lee), the head of the British Intelligence Service (in a role he partly reprised in Death Line, 1972), orders the police to drop the case because Browning is apparently doing very important work for the government.

Meanwhile, in an unnamed country in Eastern Europe, secret police officer Konratz (Marshall Jones) ruthlessly climbs his way to the top of the service by torturing defectors and murdering his superiors (including Peter Cushing).  When a British spy is captured in his country, Konratz contacts Fremont and offers to exchange the spy for all the information that Scotland Yard has gathered about the Vampire Killer case…

Perhaps the best way to describe Scream and Scream Again would be “joyfully chaotic.”  The film’s three separate storylines do all come together during the final ten minutes and the film’s climax does make a lot more sense than it really has any right to but, up until that moment, a lot of the pleasure from Scream and Scream Again comes from seeing just how many different plots and subplots director Gordon Hessler can juggle in one film without losing the audience.  Fortunately, the film is a wonderfully entertaining horror/sci-fi/conspiracy hybrid, one that remains compulsively watchable despite the fact that it often doesn’t make much sense.

Of course, one of the main reasons to see Scream and Scream Again is because it features three icons of horror cinema.  Unfortunately, Cushing isn’t on-screen long enough to make much of an impression while Lee basically just has an extended cameo.  Vincent Price doesn’t show up much until fairly late into the film but once he does, he wastes no time in making an impression.  Even by the standard of Vincent Price, his performance in this film is a bit over-the-top.

But you know what?

It’s exactly the performance that this film needs.  The film itself is so joyfully chaotic and disjointed that Price fits right in.  The triumph of Scream and Scream Again is that it creates (and makes us believe in) a world where it only makes sense that the final solution would lie with Vincent Price.

Finally, Scream and Scream Again serves as a wonderful time capsule for those of us who may be fascinated by the swinging 60s and 70s but, as a result of being born a few decades too late, will never get a chance to experience them firsthand.  For us, Scream and Scream Again will always be worth it for the scenes of Keith getting his mod on at a London nightclub.  

Scream and Scream Again is a film that everyone should see at least once in their life.  Just don’t go jogging afterwards…

Lisa Marie Bowman, HORROREPEDIA – guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

Other reviews:

“The naïvely paranoid politics of the script are made irrelevant by the fragmentation of the narrative threads, which break the film up into some effectively staged but isolated fantasy sequences, anticipating the shock sequences later adopted by splatter movies.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“If you want a slightly mad, fast-paced mystery with outbursts of violent horror and a screeching car chase, here it is. You’ll even see that most cliched of sexual symbolism, the suggestive fondling of the sports car gearstick…” Mark Hodgson, Black Hole DVD Reviews

“There is no central character, and viewers are expected to be satisfied by 1) the various mysteries, and 2) the style, including groovy 1960s visuals, soundtrack and accoutrements including a hot red convertible. The stylistic elements resemble those of The Prisoner or The Avengers […] it is unique and worth the watch.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“Stomach-churning thrill piece…” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Michael Gothard is also well cast (looking somewhat like the Mick Jagger of Altamont ) as the humanoid “vampire killer” Keith, stalking and mutilating women in fashionable mod England. Best of all is Alfred Marks as Superintendent Bellaver in a scene-stealing performance full of choice dialog.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

” …Wicking’s final, Quatermass 2-style revelation – that of a high-powered British civil servant is a member of the super-race – does little to resolve the numerous enigmas that have gone before. As a result, Hessler has to rely on set-pieces to get him through, and fortunately they’re of a very high standard indeed.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

“It’s really rather ambitious in structure, juggling several story threads before winding them all together in the end. I just don’t think it does it very well. For the most part, the movie comes across as a confusing mess. One of the problems is that it becomes difficult to figure out who the main characters are.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Even though the central story is fairly straightforward, Christopher Wicking’s screenplay can grow quite confusing. Gordon Hessler’s direction … doesn’t hold up that well either. Everything features too many complications and needless detail.” John Soltes, Hollywood Soap Box

“With its ambitious structure, intriguing premise and prevailing sense of paranoia, Scream and Scream Again is a fascinating but frustratingly flawed film […] Although the complicated plot is mysterious enough to retain interest, by the time the narrative strands dovetail, the climax seems rather perfunctory and a bit disappointing.” James J. Mulay (editor), The Horror Film, Cinebooks, 1989

“It works neither as mystery nor as a horror film, despite sturdy playing by the principals who are left stranded by the script.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

” …neither difficult to follow, nor compulsively culty. The plot is certainly all over the place and there is a clear desire to find out what is going on that keeps one glued to it for the most part. Once all the clues fall into place, the film becomes rather straightforward and by no means incomprehensible […] Gordon Hessler’s direction is at best workmanlike…” Richard Scheib, Moria

scream and scream again christopher lee production still

‘ … it doesn’t really matter that much of it is nonsense, since it moves at a brisk pace and there are all those grand performances. The music is rather interesting, from the funky opening theme to the generic chase music, to the Amen Corner’s extended jams in the Busted Pot … If stoned plot development and structure are not an impediment , the Scream and Scream Again is worthy of the highest accolades.’ Wendell McKay, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969

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Buy The Shrieking SixtiesAmazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

“It may not make much sense until the very end (and even then…), but Scream and Scream Again holds your attention because of its barmy plotting, unexpected twists and deep suspicion of the authorities, which feeds the general air of paranoia. Listen for the weird dialogue such as “What can we do in five minutes?” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

“For awhile, the film feels like an anthology movie where all of the stories are intersected.  It’s sorta frustrating and pointless at first, but all the various plot threads do get wrapped up in the end.  Although some people might be turned off by this, I thought the movie was pretty amusing.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

Dr. Browning (Vincent Price): “God is dying all over the world. Man invented him, but man doesn’t need him anymore. Man is God now – as a matter of fact he always was.”

Cast and characters:

  • Vincent Price … Dr. Browning
  • Christopher Lee … Fremont
  • Peter Cushing … Major Heinrich Benedek
  • Judy Huxtable … Sylvia
  • Alfred Marks … Detective Superintendent Bellaver
  • Michael Gothard … Keith
  • Anthony Newlands … Ludwig
  • Peter Sallis … Schweitz
  • Uta Levka … Jane
  • Christopher Matthews … Dr. David Sorel – Scars of Dracula
  • Judy Bloom … Helen Bradford
  • Clifford Earl … Detective Sergeant Jimmy Joyce
  • Kenneth Benda … Professor Kingsmill
  • Marshall Jones … Konratz
  • Amen Corner … themselves (rock band)
  • Yutte Stensgaard … Erika – Lust for a Vampire; Burke & Hare
  • Julian Holloway … Detective Constable Griffin
  • Nigel Lambert … Ken Sparten

Other home viewing releases:

The Twilight Time Blu-ray release is limited to 3,000 units and  includes:

Isolated Score Track / Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan / Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at AIP / An Interview with Uta Levka / Still Gallery / Radio Spot / Original Theatrical Trailer

Buy with The Oblong Box on DVD : Amazon.co.uk

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Image credits: Jonny Sambuca from the Amicus, Tyburn, Tigon Film Lovers Facebook group | Museu do VHS | OriginalPosters.co.uk

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2 Comments on “Scream and Scream Again – UK, 1969”

  1. Recently saw this in the wake of Hessler’s death. Wow, this film really is a mess. By the time all of the different plot threads came together, I didn’t care anymore. Wish it had been better.

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