Scream for Help (1984)

Produced and Directed by Michael Winner

This “British horror film” (set in … New Rochelle, New York?) could have gone any number of ways – and for a while indeed seems unsure where it may be going – before ultimately becoming an almost-suspenseful yarn about a resourceful mother and daughter surviving what is in effect a multifaceted home invasion. There’s actually a surprising amount of prurience and some notable lapses in taste here, which I guess are supposed to lend verisimilitude, even if not much evidence of any concern for that notion is present in the early going. Once the action gets up a head of steam, it’s passable entertainment; prior to that, it’s a sometimes amusing, often annoying spectacle of irritating adolescent flights of fancy. The heroine’s soundtrack song – written by John Paul Jones and sung by Jon Anderson – from “Led Zeppelin” and “Yes,” respectively, for anyone reading this who somehow ISN’T an old white person – is highly amusing maudlin treacle.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This title, too, was posted for posterity in the annals of the Internet Archive.


Should You Watch This Movie?

The way things keep escalating throughout is pretty gratifying, really, once the plot finally reveals itself.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture has some elements of humor in it, but they’re more or less attendant to having a teenage girl as the protagonist, rather than overtly comedic. More purposeful are the various ramifications of sexuality on display, which at one point find Christie swearing off physical relationships forever. At a particularly dramatic juncture, a character declaims “I have my whole life in front of me” and is immediately struck from behind by a car, and killed. That’s fairly indicative of the tenor throughout.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Peeping Tom (1960)

directed by michael powell
a michael powell production

Dammit, I accidentally watched a real, actual movie again. And quite a controversial one, at that … it ruined its director’s career, only to later be championed by the next wave of adversarial auteurs. Not unlike its contemporary Psycho in some ways, this picture seems, through a contemporary lens (yes), almost to revel in its very Britishness at the dawn of what would prove to be a challenging new decade. Predicated on camerawork, this is also the type of production of which overly serious theorists must debate representations of the audience’s gaze, etc. For a bonus, it may remind some of John Watson’s notorious “Little Albert” experiment, especially if it was covered in a class they were taking when they watched it. That’s just wild conjecture, mind. (You know, they say it’s never too late to go back to school, but I’m not so sure about that.) One could probably do a deep dive into some of the intertwined psychologies contained herein, and someone probably has.


why did i watch this movie?

Sorry, I can’t help ya there … I fear I’m drawing a complete blank.

 
should you watch this movie?

It’s pretty ponderous and lends itself a little too easily to lampooning in certain regards, especially Karlheinz (“Carl Boehm”) Böhm’s lugubrious lead. And it’s definitely too theatrical in its blocking and many of its characterizations. (It will not stun you with its realism.) The enigma is nicely layered, however, and revealed with fine pacing.

highlight and low point

The depiction of the spirited young lady, plunging ahead without guile but also not without a certain heedlessness, her self-direction verging on the presumptuous, is pretty spot-on. The intricacies of the various familial tanglings would make for quite a diagram.

Rating from outer space: B

Terror (1978)

directed by norman j. warren
crystal film productions

I swear, I didn’t even realize when I selected this picture for review that I’d previously seen and written about this director’s two immediately preceding numbers – Satan’s Slave and Prey. The display of a “Satan’s Slave” poster in the office suite of this flick’s film-producer character tipped me off, though. Closer in feeling and execution to “Slave” than “Prey,” there isn’t really a whole lot of the title condition represented here, except as experienced by a victim or two, maybe. Additionally, there’s neither much rhyme nor reason to the goings-on, but there IS a moment that appears to be a direct progenitor to S. King’s novel Christine. I mean, portions of the scene are lifted lock, stock and barrel. Another fanciful depiction later turns up in Christmas Evil (and eventually Repo Man). Other than that, this saga of an accused witch haunting and/or hunting her descendants sees the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of a bunch of people, and then ends in a puff of smoke.


why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s called “Terror.” So succinct!



should you watch this movie?

Among Norman J. Warren spectaculars, I’d recommend “Satan’s Slave” over this one. Mind you, I haven’t tried “Inseminoid.” Yet.

highlight and low point

Given Norman J. Warren’s oeuvre, it’s probably ridiculous to lament lost opportunities potentially glimpsed herein, but there’s a whole angle about the world of cinema that’s touched on but dismissed, even given the “film within a film” opening scenes. A gaggle of hopeful actresses live together in a hostel, an arrangement allegedly modeled after a real-world nurses’ colony. Hey, why not. Most of those slain in the course of this production come across as being targeted solely because some action is necessary.

rating FROM OUTER SPACE: C−

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly aka Girly (1970)

directed by freddie francis
ronald j. kahn productions/fitzroy films ltd.

Crikey, guv’nor, but I was completely unprepared for this daft family affair. A madcap mansion full of boarded-up rooms and determinedly whimsical antics, this glimpse of roles assumed and roles played trips merrily along almost without stopping to take a breath. It’s difficult at times to decipher just which character is the maddest or the most amusing: arch and imperious Mumsy; stolid, staunch Nanny; mercurial and vindictive Girly; or resolute, sadistic Sonny. Sonny and Girly’s arrested adolescence romps uneasily under the deliberately blurred depiction of Mumsy and Nanny’s relationship; meanwhile, the whole lot is murderous. Acquiring and discarding “new playmates” is the order of every day, and just what comprises the Rules that must be followed is up for debate. A certain sense of propriety – strange, considering the preoccupations – guides the engagements.

why did i watch this movie?

If I could recall the path I followed to this picture, I might be able to answer that question. Maybe it just sounded … different.

should you watch this movie?

It struck me as something like Alice’s trip to Wonderland as conflated with Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, represented in a stately British country manor house.

highlight and low point

As “Mumsy,” Ursula Howells is utterly charming and clearly disturbed in equal measure, while Vanessa Howard’s “Girly” eventually betrays much more depth of character than meets the eye … given that she spends almost the entirety of the film wearing a schoolgirl outfit several inches too short in the skirt. Once some of the mayhem starts clearing up, well along in the adventure, comes the intimation that the relationships betwixt the denizens of the house may be more fluid than one theretofore had guessed. It’s the merest hint, but potent.

rating from outer space: A

Beware My Brethren aka The Fiend (1972)

produced and directed by robert hartford-davis
world arts media (uk) Ltd.

Allegedly expurgated of at least 10 minutes of footage, this not very convincing religious psychodrama actually gets better as it goes along, which I’ve found is often a rarity in this field. Then again, it couldn’t have gotten much worse without being rejected, so that’s maybe not such a compliment, all told. Often reminiscent of a stage play in its dialogue and blocking and static cinematography, there’s a paradox at work here. Before the script opens up to encompass more than the stultifying world of the religious cult at its center, it’s tiresome, but without focusing more clearly on the dynamics within that cult later in the picture, it wouldn’t have been able to reach any sort of definitive point. Taken altogether – the proof of the pudding, perhaps, as regards the purported excisions – it’s a feature with a few loose ends and not a whole lot to say. Middling, at best.

why did i watch this movie?

I guess the allure of a religious cult leading to madness and death? I seem to recall thinking this flick would be more lurid than it was, though I don’t know where I got that idea.

should you watch this movie?

On websites that cater to low-budget productions that nobody remembers, you may occasionally find testimony to this film’s worthiness. But I don’t know.

highlight and low point

During services, the proceedings occasionally suggest it’s about to turn into a musical, which is definitely a different feel. The Brethren don’t feel all that outrageous to me in their demands, but I myself was raised in a religious cult (the Roman Catholic Church), so my perspective may be skewed. Certainly, ensuing sectarian events would make their actions seem tame.

rating from outer space: C

Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

directed by robert fuest
associated british productions ltd.

The sort of very British suspense film wherein almost nothing is revealed straightaway until very far along in the programme, where events suggest the audience’s guesswork is the main impetus, the most effective thing this production had going for it was that its tale of English ladies touring the French countryside exhibited no translation. Hence, the viewer was not to be informed of what the natives were saying, rendering that viewer as helpless – and perhaps as clueless – as the protagonist. Unless said viewer were to possess some command of the French language, that is, in which case he or she likely deduced where this case of mysterious identities and shifting suspicions would conclude. Pacing presented the major problem – though establishing a setting and a mood is important, those factors probably didn’t need quite so much development, especially in the interminably plodding final third. I mean, here’s the plot: A girl goes missing.

why did i watch this movie?

A while back I was scanning blurbs for ’70s flicks and saw this one described as an atmospheric something something with a chilling blah blah blah, and I was persuaded.


should you watch this movie?

I did not find it particularly noteworthy.


highlight and low point

I’ll tip my cap to the almost completely pointless diversion in the middle of this muddle, where the lead encounters a deaf war veteran in a farmyard of sorts, to no apparent purpose. It was also intriguing that for a movie contrived around birds on a bicycle trip, neither young lady seemed particularly adept at riding. The ongoing attempts to cast doubt as to the perpetrator’s identity eventually approached crisis proportions. A potent moment: when the whereabouts of the missing companion were revealed.

rating from outer space: C+

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

directed by roy ward baker
hammer film productions/american international productions

This soundstaged costume drama takes a while to build up any steam, but when it eventually does, it rips bodices with the best of ’em. Figuratively, I mean; despite the robust sapphic undertones of this first-of-a-loosely-formed-trilogy of films derived, again, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, no clothes are torn away in any frenzies of lust. Suitably gothic, and chockablock with little details we all should recognize from the classic Dracula legends, the film shows admirable restraint in not unleashing the deadlier side of Ingrid Pitt’s enigmatic evil paramour until it’s nearing its torrid climax. That may make this picture sound a little more exciting than it is, but it does redeem itself rather nicely.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the picture I intended to see when I instead watched Kiss of the Vampire, which was probably provoked by my experience with Vampire Circus, which I viewed because of its name.

should you watch this movie?

It’s probably more faithful to the novel than The Blood Spattered Bride, should that matter to you. (I cannot confirm or deny that supposition, as I haven’t read the source material … yet.)

highlight and low point

Kate O’Mara’s governess and Madeline Smith’s Emma are delightfully rendered portrayals, and Kirsten “Betts” (Lindholm) gets the magnificent credit of “1st Vampire.” Scenes shift abruptly at times, some lack of communication is both unfortunate and somewhat unlikely, and there’s a mysterious, portentous onlooker whose role doesn’t amount to anything. As before, the revelation of the identity of the vampiress lends itself to mirth (her various names are anagrams, and it only dawns on folks after it’s far too late). The deaths of the familial vampires are remarkably easy to effect.

rating from outer space: B−

Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)

directed by ray cameron
wildwood productions

This intermittently amusing English spoof may well have struck me funnier were I British, or approximately 10 years old. (I believe you call an affair such as this one a “broad farce.”) The production is rife with personalities and/or characters that did not resonate with me, and the less said about much of its sense of humour, the better. That being said, it had its good points, with Vincent Price’s absurdly campy centuries-old malevolent priest being a particular highlight. Although a few gags are repeated until maddening, and the overall story – once it eventually (almost) coheres – appears to belie its original aim, this film might hold dimwitted appeal to fans of … lowbrow British television. Not really my spot of tea.

why did i watch this movie?

By now you know I will watch anything with a title such as this.

should you watch this movie?

Anglophiles might enjoy placing the various performers in context of their larger careers, I guess.

highlight and low point

Vincent Price’s initial monologue is so delightfully overwrought it surpasses parody and becomes a true work of comic art; indeed, it is hilarious enough a moment that it sustained me throughout the rest of the film, which is largely lazy and witless. A few other vignettes – an S&M-tinged religious flashback and a scene involving phantom sex among them – are curious enough to add further impetus to the viewing urge, but even the more successful tropes feel halfhearted at times, and a handful of random contemporary allusions (among them Star Wars and E.T. ) either feel misguided, serve little purpose, or frankly are just kind of baffling. Oh, and the ending curries (sorry) more than a bit of a Rocky Horror vibe as well.

Rating from outer space: D+

“ha, ha, very droll”

The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

directed by don sharp
Hammer film productions

Wellnow, this production was obviously made before Hammer decided to up its game for the ’70s, as it’s a staid affair that owes more to classical horror depictions than to the more adventurous era that immediately followed. Without much in the way of suspense and featuring very little that could be regarded as action, the most interesting thing about this flick are the godawful interior sets. Actually, Noel Willman as “Dr. Ravna,” the, uh, head vampire, also occasionally imitates Bela Lugosi’s oddly cadenced speech from the original Dracula … but only occasionally. It’s very subtle. Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel are the leads here, which is too bad, and the possibly intriguing subplot – the vampires are essentially just a weird cult – is basically ignored. Perfunctory and negligible.

why did i watch this movie?

It was an accident. I intended to watch Hammer’s 1970 The Vampire Lovers, but I wound up with this instead.

should you watch this movie?

You do appear to be in need of a soporific.

highlight and low point

Frustrations pile up throughout the proceedings, as motivations of key characters remain unclear or undeveloped and a backstory fails to develop … and when we finally get an explanation for what compels a major character to mount an offensive, it sheds no light whatsoever on his inability or unwillingness to have been proactive much, much earlier. (I would say they should have expounded on many of these themes at greater length, but who would be interested in any more of this slog?) One upside is the hilariously offhand display of totems and fetishes and whatnot, which also go largely without illumination, and the bizarre demise of the weirdo clan (oops, sorry, spoiler) features spectacularly crude FX.

rating from outer space: D+