Release Date(s)1970 (April 23, 2019)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/Amicus Productions (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again isn’t a typical film from American International Pictures, nor is it emblematic of the type of genre its lurid title would lead you to believe it represents. Far removed from its perceived ties to gothic horror, it’s describable more as a sci-fi conspiracy thriller, with only the mildest of horror elements. Upon its initial release, it managed to turn a modest profit, but it left a bad taste in the mouths of more than a few horror fans who had lined up to see Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing in their first ever film together.
The story concerns organ transplant specialist Dr. Browning (Vincent Price), who operates on his victims for their various limbs (for as yet unknown reasons); his former pupil Dr. Sorel (Christopher Matthews), who is suspicious of Browning’s activities; the enigmatic, despotic-employed operative Konratz (Marshall Jones), who kills high-ranking officials (such as Peter Cushing) by simply squeezing their shoulders whenever his organization is threatened; the British police detective Bellaver (Alfred Marks), who is on the hunt for a vampiric murderer of women (Michael Gothard); and the British intelligence agent Fremont (Christopher Lee), who is somehow connected to it all.
Based upon The Disoriented Man, Scream and Scream Again follows the plot of its source novel fairly well, but leaves out several elements that give most of the characters their main story motivation. As is, it can be a bit of a muddled mess as nothing ever really seems to coalesce, with storylines fracturing in different directions and losing characters for many minutes of screen time (with Vincent Price left holding the bag at the end to try and explain away the film’s various plots). On the other hand, there are other things that the film has going for it, including its star power and its impressive camera work from cinematographer John Coquillon, who would go on to lens the great George C. Scott ghost story classic The Changeling.
As previously mentioned, the major selling point for the film was the fact that it was the first time that Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing would all be in a film together. Alas, it was nothing more than a cheap marketing hook. Cushing is in the film for not much more than a cameo, and both Price and Lee are given little to do together, despite appearing opposite from each other for about a minute in the film’s head-scratching finale. However, this oversight cannot be blamed on Gordon Hessler, who was purportedly brought on to direct without a finished script, having to make the best with what he had available to him. Price was also unhappy with the project and felt justifiably used, which some might argue was the beginning of the eventual end of his involvement with American International Pictures.
One can go on and on about the behind-the-scenes dealings on Scream and Scream Again, but what it boils down to is that it just isn’t that strong a film. What it is instead is a very interesting film with well-filmed sequences (including a long and suspenseful car chase) and a fine cast. It’s also more digestible upon a second viewing, especially once the understanding that it isn’t a straight horror film is made clear. Despite its shortcomings, many feel that it’s a misunderstood effort and is actually Gordon Hessler’s best work, citing its strengths with admiration rather than disdain. It’s a justifiable though understandably irregular point of view.
Released once before to Blu-ray by Twilight Time, Kino Lorber Studio Classics picks up the rights for a new release of Scream and Scream Again, including (for the first time) both the US and UK versions of the film – though there’s only a minute’s difference between them with only minor variations. The TV version, which purportedly featured a different score, has not been utilized.
The transfer for the US version is the same as the Twilight Time disc. It’s quite grainy, but organic in appearance. There’s a mild softness, particularly during outdoor scenes, but facial textures in close-ups and on clothing are often distinct. The color palette is inconsistent, including on skin tones, but it can be lush given the right opportunity. Blacks are also uneven, often ripe with noise, while brightness and contrast levels could have used adjustment. It’s also unstable in spots with bits of damage leftover, including scratches, speckling, and cue marks.
The UK version is a different beast altogether. It seems to be from a print with crushed blacks and slightly washed out colors. On the whole, it appears, not unlike its counterpart, film-like, though brightness and contrast levels are slightly more ideal (neither release is definitive). There’s also more apparent damage, including lines running through the frame, as well as instances of dirt, staining, splices, speckling, and scratches.
The audio for both versions is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD. The US track is not out to impress sonically, but it’s an efficient track nonetheless. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear, and both sound effects and score have an ample amount of heft to them. Sometimes the mix can be a bit too overpowering, particularly in scenes that take place in a nightclub where it’s more difficult to discern the dialogue over the music, but other than that, it’s solid. The UK track is similar, but it seems to have a little more push when it comes to the score. It also contains a bit more obvious damage than its US counterpart with occasional thumps and crackle. There are no subtitle options included at all, which is sadly a downgrade from the previous Blu-ray.
Bonus materials include a fantastic audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, who delves into the film’s production and provides plenty of contextual information; the Trailers from Hell version of the film’s trailer with commentary by filmmaker Mick Garris; a set of 3 US radio spots; and bonus trailers for the Kino Lorber horror-related titles Tales of Terror, Twice-Told Tales, The Oblong Box, Madhouse, House of the Long Shadows, and the film itself. Not carried over from Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release is an isolated score audio track; an audio commentary with film historians David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan; the 24-minute Gentleman Gothic: Gordon Hessler at American International Pictures documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; the 9-minute Uta Screams Again!: An Interview with Uta Levka; and a still gallery.
Scream and Scream Again certainly isn’t one of the finest films of its era, but it may be one of the most fascinating. As far as its Blu-ray release, it’s nice to have it back in print, but the lack of subtitles and previous extras is a little frustrating. On the other hand, the new extras, most importantly Tim Lucas’ audio commentary, are worth the price tag alone. Perhaps another company will come to the table someday once the film’s rights expire again and do their best to combine both sets of extras with new presentations of the film. It certainly deserves more deluxe treatment.
– Tim Salmons