11/28/12

For the Love of Price: Scream and Scream Again and The Oblong Box

Once again I hand over the reins of the LBL to my best pal Fran Goria. She's got a double feature of the often mustachioed master of the macabre Vincent Price to help us celebrate Movember. Remember, donations are still being accepted to aid the fight against prostate and testicular cancer by clicking on the icon on the to right, the auction is still underway for the Charles Bronson Icon of Awesomeness painting with all proceeds to benefit Movember charities. Now with that out of the way, I'll turn it over to Fran. 

Hi folks! I have a double feature for you tonight starting with 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, followed by 1969’s The Oblong Box. These films have a couple of things in common. They both star Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, they share opposite sides of a Midnite Madness Double Feature DVD, and they were both directed by Gordon Hessler. Hessler also directed a third film starring Price in 1970 titled Cry of the Banshee. My personal favorite bit of trivia about Hessler is that he directed many episodes of the TV cop action series CHIPS from 1978-1982, and the TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Now with all that out of the way, the first of tonight’s features is…


SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN  1970

This is usually where I write a little plot summery or tell you a bit about the film, and I would love to, however, I watched this movie twice, and I don’t rightfully know what the f*@k it was about. There were some Nazis, a vampire, some detectives investigating some murders, and a doctor with a random vat of acid. That’s all I've got. I read on IMDB, that years after filming, Vincent Price said that never understood the script. I could not confirm this statement in my sources, but I did find a quote by Christopher Lee in reference to the plot of this film where he said that he “never really worked it all out”. I was not the only one.

     The screenplay was based on a Peter Saxon novel titled The Disoriented Soul. In the novel, the main villains were aliens. For the film, aliens were replaced by Nazis. Perhaps this is where things went so horribly wrong. I have never read the book, but I don’t think I would understand the film any better with aliens then I did with Nazis. The film also had some lighting issues that may have added to the plot confusion. Any scene that was in the dark or in shadows was impossible to see. Apparently there was a murder or two, but I really just had to take the script’s word of it. Why go through the trouble of shooting a scene that can’t be seen? They should have scrapped one of the plot points that couldn't be fulfilled, and then used the saved money to buy a lamp.

The film opens with a man jogging. Suddenly, he grabs his chest and falls to the ground. He wakes up in a hospital to discover that one of his legs is missing. Why? I don’t know. Who is he? I don’t know. Is his existence in the film ever explained? Nope. Then there are the Nazis. They seem to kidnap and torture people. Why? I don’t know. This is where Peter Cushing comes in as Major Heinrich Benedek. He gets about 3 minutes of screen time, and then he is promptly murdered. Most of the story’s time is devoted to Detective Bellaver’s (Alfred Marks) investigation of a series of murders seemingly committed by a vampire. Somewhere along the way we meet Fremont (Christopher Lee) who seems to be a government official, and Dr. Browning (Vincent Price) who creates artificial limbs and had a disposal tank of acid. One would think that Dr. Browning would be the connection to the before mentioned jogger, but one would be wrong.

 (Editor: Slight spoilers ahead, but as i sat though this one and couldn't figure it out either, then I don't see how this would effect your viewing experience.) All of the main plot players come together at the end. Why? I don’t know. The ending just makes this film more absurd. Any vague attempts at connecting the dots fell flat and explained nothing. All of the main characters, except Christopher Lee, die. Why? I don’t know. Vincent Price was topped billed in this film, but he only appeared for a few minutes in the first ¾ of the film. He did have a nice big scene at the end. This gave him a chance to bring a little of his magic to the film. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save the thing. Price did a fine job with what he was given; no performance can save an impossible plot.

I’m rating this film a 1 out of 5, and I think I’m being generous. I awarded ½ a point to an entertaining fight sequence at the end, although I’m not sure why the fight was taking place. I also gave ½ a point for the performances of Price and Lee. I may have given more credit here, if I understood the purpose of their characters. Overall, I hated this movie, and it hurts my soul a little to feel this way about a Vincent Price film. I hope to never, ever, even ever see it again. I can only hope that tonight’s second feature makes up for the cinematic tragedy that is Scream and Scream Again.

Price Rating

                                           

THE OBLONG BOX    1969


The film opens with a voodoo ceremony in which Edward Markum (Alister Williamson) is cursed. The curse was meant for Edward’s brother, Julian (Vincent Price), and it leaves Edward facially disfigured and half mad. Julian keeps his brother chained in an upstairs bedroom and locked away from the world. Edward, wanting to be free and to cure his afflictions, hatched a scheme with a family friend, trench (Peter Arne). The plan is simple, fake Edward’s death with a voodoo potion, dig him up, and set him free to seek revenge on Julian. Everything went according to plan, except that Trench decided to just not bother digging the very alive man back up. Fortunately for Edward, two grave robbers are in the habit of snatching fresh corpses for respected Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee). Who will survive as the death toll rises in The Oblong Box.

It sure is refreshing to watch a film with a discernible plot. The Oblong Box is another one of those “faux Poe” films. Any period horror with Vincent Price surely must have an Edgar Allan Poe title, but not necessarily an Edgar Allan Poe story. This is also the first film to star both Vincent price and Christopher Lee, although the two only shared one scene together. When Price agreed to do the film, it was set to be directed by screenwriter Lawrence Huntington. I assume that poor health is the reason Huntington was replaced as director; he died shortly after production began. When Price arrived in London to begin filming, Michael Reeves (Witchfinder General) was at the helm as director (he died three months later). Eight days later, when filming began, Reeves was unhappy with script and in poor health himself. This is when the film’s producer, Gordon Hessler, stepped in to direct.

There were several notable performances in The Oblong Box. The film’s leading lady was Hilary Dwyer. She played Julian’s (Price) fiancĂ©e Elizabeth. She also Played Price’s rape victim in Witchfinder General, and then she went on to play his daughter in Cry of the Banshee. Dwyer has run the gamut of female counterparts in Vincent Price films. She did a fine job with this role. In the first half of the movie, Dwyer is easily over looked. This was probably due to short screen time. She became a bit more of a main player for the second half, and she had an endearing quality that I liked. Christopher Lee played Dr. Neuhartt, a respected doctor who has to resort to unsettling means to complete his experiments. Lee was wonderful in the role, although he looked a little odd. He wore a grey 60’s shag style wig. It took me half of his first scene to get past it. Luckily, Christopher Lee is a professional. Soon the wig seemed natural. Lee has a very strong screen presence, as does Price, and I would have like to see the two in more scenes together. The one they did share had little interaction between the two. Speaking of Vincent Price, he was lovely as the tortured by guilt and shame sophisticate. I liked his character and performance, but I admit this wasn't his best work. He was just slightly less grand than usual. I still found his performance to be appealing. His character had much it hide, and Price played it has a man with much to hide. I have no complaints about that.

     I enjoyed The Oblong Box It’s not my favorite, but I liked it. I thought the story was interesting enough, and the script was fair. Yes, an effect or two was slightly off. Yes, a character (Sally) was called the wrong name (Shelly) by a butler. These little things probably should have been fixed in editing. Even still, I kinda liked it.




Price Rating

2 comments:

  1. Once upon a midnite dreary, while i pondered weak and weary, while i nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. Tis` the 17 year-old version of Pauline Hickey from 1985 i muttered, so i let her in and buggered her senseless.

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  2. Your reviews for these movies are spot on. Scream and Scream Again is the rare nonsense movie that I really enjoyed for no good reason. I think it was the omnious vat of acid that did it for me. Nothing makes sense, but Price being game for it makes up for some of the script's dreck. And don't forget the acid!

    The Oblong Box is defintely the better of the two, though predictable in its outcome. Again, Price is up for the challenge and Lee comes off quite well. Hilary Dwyer was lovely and did a very good job in what could have been a throwaway role. It's an attractive movie with some nice settings and decent atmosphere. I just wish it hadn't been so by the numbers in its approach. Still, it's worth watching if one is a Vincent Price fan.

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