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Friday, August 21, 2015

Video Beaverhausen: Hammer Films' Method Horror Film, The Scream of Fear

In 1961, UK's Hammer horror films brought us The Scream of Fear that I saw for the first time tonight, on video. It stars a wheel-chair bound Susan Strasberg (one day I'll host a stars-in-a-wheel-chair festival), daughter of Lee Strasberg, who brings Method to the madness.

Christopher Lee is in this as the doctor. Lee is on record saying he thought this was the best film Hammer ever made.

Strasbeg delivers a fairly standard American-as-Brit accent but is impressive as the purported Penny Appleby. Ann Todd is also in this, offering strong support as Ann's stepmom. Susan gets to be carried about by hunky Ronald Lewis (Mr Sardonicus), who even gets to show off in a skimpy bathing suit.

Is Appleby losing her mind... or is something afoot? I think you have a good idea without my saying any more. The Scream of Fear gives us a slow build-up that mounts and pays off by the finale. Every time Strasberg wheels herself near the pool, you'll hold your breath. I have to tell you that the ending actually shocked me. I never saw it coming!

Beautiful black-and-white cinematography by Davis Slocombe, expert script by Jimmy Sangster and assured direction under Seth Holt. Some surprisingly suspenseful turns throughout. John Serret makes a perfect late turn as Inspector LeGrand.

Hitchcockian in the best sense of that term. Expert filmmaking.

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