Monday, March 29, 2010

Movie of the Day: Scream of Fear

Scream of Fear(also released as Taste of Fear) opens with a scene of Scottish policemen dragging a lake and coming up with the body of a young girl. This scene will go unexplained for a short while, as the post credits sequence starts with a different young woman in a wheelchair arriving in France to live with her father(who she hasn't seen in over ten years) and stepmother(who she has never met). It turns out the drowned girl was her roommate, and she committed suicide, leaving our heroine, Penny, severely shaken and seeking the comfort and support of home and family. She is met at the airport by her father's chauffeur, Bob, and taken to meet her stepmother, who informs her that her father has gone away on some private affair. Soon, however, Penny begins seeing her father's corpse in various disused rooms of the house, and although everyone is quick to blame the visions on stress, Bob starts helping her research her father's disappearance and a sinister plot takes form.

This is one of those movies I recorded from TCM not because I'd heard anything special about it(in fact, until I saw it on my TV guide I'd never even heard of it), but because it was one of the earlier horror films produced by Hammer Studios, produced on the heels of their big success reinterpreting the old Universal mainstays(Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man). With a Hammer film from that era your pretty much guaranteed to run into Christopher Lee and/or Peter Cushing, and sure enough, Scream of Fear features an impossibly young Christopher Lee in one of the better acting jobs he's done. That's no slight on Mr. Lee, I find him enjoyable in everything he's done, but he usually plays the same character in each film. He has immense gravity, but very little range. He actually stretches a bit in here, and even tries on a French accent!

The best thing about watching movies with no prior knowledge is the fact that you never know what your going to get. While the plot of Scream of Fear features a main twist that most viewers will likely see coming very early, particular those who have seen Gaslight, it still has a few twists and turns in store. I can honestly say that although I saw through the villains' nefarious plot, a few late minute reveals genuinely caught me by surprise. Scream of Fear is one of Hammer's more masterful productions, combining some low-key, eerie direction with a pretty solid story and performances.

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