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Image Entertainment presents
"In my dreams, I go back to the year 1795, to a time when I was happy. I was on my way to be married. I was going to the house in which I would find my days filled with fear, and my nights filled with horror."
DVD ReviewThe late 1960s through the early '70s produced an abundance of British-made gothic horror films, many produced by the legendary and prolific Hammer Films. This 1972 effort, from Hammer competitors Amicus, is another of these typical low-budget offerings, made near the end of the era for this particular type of films. It is essentially a supernatural tale, directed by the great Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) based in part on a David Case novella entitled Fengriffen. Amicus and screenwriter Roger Marshall (What Became of Jack and Jill?, Theatre of Death) dramatically beefed up the ghostly elements of Case's work, and added the film's signature spectral severed hand and all but eliminated the "is it a ghost or not?" theme that dominates Fengriffen.
It is 1795 England, and the lovely Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) arrives at the foreboding manor where she is to marry Sir Charles Fengriffen (Witchfinder General's Ian Ogilvy ). Almost immediately upon arrival, Catherine is set upon by a series of strange hallucinations and visions involving the aforementioned severed hand, as well as a creepy, eyeless ghost. Catherine's sanity, to say nothing of her life, is threatened as she tries to uncover the source of the supernatural happenings, and her sudden pregnancy only adds to the mystery as she slowly begins to find out what dark secrets really exist at Fengriffen.
Peter Cushing get tops billing here, though he doesn't first appear in the film until about 47 minutes in. As with just about anything he is in, Cushing doesn't just carry the film, he steals it, even when his screen time in fairly minimal. As the 18th-century psychiatrist, Dr. Pope, he serves as a sort of Sherlock Holmes-ish character, investigating the claims of ghosts, and struggling in vain to find a way to cure, with reason, what he perceives as Catherine's delusions. Beacham and Ogilvy give solid genre performances, but when Cushing is on screen, it is simply his film.
There are plenty of fancy period costumes and ornate sets, and at no point do the production values in And Now the Screaming Starts reveal its meager budget of approximately $400,000. Costumes and set design are excellent, especially for a genre film, with the interiors of Fengriffen manor (shot at Shepperton Studios) still looking marvelously detailed and rich.
Baker layers on all of the standard ingredients for a properly gothic horror tale: flickering candelabras, a dangerous woodsman, howling wolves, spooky old paintings, and a fog-shrouded cemetery. He always keeps the camera in motion, with sophisticated and involved tracking shots, and this trademark technique prevents this from becoming a rather tedious costume drama, especially during the middle section of the film where the screenplay flounders slightly until Cushing makes his first appearance.
Not surprisingly, Amicus drastically downplayed the pivotal ghostly rape sequence, and chose to present it somewhat ambiguously. Their films were less sexually gratuitous than those of Hammer, especially in the early 1970s, and the scene is so subtle that it may be lost on all but the most eagle-eyed viewers.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: For a horror film that is nearly thirty years old, this 1.85:1 widescreen transfer can be forgiven some of its flaws (nonanamorphic, for example). There are an abundance of white specks present, and occasional sprocket holes, but I suspect the source material has seen better days. Colors are slightly lacking, but were substantially brighter than I was expecting on a film of this vintage.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: A no muss, no fuss English mono track here. Some of the louder passages tend to clip and distort slightly, but there is thankfully no noticeable hiss.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ian Ogilvy, Darren Gross
An automated photo gallery (55 assorted black & white and color images) features an array of production stills, publicity photos and a few behind-the-scenes shots. The rest of the extras are a grainy full-frame theatrical trailer and 12 chapters.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThis is an extremely good-looking, occasionally slow moving example of the British gothic horror films of the early 1970s. Not one of Roy Ward Baker's tautest works thematically, it is however a wondrously lush film that never looks low-budget. The director would, a year later, release the classic The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, but I suspect that And Now the Screaming Starts will no doubt appeal to the serious aficionado of Baker, Cushing and the genre.
The wonderful commentary track is a treasure trove of information, and is something I would heartily recommend as an adjunct to viewing the film.
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