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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Oblong Box / Scream and Scream Again (1969)

"You're a forger and an embezzler, and now you're going to become a body snatcher."
- Julian Markham (Vincent Price) in The Oblong Box

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 27, 2002

Stars: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Uta Levka
Other Stars: Rupert Davies, Sally Geeson, Peter Arne, Hilary Dwyer, Alister Williamson, Alfred Marks, Christopher Matthews, Judy Huxtable, Yutte Stensgard, Michael Gothard, Peter Sallis
Director: Gordon Hessler

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, gore, nudity)
Run Time: 03h:10m:28s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 027616878229
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BB-C+ D+

DVD Review

Vincent Price remained under contract to American International Pictures through the 1960s. Best known of the films made under this contract are the Edgar Allan Poe projects done for Roger Corman. By 1969, however, the Poe series had pretty well petered out, with the final weak installment coming in The Oblong Box (not counting The Conqueror Worm, AIP's Poe-tinged retitling of Witchfinder General).

While in Africa, Edward Markham (Alister Williamson) has been tortured and disfigured by the natives in a ceremony of vengeance. Twisted and psychotic, he is kept chained and manacled in the attic by his brother Julian (Price). But Dr. Trench (Peter Arne) has reached an understanding with Edward and arranges for him to fake his death. What they don't count on is Julian's quick reaction to bury the body, still alive. When Edward revives, thanks to the grave-robbing Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee) he's definitely not happy, and expresses himself in murder.

Owing precious little to Poe other than the title and the theme of live burial, this is also a fairly weak entry in the series. Price surprisingly understates his role completely, leaching the picture of what fun it might have been. Christopher Lee gets co-star billing, but has very little screen time. He and Price never even share the screen together, which is a surprising use (or misuse) of these name horror stars. Definitely a minor entry, but essential for completists.

In a different mood completely is that same year's Scream and Scream Again, also directed by Gordon Hessler and starring Price and Lee, as well as Peter Cushing. Set in a future England ruled by a fascist military, it weaves a number of threads into a not entirely coherent tale of medicine gone mad. The mysterious official Konratz is infiltrating and murdering high officials, including Major Benedek (Cushing), who merits only about three minutes of screen time. At the same time, Detective Bellaver (Alfred Marks) is in pursuit of Keith (Michael Gothard), an oddly strong murderer who leaves his victims completely bloodless. Intercut with these stories is the predicament of a man who awakens repeatedly in his hospital bed only to find another limb missing every time. Dr. Browning (Price) seems to be in the clear, but he has a strange pit full of acid for unclear purposes....

Again, major horror stars are more or less wasted in this effort. Christopher Lee hardly gets any more footage than poor Peter Cushing, who is introduced only to be offed in the same scene! Price is barely visible until the last third, where at least he gets to do something. Pleasantly, Hessler doesn't repeat the mistake of The Oblong Box and allows Price and Lee a confrontation before the end. While brief, it's gratifying to see these two horror icons together in their primes.

Oblong Box is rated M (the predecessor to GP, which later morphed into PG. Scream has apparently been resubmitted to the MPAA and carries a more modern PG rating, though it also includes at least three scenes of female nudity. Unlike some earlier video releases, the DVD of Scream contains the restored jazzy score, including the song Scream and Scream Again.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both films are presented in anamorphic widescreen. Both are fairly detailed, though Scream and Scream Again has a tendency toward heavy grain that results in some glittery effects to the transfer. Reds in particular are excellent on both films. Scream suffers from some nighttime sequences that are almost completely illegible, without any significant shadow detail to be seen at all. Oblong Box looks much better, and would get a solid B+ rating by itself; the final grade is a composite for the two pictures.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Both films sport a 2.0 mono track that's passable. Again, Oblong Box comes across far better, with very good range to the music and even some occasional low bass. Scream and Scream Again has a more muffled sound to it, and a persistent but not too loud hiss can become annoying in quieter sequences. At best, it's utilitarian.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The double feature is spread across a double-sided disc. The sole extra is a pair of trailers for the films presented, each in anamorphic widescreen and in comparatively decent condition. Each film gets an adequate 16 chapters.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

While Vincent Price is always entertaining to watch, these two horror programmers don't really put him to good use, and his co-stars to even a lesser extent. There are a few good moments, but they're not high on the list of horror must-haves. Trailers are all there are for extras, and the transfers are hit-and-miss, respectively.


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