Scream and Scream Again (1970) Retrospective

SUMMARY
Police Superintendent Bellaver, investigating the murder and mutilation of two young women and the disappearance of a young athlete, learns from American pathologist David Sorel that the women’s bodies had been drained of blood. Helen Bradford, a police decoy, lures the suspected killer into the open, and police handcuff him. He proves to possess superhuman strength, however, and escapes by tearing off his hand and racing to the clinic of Dr. Browning, where he leaps into a vat of acid. Meanwhile, Konratz, a mysterious foreign agent who is systematically eliminating his political enemies, blackmails British agent Fremont into persuading Scotland Yard to halt the investigation of the “vampire killings.” Although unauthorized to continue work on the case, Sorel and Helen go to Dr. Browning’s mansion and discover a modern operating room. They are caught by Dr. Browning, who reveals that he is creating human bodies by transplanting limbs and organs to form a perfect composite; the missing athlete was used for his strong arms and legs. Konratz, the mastermind behind the scheme, arrives and fights with Browning for allowing the murders to interrupt his political maneuvers. In the ensuing struggle, Konratz throws Browning into the vat, and Fremont arrives in time to save Helen and Sorel by pushing Konratz into the acid along with his victim.

Gordon Hessler
Gordon Hessler

Interview with Gordon Hessler

 How did you get along with Christopher Wicking for the first time on that film?
Gordon Hessler: He’s a highly intelligent fellow, very witty. He’s a wonderful guy. On SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, he did extraordinary work on the script. That was really a pulp book, a throwaway book that you read on a train. There was nothing in it, just empty pieces of action. But it was Chris who gave it a whole new level by using it as a political process of what might happen in the future. That is what made the picture, he’s the one that came up with all those ideas, yet he still managed to keep the nuances of the sort of pulp fiction novel. He was a fine writer, I thought. He had some very good ideas. It’s funny because we never thought much of those films. They were just formula pictures as far as we were concerned, but we enjoyed making them. The problem was what do you do with a script, how do you solve a problem?

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is an extraordinary film, very different from the typical Poe/Price cycle. Was AIP happy with it?
Gordon Hessler: Well, they didn’t know what the film was about and were always questioning what I was doing. The editor kept assuring them that everything was fine, but they didn’t quite know what they had as a picture. I’m sure they were a little queasy when that film came out because Arkoff had to try and sell it. We knew we had a good film. It was different. It was a science fiction film really, but the thing is, although the pulp book was very badly written, once Chris Wicking had put the nucleus of that idea into it, it elevated the whole picture and made it much more interesting. But all these pictures were made so quickly with so little money, I think we shot that in three or four weeks. But we had fun making it.

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You had Christopher Lee in small parts in THE OBLONG BOX and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. How did you get along with him?
Gordon Hessler: I got on very well with Christopher Lee. He became even more talented as he moved on in his career. I was quite surprised at how good he was in certain movies. When you’re shooting, you’re so busy and you never really get to know the actors very well. You meet them and they get a sense of what you want, and then you don’t see them again because they’re off doing another picture. I think that the thing with a horror picture is that you have to convince your actors to believe in what they’re doing. You really have to get embellished in it and enjoy it.

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You also worked with Peter Cushing in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.
Gordon Hessler: I really didn’t get to know him because he was put into the picture. That was Deke Heyward’s idea. Deke would try to find some well known actor to dress up the picture who at least Americans would be familiar with which was a good idea. He did the same thing with Lilli Palmer in MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. When I was doing the AIP pictures, I tried to keep a stable of actors and give them different roles. They were so wonderful, and they had to work for practically nothing. Since I was producing and directing, I had to go to the actors and tell them that I could only offer them so much, and that they could take it or leave it. It’s not that I was in a situation to bargain with them. I just didn’t have it in the budget. When you only have £70,000 and you’re working in a large studio, everybody else got screwed these actors. Hopefully they get some residuals of some kind, I’m not sure.

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Did you enjoy working with the great horror stars: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing?
Gordon Hessler: Vincent Price is an extraordinary man. We had a prince from Nigeria come to lunch with us at the Shepperton Studios, we were showing him around the place and we asked Vincent if he wouldn’t mind coming along. Many actors have to talk about themselves or their careers and so on, but not one word of that from Vincent. All he talked about was African art, by region and in such detail that this prince was absolutely amazed Vincent Price is a wonderful personality. Christopher Lee is made of much sterner stuff: very exacting, very correct. But he was very well educated and has a great deal of charm. I enjoyed working with him as well. Peter Cushing is just a wonderful individual to work with. You couldn’t have a better professional.

One complaint about Scream and Scream Again is that none of those stars have scenes together.
Gordon Hessler: That was an unfortunate thing, but it just worked out that way. It was a last-minute “Deke” Heyward decision to try to get all three stars together in one picture, and we hadn’t designed Scream and Scream Again for anything like that.

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DEVELOPMENT/PRODUCTION
SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is a picture that turned out well almost by accident. Amicus producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky were developing a screenplay based on a pulp novel by Peter Saxon, The Disoriented Man, AIP agreed to co-produce the film.

For Scream and Scream Again, we got a pulp magazine story, which if you read, you know was just trash, but the ingenuity that Chris Wicking brought to it made it a film of a much grander scale. It was ahead of its time. and we tried to figure out some kind of stylistic approach. But again, these films were made in three and four weeks.

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When Michael Reeves dropped out, Heyward considered Hessler a trustworthy replacement. Hessler remembers meeting with Reeves during pre-production, and said Reeves was quite sick at the time and was undergoing shock treatments. Christopher Wicking was brought in to rewrite the script, but there was only so much that could be done within the framework of what AIP wanted from the picture, so Hessler was left with the problem of trying to make an interesting film from a script neither he nor his star was satisfied with.

Interview with Producer Louis M. Heyward

Louis M. Heyward
Louis M. Heyward

How much contact did you have with Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg (of Amicus Pictures) in making Scream and Scream Again?
Louis M. Heyward: Quite a bit. They brought in the project, which was a paperback, and they were two guys full of enthusiasm. If I recall correctly, I had Subotsky thrown off the set. and Rosenberg allowed to come on. I felt there was too much interference going on. They were earnest. they were well-meaning, but they got in the way of production. I didn’t have that much traffic with them. but it was very difficult. I don’t bar people from sets too frequently, but when you’re trying to protect time and a budget. you have no recourse. You can’t fight about the little things.

Hessler says Subotsky’s script was so bad it was unusable.
Louis M. Heyward: Chris Wicking was brought in and together with Gordon they fixed it. Because it was a script that had not come from Hollywood, we could get away with tinkering with it. I was protecting the future I hoped to have when I left AIP!

It was your idea to put all three of the horror kings-Price, Lee and Cushing—into Scream and Scream Again. Did it work well?
Louis M. Heyward: Not as well as it could have. It was interesting to have them all in the same film, but they should have had the contretemps between them, utilizing all three in one scene in a face-to-face showdown. But there was no way of working it in; we just brought them in to take advantage of the names. for marquee value.

Cushing was the one that got the short end of the stick.
Louis M. Heyward: He really did. I played that film just the other night and I asked myself, “Why did he accept it?” I think the reason is, the British are so damn nice as actors again, they’re good soldiers and they’ll do what they’re told. They’re dear. sweet people and they’re professionals.

Any other Scream and Scream Again anecdotes?
Louis M. Heyward: I felt Michael Gothard was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened. He had that insane look and that drive, and he was wonderful. Here is a kid who really threw himself into the picture wholeheartedly. Do you remember the scene where he appears to be walking up the cliff? That’s a stunt that I would not have agreed to; I’d say, “Hey. get a double or get a dummy. I ain’t either one.” But the kid agreed to do it, without a double-he was that driven. He had a lot of class and a lot of style. Gordon came up with the idea of using an overhead cable to give that illusion of his walking up the cliff.

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Said Hessler, “Vincent was concerned, and he had every right to be, with the scripts that were whipped up. He had a contract to make three pictures, and I had to make four. So you had to make it. They’d already sold the picture from the poster, so the script came and you worked on it. All you could go for was the melodrama and try to be interesting with camera angles.”

This time, working from the ground up, rather than revising someone else’s script, Wicking contrived an extremely intricate and convoluted tale which far exceeds the source material. The novel, unlike the film, was about invaders from space. Hessler was given a free hand to direct as he pleased. The final cut went out exactly as he intended, rather surprising when one considers AIP’s later tampering with Hessler’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971), but as Heyward explained, the product was never as important as the deal, claiming that the film was left alone because AIP had booking deadlines to meet.

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The movie is based on Peter Saxon’s science fiction novel The Disorientated Man. For the most part, the movie follows the novel quite closely. In the novel, the antagonists turned out to be aliens. According to Christopher Lee, the characters were indeed going to be revealed as aliens in the movie’s climax, but all connections to that fact were cut out of the movie before it was released, leaving the enigmatic villains’ backgrounds unexplained.

What makes SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN so unusual, and so interesting, is its avoidance of the traditional dramatic structure in which a protagonist follows a clearly stated goal. Instead, the film presents several seemingly unrelated stories, which do not become clearly connected until the final twenty minutes when the audience finds out that both a series of “vampire murders” and a political takeover in a fascist country are the result of an artificially created super-race. Said Lee, “Playing some of those scenes, shot out of sequence and with no clue to how well they’d be edited, was maddening.”

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The film marks the first teaming of Vincent Price with Christopher Lee, but their only scene together consists of Price finding Lee bleeding to death on the floor. AIP was only interested in getting their names on the marquee, not in giving them worthwhile material to play. Nevertheless, Lee remembered the filming with good humor.

Said Lee, “As I expired messily on the floor, gurgling blood, which is spouting all over the place, Vincent comes in wearing the biggest cloak I’ve ever seen in my life-a great, big, blue traveling cloak which went right down to the ground. He had to bend down beside me and roll me over in my last throes, being careful not to get blood all over him. While he was supposed to be fussing over me, all I could hear was his voice whispering, “You’re lying on my train!’ He had rolled me over onto his cape and couldn’t get up!”

Christopher Wicking
Christopher Wicking

Interview with Christopher Wicking

Scream and Scream Again was a co-production with Amicus. Milton Subotsky came up with the project and had the rights to the book The Disoriented Man by Peter Saxon; Deke Heywood, head of AIP’s London office, was looking for other projects in which to use Vincent Price. Subotsky did the initial draft of the script, Heywood didn’t like it and you were brought in.
Christopher Wicking: Gordon Hessler didn’t like the screenplay. He didn’t feel Milton could deliver what they wanted. Milton initiated the project, and it was his up to that point. I got a call from Gordon requesting I read the book and then Milton’s screenplay.

The book gave me goosebumps. Then I read Milton’s script, which was totally flat: it was like watching a souffle dying. it just caved in after a while. Gordon and I discussed it at length. He saw the police material as Coogan’s Bluff country, which was an idea that excited me. The one radical thing we did, which changed what Milton had done and came directly from the book, was take out the blobs from space. Blobs from space are great, but we didn’t want it to be that kind of picture. We wanted to do a Don Siegel-style horror film, Coogan’s Bluff meets Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and we needed something stronger than lumps from another planet. So we took the aliens away and implied that Vincent Price’s mad doctor character was responsible for the superhuman creatures. We never quite know in the picture how this is possible, but they are not blobs from space. We wanted to investigate science and politics, so we used a lot of material from news headlines, material about transplants and genetic experimentation. The film sticks quite closely to the book, whose structure was very cinematic.

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You worked frequently with Hessler. Was it a good partnership?
Christopher Wicking: It was delightful-and, in retrospect, an inhibiting factor why I never pushed to direct until recently. Working with Gordon was easy, very stimulating. We shared a lot of ideas, and for the most part he directed my scripts the way I wanted to see them made. Obviously, there were occasions when he didn’t, but those decisions were usually due to time constraints. I learned a lot from him. It was like an apprenticeship.

Didn’t AIP try to recut Scream?
Christopher Wicking: They did try to take out one of the three strands of the Scream and Scream Again story and found the film didn’t work without it.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK

Scream and Scream Again (1970) David Whitaker

The eponymous theme song for the film was by Amen Corner, who appeared in the film singing it. This was one of their last appearances before Andy Fairweather Low departed for a solo career after a brief career as Fair Weather.

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CAST/CREW
Directed
Gordon Hessler

Produced
Max Rosenberg
Milton Subotsky
Louis M. Heyward

Written
Christopher Wicking

Based on
The Disorientated Man by Peter Saxon

Vincent Price as Dr. Browning
Christopher Lee as Fremont
Peter Cushing as Benedek
Judy Huxtable as Sylvia
Alfred Marks as Detective Superintendent Bellaver
Michael Gothard as Keith
Anthony Newlands as Ludwig
Peter Sallis as Schweitz
Uta Levka as Jane
Christopher Matthews as Dr. David Sorel

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Fangoria#53
Fangoria#84
Fangoria#97
dvddrive-in.com
Cinefantastique v19n01-02

2 thoughts on “Scream and Scream Again (1970) Retrospective

  1. The old Phil Hardy edited Horror Film Encyclopedia was pretty spot on about this one. The plot is about stitching society up as a whole, But the film is executed in a totally fragmented, chaotic way. For me at least, when all the different, all over the map, plot points are brought together, I didn’t care anymore. A frustrating viewing.

    Liked by 1 person

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