Monday, December 30, 2013

Trailer Park :: Fast-Shooting Eddie L. Cahn Presents the End of the World as We Know It with Invisible Invaders (1959)

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"People of Earth this is your last warning. Unless the 
nations of your planet surrender immediately, all 
human life will be destroyed in a war you cannot win."
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It's a tale as old as science fiction itself when the extra-terrestrial residents of the moon start to get a little nervous over the 'too fast for their own good' technological-advancement of the primates currently infesting the planet they're orbiting; advancements they fear will only end in self-obliteration on such a scale it will most likely take them with it. And so, as part of a preemptive strike, these transparent aliens (hence we never knew they were there) reach out to one of Earth's top scientists with an ultimatum of total terrestrial capitulation or face the dire consequences. To accomplish this, the aliens use their ability to phase into and re-animate the bodies of the recent dead to bridge the communication gap. But when this message of belligerent invisible invaders from the moon is delivered, one shouldn't be all that surprised by the ridicule and scorn that follows. When several more warning are ignored, unheeded, and none to happy about it, the aliens unleash hell via a two-fold attack: wreaking havoc with the weather and infrastructure with their own advanced weapons of mass destruction, and then mopping up what's left with their possessed ground-troops, an ever-growing army of the unstoppable undead, bringing the Earth to the brink of oblivion... 

Video courtesy of  Sleaze-O-Rama.

After his first screenplay was produced in 1937 (-- an early vehicle for Rita Hayworth called Paid to Dance), Robert E. Kent never looked back, cinematically speaking. Not one to limit himself, over the next three decades, and under countless pseudonyms, the screenwriter brazenly dabbled in all genres. With a prolific, speedy and solid reputation soon established, Kent was always in demand, mostly for second features and serials. (Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends was a rare A-picture in 1950.) However, his career really took shape in the 1950s when he hooked onto producer Sam Katzman's cheap-jack circus wagon at Columbia, penning several of William Castle's pre-gimmick flicks (Serpent of the Nile, Fort Ti, and Siren of Baghdad all released in 1953) and the totally under-appreciated shocker, The Werewolf (1956), for Fred Sears. All the while watching and learning how to maximize profits by minimizing costs behind the camera as he pounded out script pages, it wasn't long before Kent decided to expand his film horizons well beyond a typewriter.

Starting in 1957, Kent began to write and produce his own independent features under several different banners (-- Peerless Productions, Vogue Pictures, Premium Pictures, and Zenith Pictures), striking a deal with Edward Small at United Artists for their eventual distribution. Mostly sticking with the proven commodity of westerns, crime capers, juvenile delinquents, and creature features, this agreement started bearing financial fruit almost immediately with the release of IT! The Terror from Beyond Space (1957), where Kent handed the directing reins to the wily veteran, Edward L. Cahn.

Now, as fast as Kent was with his typewriter, Cahn might've even been faster behind the camera. A career that spanned nearly four decades began back in the 1920s with a night job at Universal to help pay his college tuition, where Cahn quickly caught on as an apprentice editor but showed so much skill he was soon promoted to the head of the entire editorial department by 1926. As a testament to his craft, there's an apocryphal story where Cahn was tasked with making the final edit of Lewis Milestone's seminal version of All's Quiet on the Western Front (1930) on the train ride from Los Angeles to New York, where it's premiere awaited.

Mastering one craft and itching to try another, Cahn slid into the director's chair in 1931, where his speedy reputation soon cemented itself. With his editing experience and precise pre-planning, this allowed Cahn to get just what he wanted in camera, in one take, with little or no coverage needed to splice in later. And not only that, but, even from the beginning, from his well-received take on the Shoot-Out at the O.K. Corral in Law and Order (1932) or the violent pre-code crime thriller, Afraid to Talk (1932), Cahn was already showing a deliberately bleak, frankly brutal, and almost pessimistically stark and simple style of filmmaking -- haphazard at first glance, but more bluntly precise on the second. But after a couple more solid proto-noirs (Laughter in Hell, Emergency Call both released in 1933), just when his career seemed to be solidifying, something strange happened; something that has yet to be explained as to why, but, whichever or however, Cahn was summarily dismissed from Universal and wound up at MGM, where he was exiled to the short-subject, travelogue and two-reel novelty unit, where he most notably flogged a few more years out of the rapidly aging Our Gang / Little Rascals series.

And so, the director toiled away on MGM's back-lot through the 1940s, marked with an occasional feature film -- but this was more not than often, before eventually sliding all the way down the studio food chain to the poverty row of PRC until he seemingly got his feet, somewhat, back underneath him around 1950 with a trio of independently produced or self-financed thrillers (The Great Plane Robbery, Experiment Alcatraz, Destination Murder). But then he just as mysteriously up and disappeared again for nearly five years before Katzman dug him up for the ground-breaking sci-fi feature, Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), which told the fantastic tale of a gangster gaining his revenge by employing an ex-Nazi scientist who re-animated the dead for his own personal, and nigh-invulnerable attack squad.

With it's extreme viciousness and lack of blinking during the horrific elements, along with his efficiency behind the camera, Cahn was soon in demand after Creature hit the screens as a whole new wave of producers and filmmakers suddenly crawled out of the woodwork to make this kind of low-budget feature to both cash-in at the box-office or break into the business. And though Roger Corman usually gets the lions share of credit for American International's early success, one cannot overlook the contributions of 'Fast Eddie' Cahn, who really pushed AIP from upstart independent to a bona fide player in Hollywood with his juvenile delinquent pictures (Girl's in Prison '56, Dragstrip Girl '57), westerns (Flesh and the Spur '56) and creature features (The She-Creature '56, Invasion of the Saucer Men '57). And over the next few years Cahn consistently bounced between AIP and Allied Artists, churning out these '6-day wonders' that always finished on time and on budget with startling efficiency. (Five films in 1958, seven in 1959, ten in 1960, and peaking with 11 in 1961.) He even did a few more with Katzman (Zombies of Maru Tau '57), where I assume he first crossed paths with Kent, which led to him directing both IT! and it's co-feature, Curse of the Faceless Man (1958), of which United Artists were so pleased they immediately asked Kent for two more, resulting in the follow up double-bill of Invisible Invaders and the morbidly creepy The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959).

Turning to Samuel Newman to script this particular alien-invading anarchy, Newman's career began writing for Johnny Weissmuller's post-Tarzan Jungle Jim adventures before he joined Katzman's brigade; first with the 3-D western, Jesse James vs. the Daultons (1954, also directed by William Castle), before penning the penultimate gonzoidal creature feature of all time, the brain-bending and metaphorically-challenged epic known as the The Giant Claw (1957). Making these invaders invisible was nothing more than a shrewd cost-saving measure, to be sure, and what little we do see of the actual aliens is the recycled Martian suit from IT!, originally concocted by another AIP alum, Paul Blaisdell. More cost-cutting came with a copious amount of stock-footage for the world wide riots and natural disasters as the aliens sturm und drang their way toward total victory, leaving humanity's last hope in the hands of several scientist holed up in bunkers around the country, desperately seeking a way to combat these seemingly insurmountable odds.

Here, our story focuses on one such quartet, led by Major Jay (Agar), who escorts a trio of scientists, Dr. Penner (Tonge), the one no one would listen to 'natch, his daughter (Byron), and Dr. Lamont (Hutton), to one of those bunkers. And while the living dead amass and shamble around outside, constantly hunting for them, the work to stop them inside goes nowhere fast. Things get a little more harrowing when the decision is made to try and capture one of the aliens by trapping it inside a corpse as a test-subject. And after some dubious scientific method exposition and one nearly disastrous attempt, one is finally secured and held inside a pressurized cell.

Things continue to escalate from there -- in a tempest without, crisis within sense -- as nerves are frayed and the alien P.O.W. gloats as no counter-measures seem to work. But salvation comes in the form of an accident, when the stir-crazy Lamont finally cracks-up, resulting in a rousing dust-up with Jay, which ends with a flying jar of acid tripping a security alarm, whose sonic bleating has a much desired detrimental effect on the captured invader. One montage later, a crude sonic gun proves very successful in both driving the aliens out of their hosts and neutralizing them with a gooey finality. (It also proves greatly effective in short-circuiting the alien's cloaking device on their attack ships, which causes them to self-destruct.) The tide turned, the aliens are sent packing back to the moon, and our heroes are hailed by the gathered United Nations as a true testament to human ingenuity in the face of any global threat. Hooray!

Over the years since its release, Invisible Invaders has been touted as an inspiration for Night of the Living Dead (1968). I honestly have no idea if Romero, Russo and company ever saw it, but, from the shuffling dead, to the rising tension and isolated location, to the catastrophic news updates via electronic media, to the explosions of violence (-- special nod to when Jay brutally shoots the farmer because there simply is no time to negotiate), to the film's cynical edge, there is some definite tangential evidence to present. (I think it actually hews closer to Day of the Dead). Frankly, the same argument could be made for Ray Kellog's The Killer Shrews (1959). What's really amazing is how much of a plot Invisible Invaders shares with Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). Again, it's a fun conversation to have but as to how much influence it actually had? That's me shrugging right now.

On it's own, even with all that stock-footage, Invisible Invaders is an efficiently lean and effectively mean fright flick that barely breaks an hour. What I always appreciated about Cahn, whose films always abused the stock-footage vaults (especially his war pictures for AIP) was a sense that this was not done as padding but was actually and specifically used to move the plot along. On top of that, I love the Agar; I love Paul Dunlop's eerie electronic and theremin-fueled score (--which would be recycled in many a space adventure to come); I love the scenes where the dead pilot and car accident victim (whose crash was pilfered from Mitchum's Thunder Road) take over the radio booths at the sporting events; I love the hilarious moment when you finally realize how the whole film could've been told even cheaper by just presenting a slideshow of all those interrupting shots of interjecting newspaper headlines; and I love the scenes where the silent dead first march over the hill en masse, or when they slowly but relentlessly close in on our heroes. Sure, it recycles the visible dirt-track gag and moving (the same damned) shrubs by unseen hands probably twice too often, and it takes a good thirty minutes to really get going, but for the last thirty, man, I'm tellin' ya, this thing really cooks and becomes something truly special.

After Invisible Invaders, Kent kept right on writing and producing all kinds of pictures, including a couple of nifty Vincent Price features (Tower of London '62, Diary of a Madman '63, Twice-Told Tales '63), before capping his career with the movie Ed Wood wanted to make, The Christine Jorgenson Story (1970), before retiring from the business. As for his partner, sadly, just as Cahn appeared to be really hitting his stride in 1961, his health took a dramatic turn for the worse, cutting his production back to only two films in 1962; and his health continued to deteriorate until he passed away in late 1963 at the age of 64, marking the end to a truly mind-boggling career that was absolutely all over the map. I know most folks write him off as a genre hack at best, based mostly on the titles of his pictures alone, but all one needs to do is compare his films to most of his contemporaries to truly appreciate what the man had to offer. And, again, it was his type of skills (and Corman's) that kept these independents afloat. He has mostly been forgotten, barely rating a footnote, and that makes me sad; but this neglect also spurns me to draw attention to the man and his work whenever I can. So here ya go.

Okay, folks, this post is part of the Collective Head of Knuckle's TEOTWAWKI: the Roundtable, a two-part hootenanny where we explore The End of the World as We Know It (-- see what I did there?) via a pre-apocolyptic movie (this week) and post-apocalyptic movie (next week). And so, please follow the linkage below for the other reviews and get your Armageddon on something fierce, won't you? Thank you.

The Tomb of Anubis surveys the carnage of Battlefield: Earth

And be sure to tune in next week where we see what happens after the world ends. Until then, Boils and Ghouls, keep watching the skies.

Invisible Invaders (1959) Premium Pictures (Robert E. Kent Productions) :: United Artists / P: Robert E. Kent / D: Edward L. Cahn / W: Samuel Newman / C: Maury Gertsman / E: Grant Whytock / M: Paul Dunlap / S: John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton, Paul Langton, Hal Torey, John Carradine

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays :: The 8th Annual All-Night Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon vs. the 8th Wonder of the World!

T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, one creature was grumping, just listen to him grouch ... And so, once more, Boils and Ghouls, Yours Truly celebrates the one night a year the paper I work for doesn't print by chasing off the specter of the Annual Seasonal Affective Disorder Blues with an all night booze-can cum movie marathon. Originally, the plan was for a full on assault of old Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears cartoons but my boxsets of The Herculoids, Valley of the Dinosaurs, and Thundarr the Barbarian wound up MIA, even though they were due on Monday, lost somewhere between my house and Kentucky. (Dear Amazon and UPS, I got yer 'In Transit' tracking right HERE, ya near Christmas ruinin' sonsabitches!) 

Fearing this would happen, Plan B called on an exploration of the Billy Jack boxset to mark the passing of Tom Laughlin; and though I do enjoy The Born Losers quite a bit, I just didn't have it in me to sit through Billy Jack Goes to Washington again no matter how much liquor I stockpiled. Luckily, Plan C presented itself with the one-two-punch of a gift of a nifty King Kong lunchbox from some friends and rousing discussion on where Peter Jackson went wrong on his remake via Facebook that led me to settle on the Big Ape and his oeuvre. And so, with my trusty sammich, a pecan pie, and a bottle of Wild Turkey, our journey to Skull Island and beyond began where it began.

Ya know, every time I watch King Kong, I always pick up on something new. This time, I noticed something easily overlooked, but ... Remember the scene after Kong breaks thru the wall, munches on a few natives, and trashes the village before making his way to the beach where Denham is waiting with those gas bombs? Here, I finally noticed the sand the tranquilized Kong wallows around in while he tries to fight off the noxious vapor. Sand animated frame by frame, mind you, to match the movement of Kong as he struggles over the dunes. Incredible. 

Also also this time around, Bruce Cabot has officially gone from liability to 'Screw Joel McCrea.'

"I thought you meant Cary Grant!"

Up next, quickly slapped together, and it shows, Son of Kong is only 69 minutes long. But it takes the crew nearly 45 minutes to get back to Skull Island. (Plenty of time for some tropical island misadventure, musical interludes, and prescient anti-commie propaganda.) Fifty minutes in and Junior finally shows up, who is mostly played for laughs. The 'derp' factor in this thing is freakin' astronomical as the soundtrack bludgeons the audience about the head and neck to really hammer this *ahem* hilarity home.

Anyhoo, it's proper title probably should have been The Redemption of Carl Denham with our very special guest star, Baby Kong. Decent chemistry between the leads salvages most of it, even the odious comedy relief of Victor Wong has its moments. Beyond that, slapped and dashed to within an inch of its life, but relatively harmless.

"Why, no. I haven't seen your daddy. Is he missing?"

Before you ask, I did consider watching Mighty Joe Young but eventually ruled it out because even though he may be the same genus and species, well, his name ain't Mighty Joe Kong. And so, we move to Japan for the Battle of the Century, King Kong vs. Godzilla. Aided and abetted by some narcotic grape juice that helps us overlook our giant monkey's highly visible seams, for once, our titanic tussle actually lives up to it's billing. 

And even though OPERATION: DIG A BIG HOLE failed, we got some excellent kaiju action and a ton of property damage that firmly puts this one in the win column. Who won? Who cares! And remember, whatever you do, DO NOT GO TO HOKKAIDO!

"Dr. Arnold Johnson is right."

Sticking with the theme, we stay in Japan for another round of pure bedlam with the completely demented King Kong Escapes, where Kong and his lady fair are captured by an international terrorist for a plot that you wouldn't believe even if I typed it up and drew you a picture. Just watch it. Trust me. 

Also plugged into this insanity, we got an awesome arch-nemesis with Mechanokong, a full-loaf of Paul Frees, a dinosaur powered by Scrubbing Bubbles, mind-controlling disco globes, and a Kong suit even goofier than the one from the last movie. And as a big dollop of gravy on top of all of that, we got Linda Miller in those go-go boots and majorette uniform as Nurse Watson, who is just sooooo adorable I can't even even. 


Anyhoo, at this point, I came to the conclusion I was way too sober for this next entry, but, rules is rules, and so, it was time to mix 'em a little stronger so I could cry when the monkey die in Big Dino D's version of King Kong. Now, I tried to fold up that poster and stuff it into the DVD tray but turns out that won't work. And then, Netflix refused to stream it on the first try, crashing the software on my BluRay player. Ignoring the fact that the universe was trying to tell me something, I tried again. And, dammit, it worked this time. *sigh*

Hands down, the best F/X in the whole movie is Jeff Bridges' beard. And though I used to think Jessica Lange was terrible in this, now I believe her channeling of an empty-headed actress with nice rack but no other discernible talents is nothing short of brilliant. And despite the lack of monsters on faux Skull Island (-- except for that ludicrous snake), my biggest personal beef with this movie is Charles Grodin, an actor I've never really cared for, who plays a character that amplifies everything I don't like about him up to about an 11. *pfeh* Beyond that, we got overblown and sexually inappropriate metaphors...

I mean, really -- What's THAT all about?

Where was I? Oh yeah ...  Overblown and sexually inappropriate metaphors, skeevey simian Stockholm Syndrome, male chauvinist pig apes, and Laurentiis and Carlo Rambaldi pulling a Bud Westmore on Rick Baker. And so ends King Kong '76. What a f@cked up, tonally inconsistent mess you are.

Sorry, Dino. No tears here.

Of course there weren't any tears. Why should there be?! Turns out Kong wasn't dead after all (-- even though that fall alone should have liquified him.) Why make King Kong Lives, you ask? Because the world needed a Rom-Com Kong vs. Rednecks movie, dammit. That's why! 

First, the good news: My old VHS tape wouldn't work. Hooray! The bad news: I found a copy streaming on YouTube. Ah, poop. The really, really good news: I do believe I was now sufficiently drunk enough *hic* to handle this entry with ease. Nah. That's not really fair. For, despite the grumbling and hesitation, I do love and appreciate the mounting stoopidity of this movie something fierce. From the reviving surgery, to Kong and his lady love making the goo-goo (and beyond) at/with each other, to that aforementioned redneck interlude, to the final fight and the credulity-chucking final coda, this thing is just amazeballs.

And, oh, holy crap, does John Ashton's Lt. Nevitt belong in the Cranky Military Asshat Hall of Fame along with Alex Nicol's Col. 'Kill that Hairy Sumbitch' Davis of A*P*E infamy.

And so, having survived King Kong Lives, my reward was getting to watch the super-duper three 'n' half-hour long extended cut of Peter Jackson's well-intentioned, but let's just call it what it is, wet dream. Now where the hell did I put that bottle...

What I remember most about watching Jackson's Kong in the theater was after the excruciatingly long and exhaustively-detailed set-up, was glancing at my watch when the monkey finally showed up and noting over an hour of screen time had elapsed before we got to what we had all paid to see. It's heart was definitely in the right place, sure, but the film is still kind of a broken baroque mess. I can't remember who first said it on the message board I used to haunt, but I wished it was me, when they said the film truly was a lovingly laborious and well-intended expanded-universe fan-fic gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I don't know when Jackson contracted his case of Rube Goldbergian Bullshititus (a/k/a Spielberg Pox), but he hasn't been the same since. Still, when I decided to revisit it, the only copy I could get my hands on was the extended edition. And though the last thing I felt the film needed was a longer running time, somewhat miraculously, the whole thing just seemed to gel better and didn't feel nearly as over-cooked as I'd remembered. Alas, even with this tinkering, the near fatal flaws were still there the third time through: the V-Rex fight, the stampede, and the spider pit hootenanny still had me rolling my eyes and thinking 'Sweet Big Monkey Bajeezus, move on already.'

Look, I don't hate the movie. Far from it. The cast is outstanding (special nods to Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, and Kyle Chandler) and the F/X are top-notch. The component parts of this movie are great, the whole that they make when put together, pains me to say, is not. The problem, sadly, then, is Jackson. And the moral of this story: When you love something that much, and lose yourself that badly in the minutiae, and love it so much you can't bear to leave ANYTHING OUT, you're too close and you run the risk of smothering the life out of it.

Wow. Listen to me get all serious. Heh. Forgive. At this point, I'm really, really drunk and really, really tired. And so, our Mad Monkey Marathon comes to end. But before I crawl off to bed and pass out, I bid you Happy Holidays One and All. Or Bah! Humbug, where applicable. 'Oh, Good King WencesKong looked out, on the Feast of Denham...'

Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorites :: Behind the Scenes :: The Ballyhoo & the Bullshit :: The Lost World Comes to the Majestic (1927)

That is so awesome I can't even even.

The Lost World (1925) First National Pictures / EP: Jamie White / P: Earl Hudson / D: Harry O. Hoyt / W: Marion Fairfax, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (novel) / C: Arthur Edeson / E: George McGuire / S: Wallace Beery, Bessie Love, Lloyd Hughes, Lewis Stone, Bull Montana

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Final Girl Film Club :: Spoilers Ahoy! :: The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Narciso Serrador's The House the Screamed (1969)

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"If the girls want to escape, they will. 
This is a boarding house, not a prison."

"Then I will make it a prison." 
___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___

Our film begins in what appears to be turn of the 19th Century France, with the arrival of young Theresa (Euro-Sleaze fave Galbo) at Madame Fourneau's palatial boarding school for girls. (Or, according to the horrible English dub that I watched, Madame Porno's palatial boarding school for girls.) As the new ward is given the grand tour by the Headmistress (Palmer), it appears the establishment is a prim and proper finishing school, designed to train and prepare the students in the fine art of womanhood. But if The House that Screamed teaches us anything, it's that things are never, ever what they appear to be.

See, turns out Fourneau's school is the last resort for the wayward and the unwanted, and she runs it like a Filipino prison camp, as those who show any signs of insolence are placed in solitary confinement, where that insolence is then summarily beaten out of them with a leather strap. Aided and abetted by a group of bullying (and, of course, lesbian) trustees, led by the predatory Irene (Maude), they soon set their lascivious sights on poor Theresa; whom, it turns out, is the illegitimate daughter of a high-profile prostitute and some muckety-muck that is footing the bill to hide her away.

Even before her arrival, with all of those coming-of-age girls cooped up inside these isolated academy walls, the sexual tension and roiling frustrations were already at critical mass -- even the sewing seminar carries an erotic charge. I'm serious. To help defuse this pent-up powder-keg, Irene trades favors on the side for access to the local delivery men, leading to a romp in the hay in the adjoining stable for the lucky girl of the day. 

The only other men on the grounds are a toady groundskeeper and Fourneau's adolescent son, Luis (Moulder-Brown). Though kept on a short, incestuous leash by his mother, who forbids him to associate with these unworthy girls, wanting him to wait for someone more refined, like herself, Luis still manages to sneak around the mansion's many hidey-holes and unused passages, especially around the showers, to play the Peeping Tom (which isn't as much of a show as you'd think since the uptight Fourneau won't even let her charges bathe without their smocks on.) The little pervert also arranges secret assignations with several of the girls -- girls who seem to go missing after he promises to help break them out so they can runaway together, he typed ominously...

About a half-dozen girls have disappeared over the last few months under these same circumstances, prompting the increasingly agitated Forneau to beef up security to prevent any more of those ungrateful brats from running off. And here, our first real clue that something far more sinister is going on presents itself when Luis' latest doe-eyed conquest sneaks off to meet him in the greenhouse, where she is brutally knifed to death by some unseen assailant, as our movie drastically shifts exploitation gears from a delirium of forced sexual repression to maniacal mayhem and mass murder.

Let's be clear up front: The House that Screamed (a/k/a La Residencia) is one helluva disturbing movie. And awesome. Disturbingly awesome. Another one of those Euro-Sleaze melting pots -- Spanish money and crew, shot in France, English and German actors -- the film just gets under your skin and itches like crazy. What it reminds me of most is a combination of "Uncle Silas", author J.S. LeFanu's dark Victorian novel of mounting horror, and the visual, dreamlike ambiguity of Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock punctuated by explosions of graphic violence similar to Mario Bava in his Twitch of the Death Nerve phase. 

To accomplish this, director Serrador, with a story assist from Juan Tébar, really over-stuffs the blender with all kinds of ingredients: a Gothic pot-boiler, a Women in Prison flick and a seedy Slasher, with some heavy gialli-like overtones to give the resulting slush a really surreal kick. And Serrano plays the audience beautifully, capitalizing on an outstanding shooting location, beginning at the lowest speed, churning all of those elements together but they're still recognizable as they swirl around. But! As he ratchets things up, the plot (and the audience) is stirred, mixed, chopped, puree'd and finally liquefied into something truly unique as we progress onward from that first murder. For what really sets the film apart is how we keep switching perspectives, meaning just when we think we know what's going on and who the main protagonist is, Serrador goes and bumps them off!

Remember how I said nothing is what it appears to be in this movie? Yeah, well, here we have the likable Theresa, set up perfectly as a typical, though proto final girl, whom we expect to take us by the hand as the killer targets her as she unravels the unholy secrets of Fourneau's Academy. And as Fourneau throws an even more draconian net over her charges, and caught in Irene's ever tightening web of humiliation, Theresa wants nothing more but to escape and turns to Luis for help. Here, following form, we expect her to be attacked while trying that escape, resulting in a struggle, revealing the killer, etc. etc. etc. Well, she does attempt an escape but only makes it as far the main hall before her throat is cut from ear to ear! Whoa. So much for that idea, right? Right.

Well, since our heroine is dead and we still don't know whodunit the story shifts its focus to Irene, who is none to happy about her latest pigeon flying the coop. She knew of Theresa's escape plan and was waiting in ambush outside the main entrance. But when her target never appeared, all Irene finds is a splash of blood near the door ... Realizing all of those missing girls are probably dead and buried somewhere around the campus grounds, Irene confronts Fourneau with the facts, who still doggedly insists the girls just ran off despite all evidence to the contrary. Irene, meanwhile, raises such a stink she loses all of her head trustee privileges. 

And when she's threatened with a trip to solitary over her continued defiance, Irene reminds Herr Fourneau that she has enough dirt on her and how she runs things to ruin the school forever. The headmistress backs off, things disintegrate even further, and Irene decides she'd better get while the getting is still breathing. So, when night falls, as Irene sneaks her way toward the main entrance, a strange voice draws the girl away from a sure escape and deeper into the darker recesses of the mansion, where the killer awaits.

And as we finally barrel toward the fantastically morbid conclusion of The House that Screamed, if you think Serrano is done pulling our chains at this point, well, you'd be wrong. Dead wrong. Just ask Irene. No, wait. You can't. She's dead, too, leaving Madame Fourneau to find and face the inevitable truth -- the truth that puts the scream in The House that Screamed. For in the end, it's not so much as whodunit that's important but whyhedunit. He, you ask? Yeah, if the killer wasn't obvious enough the final twist of why is an ample reward for those who sniffed Luis out early, whose perversely innocent and ingrained motives to find someone just (-- stress on the JUST) like dear old mom have finally reached fruition -- he just had to find her, one piece at a time.*bleaurgh*

According to several sources if you'd like to see The House that Screamed, which I hope this review will encourage you to do, go after the Elvira's Movie Macabre double disc of this and Maneater of Hydra. I watched it via an Amazon rental through my trusty Roku box, my inaugural effort on such things, and, aside from that aforementioned hatchet-job of a audio track, was very happy with the quality of the widescreen print. Hell, I hadn't even heard of the damned thing until stumbling upon a poster a little over a week ago, and now I consider The House that Screamed one of my all time favorite Euro-Shockers. 

Other Points of Interest:

A long time reader but this is my first time participating in the Final Girl Film Club, and, frankly, I cheated, dusting off this old review and republishing it for this tag-team retrospective. Please follow the linkage, Boils and Ghouls, for many more worthwhile takes on this truly fascinating film, please and thank you.

The House that Screamed (1969/1971) Anabel Films :: American International / P: Arturo González / D: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador / W: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Juan Tébar / C: Manuel Berenguer / M: Waldo de los Ríos / S: Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown, Maribel Martín, Mary Maude
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