Cinema Sunday: And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973)

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Title: And Now The Screaming Starts

Distributor: Cinerama/ Amicus productions

Writer: Roger Marshall

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Stephanie Beacham

Released: April 1973

MPAA: R

 

Another week and another movie from Amicus Productions! Forgive me, but this one is going to be quite shorter in length than most of my reviews for two reasons. First, the original film I was going to review was taken down from a popular website that houses tons of movies, cat videos, etc. The second reason  being it’s getting late, and I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow! I’ll be visiting the resting place of H.P. Lovecraft, and if all goes well, I’ll be commanding the armies of Cthulhu by mid-week, so wish me luck!

This week’s film is one that I’ve never viewed before now, but heard positive things about over the years. Most Amicus films have a solid reputation, but I was slightly skeptical about the premise for this one. The names Peter Cushing and Herbert Lom (Hammer’s version of Phantom of the Opera, 1962) put me at ease though, and they should do that for anyone! Alright, let’s get to the movie!

 

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As the film begins, we see a couple (engaged to be married) on a carriage ride to their new home (1795). It’s the ancestral home of the groom, but his bride is about to find out it holds a dark secret! Charles (Ian Ogilvy), and Catherine (Stephanie Beacham), stroll around until they see a portrait of his grandfather (Herbert Lom). Catherine is all but hypnotized by it, and we get the impression his spirit may still dwell in the house. As she’s looking at the portrait, a hand comes bursting through it at her! As she dives away, screaming, Charles comes to her aid. Of course, the portrait is fine, and Catherine thinks she imagined the whole thing.

 

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After the wedding, the two head for the bedroom. Outside in the hallway though, is a severed hand, crawling about the house! As Charles excuses himself for a minute, Catherine closes the drapes, and is startled by a howling wolf. She dismisses it and jumps into bed, awaiting her new groom’s arrival. As she waits, the door suddenly locks by itself, and the candles go out. Catherine is then attacked by the severed hand, and perhaps someone else! Charles races downstairs and grabs an axe from the mantle, then hurries back upstairs to the locked room. He chops his way into the room, but as before, the hand is gone. A maid comes into the room, closes a window, then leaves. Charles glares at her, but says nothing to her. Later, downstairs, he tells the maid that his wife imagined the scenario.

 

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The following day, Charles tells his lawyer that he wants to leave everything to his wife in the case of his demise. That evening, Charles and Catherine are about to get busy, when she sees the face of a man with no eyes in the window. She stops for a moment, and Charles asks what’s wrong. Afterward, she goes out into the hallway and is scared stiff at the portrait that scared her earlier. The next day, Catherine heads out to the burial area, and sees a man with scars on his face, staring at her. She runs away and asks Charles who he is. He’s very vague in his response, so Catherine asks one of the servants. She’s also not in the talking mood apparently, and Catherine gets angry.

 

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Catherine then sets out to the cabin nearby, where this man lives. She confronts this woodsman (Geoffrey Whitehead), Silas, and asks to see his hands, thinking maybe it’s his hand that is crawling around the home. He shows her both of his hands, then she asks a few more questions about him and his relatives. She finds out that Charles’s family gave land to this man’s father, and that’s why he lives on the grounds of the estate. Catherine then turns to the family lawyer for answers but he’ll not give them to her before speaking to Charles first. In the evening, Charles and Catherine are both giving each other the silent treatment. We also see someone outside with an axe, creeping around. Charles then heads out to find the town people who were to come over for dinner this evening, as they’re long overdue. He finds an abandoned horse, and then one of his friends (the family lawyer) with a huge gash in his forehead. as he topples over, and dies.

 

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Back at the house, a window flies open and as Catherine attempts to close it, that ghastly figure with no eyes surprises her, and smashes the window. She quickly runs into the next room, and is frightened by one of the maids. She screams about the window, but when the maid checks it out, there’s nothing wrong. As Charles returns he grabs her hand, and she sees that his hand is bloody, and she faints. The following morning, the family doctor informs them that they are going to have a baby. They seem less than thrilled, and then Charles and the good doctor have a private conversation. The doctor (Patrick Magee), threatens to tell Catherine about the secret everyone is hiding. After a look from Charles, he then informs Charles that he wont tell. That same day, the authorities are at the woodsman’s cabin, questioning him about the murder. He denies he did it, and then Charles shows up out of the blue. He tells them he wouldn’t do this, because something he deserves is going down soon.

 

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Back at the house, Catherine is being tortured again, and one maid offers to show her what the secret is about the house. As the maid attempts to bring something to her, the pictures begin to rattle, and a spectral image of the severed hand reaches out, and chokes her. She then falls backwards down the stairs. She’s apparently dead. Catherine goes to check on her and confirms this. She also finds a book that she was bringing to her, so she scoops it up before anyone can see. When she’s alone, she begins to read about the family history. Charles confronts Silas, and tells him that if he leaves, he’ll be compensated nicely, but he refuses. Shortly thereafter, another doctor is brought in, by the name of Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing). He seems to be the only one except for Catherine that wants to find answers to this haunting, before it kills anyone else!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

The film is a decent one overall but definitely does have some slow spots. Most films do mind you, but these were a bit more noticeable. Cushing doesn’t show up until 2/3 of the way through the film, and there was even less screen time for Lom (he was quite a scoundrel). Both played good parts, but definitely deserved more screen time.

The music score was definitely a low point for this one. The settings were a bright spot, as a few different locations were used. The special effects were just mediocre though, and that was something that should’ve been better for 1973. Yeah, the budget was low, it was Amicus after all, but there definitely should’ve been a better effort in that department.

If you get the chance, sit down one evening and give it a watch. Cushing and Lom’s performances are strong enough to carry you through the other slow spots and mindless nonsense.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Phantom of The Opera (1962)

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Title: The Phantom of the Opera

Distributor: Hammer/Universal

Writer: John Elder (novel by Gaston Leroux)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Herbert Lom, Heather Sears, Edward de Souza, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough

Released: June 25, 1962

MPAA: UR

I own this version and the Universal film as well, but as with other previous reviews, you’ll find out why I think the Hammer Studios version is superior. Heck, just watch them both, and you’ll probably agree. Lon Chaney did a fantastic job as the Phantom, but Herbert Lom brings it to another level. This film did have the advantage of being shot many years after the Universal version, but it wasn’t some big budget film full of incredible special effects. No, it was the acting of Lom, De Souza, and Gough, that makes this film a winner. Now let’s get down to the story!

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The film begins with some organ music playing in the bowels of an empty opera house. We then see the Phantom (Herbert Lom) and his minion (roll opening credits). We next see the opera house, as it’s filling up for the first night of a new show, allegedly written by Ambrose D’Arcy (Michael Gough). Ambrose and the theater manager, Mr. Lattimer (Thorley Walters), are quite excited about the good showing of people. In a dressing room backstage, a woman is readying her voice for the show. She’s the lead in this version of ‘Joan of Arc’, and seems a bit nervous because of some shenanigans that have plagued the theater as of late. As she continues warming up, the light in her room is put out by a creepy looking hand. Another man then enters the backstage area of the theater, the producer, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza). He speaks with the stage manager, and the conductor about more mischief around the theater, but then he’s summoned to the dressing room of Maria, the star of the show. She’s terrified and explains to him that a man, dressed all in black, and with only one eye, entered her room and scared the life out of her. She claims she can’t go on, but Harry convinces her otherwise.

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The play begins, and we see Lattimer and Hunter discussing the riddle of how a man like Ambrose wrote such good music. Ambrose then walks in, and sarcastically thanks Harry for his “compliment’, and Harry gives him a snarky comment right back. Harry then leaves the box, and Lattimer and Ambrose talk briefly. Ambrose notices an empty box, and questions Lattimer about it. Lattimer tells him that people do not like to sit there, because they believe it’s haunted. Ambrose gets angry, and tells Lattimer that he’ll speak to his superiors in the morning about this matter. Things are going fine, but then suddenly, we see something ripping through a piece of the set, and it reveals a man, hanging by his neck. People scream in terror, and the theater empties out. Ambrose instructs Lattimer to let no bad press attach itself to the opera, and the two part ways for the day.

Meanwhile, Harry is holding auditions for the lead role of St. Joan. One girl in particular, Christine Charles (Heather Sears), is singing her heart out, and impresses Harry. Ambrose and Lattimer walk in, and get angry at first, but when they hear the voice, they settle down. Ambrose is especially taken with Miss Charles (basically, he’s a horny dude that uses his money and power to get girls). He tells Lattimer to give her a note to meet him later for dinner. As the evening gets older, we watch, as Ambrose and Miss Charles have dinner, and at first, it seems very cordial. But, as Ambrose gets more and more drunk, he begins to show his true colors. He tells her that essentially, she has to sleep with him if she wants the lead role in his opera. She’s completely embarrassed, but gives in to his request in the end. Just as the two are leaving, Harry comes into the restaurant, and Miss Charles asks him to help her out of this jam. He gladly accepts, because he can’t stand Ambrose. When he realizes the scam is up, Ambrose leaves in a huff.

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In the next scene, the two (Harry and Christine), are taking a carriage ride through the park (driven by Michael Ripper). She tells Harry that she recently had an experience just like the previous lead role, and that the same man spoke to her in the dressing room, telling her to get away from this place, and Ambrose D’Arcy. Harry then instructs the driver to take them to the opera house, to look for clues (Scooby-Doo style). The cleaning ladies are still there and don’t believe him when he tells them that he’s the producer of the show. He then asks if ay of them have found a diamond broach, and they scatter to search for it (a ruse to get them out-of-the-way). As the two get to the dressing room, the lights go out, and that sinister voice orders them to get away from this place or else! Just as they’re trying to figure out who this is, the cleaning ladies shriek, and run off. Christine and Harry are then greeted by the rat catcher (Patrick Troughton- image below), and he offers a few of this evenings catches for a nice “pie”. They tell him that they’re vegetarians, and then give him a few pounds to get lost. As he leaves the room, he gets stabbed in the eyeball by the Phantoms diminutive sidekick. The rats then scurry away, and Harry and Christine wonder what’s happened to the rat catcher. As Harry investigates, Christine is approached by the Phantom, she screams in fear, then faints. This draws Harry back to the room, but by that time, the Phantom is gone.

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The next day, Ambrose is holding auditions for the lead role. When Harry finds out, he’s furious, and confronts him about it. Ambrose tells Harry that it’s his opera, and he’ll make the decisions. Harry accuses him of mistreating Christine, and basically firing her for not sleeping with him. Ambrose then fires Harry. Harry goes to see Christine, and tells her that he’s been fired as well, so they’ll go celebrate because they both ‘got the sack’ today. Harry notices some sheet music in the room, and asks the landlord where she got it from. She tells him that a musical genius named Professor Petrie used to live there, and wrote some incredible music while living at the apartment. Harry asks what became of him, and she tells him that he was killed in a fire at a printing shop years earlier. They (Harry and Christine)  then spend a beautiful day together, and are falling in love with each other.

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They later investigate the printing shop, and the man tells them that the man who broke in didn’t die, but ran off after being burned by a fire and some acid that he thought was water, trying to douse the flames. They go to the river (Thames), and then decide it’s time to call it a night. The two take another carriage ride (this time driven by Miles Malleson), and kiss in the carriage. Harry then takes her home, but not long after getting in the door, Christine is assaulted by the Phantom’s sidekick, and taken to his lair. Christine awakens to find herself as a captive of the two men, and then is told by the Phantom, that when she sings, it will only be for him. He will instruct her on how to become a great singer, or suffer the consequences!

Will Harry be able to save Christine, and figure out the secret identity of the Phantom? Will someone put Ambrose out of his misery?

OK, here we go with my thoughts:

As i said earlier, if you’ve seen both films, you’ll probably agree that this one is better than the Universal film overall. Herbert Lom is a great Phantom, but he really sells his role as Professor Petrie. Those scenes are extremely emotional, and he really shows his acting chops in them. As the phantom, he’s creepy, but the film has a different angle than the Universal film, and you’ll either love it or hate it, in the end. I won’t give it away, but the person who you really want to see get theirs at the end of the flick might not be the Phantom.

The supporting cast is very strong too, and Edward de Souza deserves the lion-share of the credit. He really has you believing he’s a big time music producer, and an all around butt kicking dude! He has a fight scene with the sidekick/minion guy, and tells off Ambrose every ten minutes. He’s a ‘man of action’ type in this film, and really reminds me of a James Bond sort of character. Michael Gough is also sensational, in his portrayal of the dastardly Ambrose D’Arcy. You really want to see this guy get throttled about ten minutes into the film. Thorley Walters adds his usual oddity to this one, and you get the quick cameos by Michael Ripper and Miles Malleson, too!

Listen, before you start throwing rocks at me for saying this one is better than the Universal flick, get out there and grab this movie, and give it a try. It’s extremely underrated, but has a great cast, solid plot, a top-notch music score, and incredible sets as you’ve come to expect from Hammer Studios!

Click here for the trailer!