Okay, in all fairness, I should point out that the screaming that’s starting in the title is actually that of Stephanie Beacham, the star of the film, and not that of the viewer. Now that the “truth in advertising” disclaimer is out of the way, the plot, in a nutshell, has to do with Catherine (Beacham) marrying Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy) and moving into his house. What Charles forgets to tell her is that there’s a curse on the house, but she finds evidence of it pretty quickly…as in two minutes or so after entering the house. The curse has something to do with Charles’s grandfather, but no one will actually tell Catherine what the curse entails…although there’s this disembodied hand that keeps crawling about, and a facially-birthmarked woodsman keeps popping up at inopportune moments.
And Now the Screaming Starts!!! is based on a novel by David Case called Fengriffen. I haven’t read the book, as I couldn’t seem to find a good used copy for under $40. I did, however, find a book called The Mammoth Book of Short Horror Novels that contains it, so I’ve ordered it. It should be in sometime soon, but I figured that I’d go ahead and get this post up anyway.
The film begins in a very Rebecca-esque way, with Beacham doing a voiceover over shots of her and Ogilvy riding in a coach on the road leading to The House. In it she says:
“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 was to find my days filled with fear, my nights filled with horror.”
If you’ve seen a fair number of British horror films, you should recognize The House instantly: it’s a place called Oakley Court that has been used in several Hammer films (such as The Plague of the Zombies), the oddball film Girly, and, most famously, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was sold in 1979 and reopened in 1981 as a luxury hotel. If you want to see what it looks like today, and perhaps book a room while you’re at it, you can do that at the Oakley Court, Windsor’s website here.
I find the film to be quite entertaining, but it is let down a bit by a fairly stupid ending. Still, it’s a very good-looking and professional production. Pretty much everyone involved with the film had already been active in horror films: Stephanie Beacham had just been in Dracula A.D. 1972; Ian Ogilvy had starred in all of director Michael Reeves’s credited films (The She-Beast, The Sorcerers, and Witchfinder General [a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm in America]); Patrick Magee had been in horror films since Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 in 1963; Herbert Lom had been, among many other horror roles, Hammer’s Phantom of the Opera; and Peter Cushing’s along for the ride, too–and sporting quite the foppish haircut.
Director Roy Ward Baker was no stranger to horror films either, with And Now the Screaming Starts!!! his third film in a row for Amicus, after Asylum and The Vault of Horror. Before those, he’d helmed several productions for Hammer, including the space western Moon Zero Two and The Vampire Lovers. And before ALL of that, he’d directed Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother to Knock and had made the best Titanic movie until James Cameron came along, 1958’s A Night to Remember.
Now, a few words about Amicus. Amicus Productions was formed somewhere around 1960 by two Americans, Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg. The company was based in England and, while they produced all sorts of films, they became best known as producers of horror anthology films such as Torture Garden, The House that Dripped Blood, and Tales from the Crypt. These films usually starred many of the same people who showed up regularly in Hammer films, leading to some confusion as to which films were made by which production company. (Here’s a way to help keep ‘em at least a little straight: Hammer never made an anthology film.) While the majority of Amicus’s output in the horror genre was anthology films, they also made some single-story horror features as well, such as And Now the Screaming Starts!!!, The Beast Must Die, and The Skull. If you were a horror movie kid growing up in the early ‘70s, Amicus films were must-sees. I saw several of them in the theater, but I didn’t get to see this one, as it’s one of their rare features to be rated R.
And Now the Screaming Starts!!! (you’ve GOT to love the three exclamation marks in the title) was released in the United States by Cinerama, which was active from the ‘50s until 1974. Among the non-Amicus films that Cinerama released are Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls, Terror in the Wax Museum, Walking Tall, and Willard and its sequel, Ben. I always knew that I was in for a fun viewing experience if a film started with the Cinerama logo. It may be odd to have favorite movie company logos, but this is one of mine:
So, as is often the case, I’ve come to the point in the post where I offer up a trailer from YouTube. I found this, although I can’t be sure if it’s a 60-second TV spot or just a really short trailer. You be the judge:
And, lucky for you, someone has posted the entire film at YouTube! You really should watch the whole movie, now that you’re parked in front of your computer anyway. Two things of note to watch for–the cemetery has some pretty active fog going the first time it shows up, even though it appears to be midday, and Stephanie Beacham is one of the great on-screen fainters of the ‘70s. See what you think:
Up next: British nurses go bicycling in France!