FEBRUARY 3, 2009
While most of the movies on my Hammer Horror Series set were pretty good (and in The Evil of Frankenstein's case, great), the Hammer Films: Icons Of Horror Collection is 0-2 so far (with only 4 films on the set). Gorgon suffered from a total lack of monster action, but even that was more fun than Scream Of Fear (aka Taste Of Fear). To be fair, Paranoiac (which came two years later) ripped it off blind, which spoils some of the suspense because I already saw that one, but still, this one’s a snoozer.
However, being that it was produced in 1961, I believe it may be the first in what would be a pretty long line of movies from the 1960s that concern an attractive young person being driven insane so that their evil relatives can steal their inheritance (see also: Dementia 13, Nightmare, The Ghost, and obviously Paranoiac). Usually I bemoan seeing the movies out of order, but in my opinion, those others improved on this one anyway. There are a couple of nice visuals (dead guy in the pool!) and lead actress Susan Strasberg is quite good, but all those other movies offered the same (well, Paranoiac offered a drunken Oliver Reed) and more.
For starters they had some actual intrigue, whereas Fear offers no such thing. There are only four people in the movie, and horror movie rules state that the guy who is being abnormally nice to our heroine must be a villain. Her stepmom doesn’t even really try to hide her villainy, which means the only question you may have during the 80+ minute running time is “Is Christopher Lee a bad guy too?”
Well, no. He’s got a silly French accent (did people enjoy movies ironically back in 1961?) and he sort of looks like Andy Garcia, but I think that’s just to help throw you off track. He’s actually a good guy, and the one decent surprise reveals that some of his more red herring-y scenes were all an act. I usually don’t care for this type of plotting (it requires way too much planning on the part of our heroes, not to mention that any slight deviation on the part of the villains would cause their entire plan to unravel. These people must be chess masters), but at least I was somewhat surprised by the final five minutes. It was still fairly dull, but it’s something.
I almost sort of wish this plot would make a comeback. Maybe not a direct remake of any of these films, but a standard “inheritance/drive someone crazy” movie, albeit with today’s bells and whistles, not to mention more complicated plotting. Say what you will about the Saw films, but damned if I am not genuinely surprised by one or two of the twists in the first few films, something I am finding increasingly rare with these older films. Modern audiences are conditioned to think faster when watching these things, which allows for more characters/complicated plots (if Saw II existed in the 1960s, I am guessing that there would be two people in the house, tops). It’s a shame the series (and their creators) are often lambasted for the gore/torture, because the actual plotting is pretty goddamn clever I think. But an even bigger shame is that their success brought forth a bunch of films that ripped off the wrong aspect of it.
What say you?