|Scream of Fear (1961)
Run time: 81 min
Genres: Horror | Mystery | Thriller
Director: Seth Holt
Writers: Jimmy Sangster
Stars: Susan Strasberg, Ann Todd, Ronald Lewis
A wheelchair bound girl (Strasberg) visits her father in France and is told he is away on business. She knows differently, and investigating what has happened to him puts her own life in danger. A sharply directed thriller with a few surprises.
Release Date: 22 August 1961 (USA)
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Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961) is a marvelous, unknown (at least to me) Hammer film. The story concerns a girl in a wheelchair going to live with her Dad whom she hasn’t seen in years. Upon arrival, she meets her stepmother for the first time and is informed that her Dad is away on business. That night, she investigates a strange light in the summer house and discovers here dead father. In her horrified state, she falls into the pool. After she’s revived, an investigation of the summer house reveals nothing. As the strange events continue to occur, the local doctor begins to doubt her sanity. But, with the help of the chauffeur, she’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before she is either killed or driven insane. Anymore of the story would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie.
I’ve seen some call Scream of Fear "predictable". While I agree to a certain extent, there are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep most anyone guessing. While I may have seen some of the events coming, I could have never guessed the ending. To me, it was an "edge of the seat" movie from start to finish.
The acting is first rate. All four of the major characters are brilliantly played. Susan Strasberg is convincingly fragile as the wheelchair-bound Penny Appleby. Ronald Lewis and Ann Todd are perfect as the chauffeur and stepmother, respectively. And, although all he does is come to dinner and talk psycho mumbo jumbo, Christoper Lee is mysterious and convincing as Dr. Gerrard.
Everything else about this film, from the beautiful black & white photography to the creepy score, is perfect. I’ve really got nothing bad to say.
Any fan of Hitchcock(ian) suspense and/or horror should track down this film…you won’t be disappointed. This is one film where the actors really seemed to love being in their perspective roles…this is full of unexpected thrills! unpredictable twists and turns…this one will keep you guessing and watching. Don’t miss it!
I saw this movie with my brother when we were kids. It is absolutely stunning! I remember we have been so afraid about some scenes that it was hard to close the light in our room for sleeping. Some facts are revealed at the end of the movie which makes it fascinating too! A "must see" movie! Shame on the industries, cannot get it on DVD!
While Hammer Studios usually made horror/sci-fi films occasionally they would make thrillers that were reminiscent of Hitchcock. This story starts out with a female body being dragged out of a Scandinavian lake but later a woman in a wheelchair arrives in France where a hired driver is waiting to pick her up. Susan Strasberg plays Penny Appleby and she had sustained an injury while horse riding so she is now paralyzed. Her parents were divorced when she was young and she has been living with her mother but she died and now she has come to see her father. She hasn’t seen him in ten years and he has remarried to a woman named Jane (Ann Todd). Penny is picked up at the airport by Bob (Ronald Lewis) who is very friendly and during the drive he mentions that her father is sick but doesn’t know how badly. She arrives and meets Jane who informs her that her father has gone out of town on business.
Once Penny starts to stay on her father’s estate she starts to see lights going on in a cabin and when she enters to see what it is she is horrified to see the corpse of her father. No one believes her and Doctor Gerrard (Christopher Lee) suggests that she has an overly active imagination. But Penny keeps seeing her father and Bob tells her that he is probably dead and his body is kept hidden away. Penny and Bob figure out that Jane is out to get the inheritance if she can get Penny out of the way.
This film was made by Hammer Studio veterans and it was directed by Seth Holt who does a very good job of creating an eerie atmosphere right up until the very end. One of the things that I enjoyed were the scenes where there was no music or sound at all. In a very creepy scene Bob goes underwater to check the bottom of a pool that is dark and cluttered with debris and he finds the body of Penny’s father. This scene has no music or sound as Bob sifts through the darkness with only rays of light shining down and the suspense that builds during all this could be cut with a knife. Its an incredibly effective scene that may be the best in the whole film. Small parts of the script are a little predictable but there is a pretty neat twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. Strasberg is good as the frail Penny and she was a very talented actress that never received enough quality roles. This film is a hidden gem and a lot of fun to watch and it would be perfect to view on a rainy night.