And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Peter Cushing, Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham, Herbert Lom, and Patrick Magee
This is the only Amicus Films pre-1900’s gothic period piece. It starts with a ride in a horse-drawn coach and a small introduction narrative. Catherine and Charles Fengriffen are newly married and Catherine is being shown around the castle estate. Stephanie Beachman looks wonderful as Catherine in her Victorian dress, bustier showing an impressive amount of cleavage. Charles, (Ian Ogilvy) is showing her the family ancestral portraits when she is unduly mesmerized by a painting of Henry (Herbert Lom), grandfather to Charles. Soon there are strange occurrences tormenting the young newlywed. Windows open and doors lock by themselves. An eyeless apparition of a man with no right hand appears. A disembodied hand attacks Catherine. Subsequently friends, workers and servants of the family begin to die. I imagine at the time some of these scenes would have been quite chilling. I have to say Beacham does scream quite a bit in this film, which, as an old-time horror fan, gives me an enjoyable satisfaction.
When Catherine is discovered to be with child, examined by a secretive family doctor, Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee), the details of the haunting begin to make themselves known. The woodsman that lives on the property is suspect of the mounting murders but the story is not so simple. When Charles calls in a doctor from London, played by the impeccable Peter Cushing, it certainly elevates the mystery aspect. He portrays a psychiatrist looking to find the facts, a character reminiscent of his role as Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. He discovers there is a curse upon the house and the male children that are born within it, associated with the philandering ancestor, Henry Fengriffen. It is up to Dr. Pope to discover if this curse is real or imagined, supernatural or by the hands of the living.
If you can put yourself in the mindset of the era, you may enjoy the tale that unfolds. I can’t say it would be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like the slower story-telling pace of 60’s and 70’s films and you like period pieces, this is a good viewing choice. It’s not the best of its kind, but eerie nevertheless. Despite the dated effects and style, it is a decent gothic story with both mystery and paranormal aspects. It’s visually colorful and vibrant, and looks great in HD (not always the case with older films). The film is based on the novel Fengriffen by David Case, written for screen by Roger Marshall and deftly directed by Roy Ward Baker.
Trivia: The gothic estate used in the film is Oakley Court, now a 4-star Hotel near Bray village, Berkshire England. The estate was also used in, The Brides of Dracula (1960), Nightmare (1963), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Bells of St. Trinian’s (comedy-1954) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films.
You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview