And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Starring Herbert Lom Ian Ogilvy Patrick Magee Peter Cushing Stephanie Beacham

From Amicus, the company that brought us such classic anthology horror gems as "Tales From the Crypt," "Asylum" and "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors," comes this below-average costume horror/drama which barely has Cushing in it, and suffers from way too much talk, too little action. It does have nice sets, however. And once Cushing does finally appear, the storyline picks up quite a bit and the film is actually a pretty fun gothic mystery. But we have to wait a full hour to get to this point.

Stephanie Beacham plays the new virgin-wife of aristocrat Charles Fengriffen (Ogilvy) and moves into his mansion in the British countryside, circa 1795. On the first day in her new home, however, she starts seeing strange things, including a ghostly hand that reaches out of a painting of one of Fengriffen's grandfather, not to mention a severed hand that crawls around the estate and strangles any one of the servants who dares speak about an ancient curse that put on the Fengriffen household. The family doctor (played by horror veteran Patrick Magee) is called in to help after Beacham's behavior becomes more and more paranoid. His only advice is to call in a real psychological expert to deal with the problem: That would be Dr. Pope, played by Peter Cushing. Herbert Lom also appears as the Ogilvy's evil grandfather in a flashbakck sequence.

As you can tell just from reading this synopsis, the film drags. Like I said earlier, there's way too much talk. In addition, the film feels like it's 45 minutes too long. When Magee's doctor character is killed off, only to be replaced by Cushing in a similar role, one wonders if the only reason Magee was even in the movie was because Cushing wasn't available to serve as the film's real star. The film is suprisingly bloodless, considering the fact that it received an R rating, and despite the fact that a demon rape is part of the storyline, there's precious little skin. The crawling severed hand that slithers around the household looks like the same one that appeared in the superior "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors." Good to see that the producers made extra use of a decent prop.

Amicus was the big competitor of Hammer in the '60s and '70s, but it looks like they should have stuck with the excellent anthology horror films they were known for. Ultimately, "And Now the Screaming Starts" will deliver for hardcore fans of British costume-drama fear films and especially for fans of Cushing, who gives an all-right performance as the Van Helsing-like psychiatrist who arrives to save the day. But there's not much else to recommend here.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


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