27 January 2006 | Coventry
Mediocre horror tryout for Pete Walker
I'm a great admirer of director Pete Walker and I personally feel that most of his horror films unquestionably belong to the absolute best independent British productions ever made! Titles like "Frightmare", "Schizo" and "House of Whipcord" are downright GREAT genre films with genuinely shocking plot-twists and an almost natural aversion to political correctness. Back in 1971, Walker made his very first attempt to do horror with "Die Screaming Marianne" and, to my own regret; it wasn't a very good one. The story largely feels like a failed crossover between a crime-thriller and the Italian giallo (which was also hugely popular in that era) and it's still too similar to the silly & light-headed sex comedies that Walker used to make previously, like "School for Sex" or "The Four Dimensions of Greta". The ravishing star Susan George plays the headstrong girl Marianne who flees from her parental mansion in Portugal and hooks up with a duo of typically British friends. Her infamous father (a former corrupt judge) and her wicked stepsister need her back in Portugal urgently because Marianne will soon turn 21 years old, and then she has access to her deceased mother's fortune as well as the dirty family secrets. This is a very basic description of the film's story and there are loads of unimportant sub plots and incomprehensible twists that aren't really worth mentioning. The screenplay is stunningly incoherent and abruptly jumps from one sequence to another without even trying to make sense. New characters are introduced swiftly and they travel back and forth between Portugal and London like it's an ordinary day trip. And yet, despite all its flaws, "Die Screaming Marianne" surely has potential and it's interesting viewing for Pete Walker fans, as he already approaches some of the topics that'll become his hobbyhorses in later films. The judge character played by Leo Genn, for example, is a typically corrupt and perverted figure that smuggles away all his dirty acts and the stepsister is a greedy bitch who'd do anything for power and money. Other positive elements include some nice set pieces, a catchy title song and a beautifully staged scene inside a sauna! Susanne George is magnificent but her two male counterparts are odd-looking idiots. Like another reviewer already pointed out, this film becomes much more interesting if you watch it with Walker's audio commentary on, as he amplifies many bits and pieces that are shown poorly in the actual film.