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From a Whisper to a Scream (Bilingual Edition)
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Prepare to be shocked out of your skin with four grisly tales of terror in one small town! Legendary king of horror Vincent Price "gives his fullest, most sepulchral tones of macabre camp" (Los Angeles Times) to this gruesome anthology that will haunt you for days!On the night his niece is executed for committing a string of brutal killings, historian Julian White (Price) reveals the sinister secrets of her hometown, Oldfield, Tennessee, a horrific hamlet that spawns evil! But asthe town's murderous legacy is exposed with White's chilling accounts - including stories of a necrophiliac madman, a voodoo priest with life-prolonging powers, and a legion of children with an appetite for flesh - White doesn't realize that he is about to write the final chapter of Oldfield's morbid history...in his own blood!
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The movie is comprised of four tales of grotesque ghoulishness, tied together with a fifth, or wraparound story, featuring Price as a librarian/historian of the little southern town of Oldfield, Tennessee (Tenneseeing is believing!). Seems the town, which has a dark and troubled past, draws upon people to do nasty things...the first tale proper features an almost unrecognizable Gulager as Stanley Burnside, a mild, mousy man with about the thickest pair of glasses I've ever seen. Anyway, Stanley's got the hots for a babe he works with, but she seems hardly interested (not surprising as Stanley's got an creepy `albino' vibe going on). Stanley finally manages to wrangle a date, but things go from bad to worse (worse being murder) as an obviously repressed Stan loses his cool (I'm thinking he probably should have tossed one off prior to the date). Things get particularly weird as Stan wants a second date, even if he has to break into the funeral home to do so...the second story, set about thirty years earlier than the first, features Kiser as Jesse Hardwicke, a two-bit hood who, after being betrayed by his girlfriend, is shot, left for dead, and found by a resident of the swamp played by Caesar. Turns out the old man practices some kind of voodoo, and has a valuable secret which Jesse, being the greedy, ungrateful, rat slimeball he is, will stop at nothing to acquire. The third story, set in the 30s, features Rosalind Cash as a cruel and sadistic owner of a traveling carnival show that stops in Oldfield. Seems most everyone who works for her has done something bad in their past, and now she provides them protection, asking only one thing in return...complete and utter devotion. Did I mention she's a witchy woman? The trouble begins as one of her `performers' tries to break free of her grasp. The fourth and final story is set near the end of the civil war, and features Cameron Mitchell as an a-hole leader of a small group of Union soldiers separated from their unit. Learning that the war has actually ended, the group decides to sack and pillage some towns, Oldfield being first on the list. They get waylaid though, by a band of local orphans who've got plans of their own.
I liked the overall structure of the film, in that the intent being to show how the town was build on a history of violence, starting from the present and working back in reverse, chronological order. As far as the individual stories, they were hit and miss. The first was okay (Gulager especially good), but lacked the strong twist I was hoping for...it could have delivered a more powerful punch had the director not telegraphed the ending with text displayed on the screen (if you've seen the film, you probably know what I mean). The second tale, however, did have a most excellent twist, and turned out to be the best of the bunch, in my opinion. It kept things simple, which is probably why it worked better than the others. This one actually reminded me a lot of the stories from the old EC comics like Tales of the Crypt, or The Vault of Horror. The third story, the one about the traveling carnival, was my least favorite, as it had no real twist, was an anemic tale, and contained a whole lot of really bad acting, especially by Ms. Cash, who proved she could chew up the scenery as well as anyone. The other thing it had a whole lot of was blood in a spectacularly pointless sequence. I liked the fourth story about as much as I liked the third, which is to say not a whole lot. It was interesting, and showed some promise, but eventually petered out, especially in terms of the expected twist ending. And then there's the wrap around story...Vincent Price, looking pretty aged here, adds a lot to anything he's in, as he was an actor with incredible screen presence, along with being a consummate professional...too bad he wasn't utilized better than he was here. I did like the notion of who his character was and how he presented the stories, but again, there was something lacking, and I grew tired of his character continually harping on the evil inherent in the town (yeah, we got the point by now). The wraparound pieces in these horror anthologies general tend to be weak, but this one is especially flaccid. Overall the direction throughout is solid, but the writing was lacking in general, producing one, really good tale, one so-so, and two not so hot. I do enjoy a good horror anthology, and while I felt the effort was here, I have seen better...
The picture is presented in both fullscreen and anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) on this DVD. The picture quality is decent, but I did notice some slight `graininess' resulting in a lack of overall sharpness. It's not terrible, but I think it could have been cleaned up a little. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through well enough. The only extra feature is a poor looking theatrical trailer for the film, which really is much of a feature, but oh well...
If you enjoy horror anthologies like this, I'd recommend checking out some other films like Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), Torture Garden (1967)*, The House That Dripped Blood (1970)*, Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972)*, From Beyond the Grave (1973), and The Vault of Horror (1973). Not all are available on DVD at this time, but should be...
*denotes film is available on DVD in the states, as I write this (Torture Garden was just recently released).
Yarn #1 is about a sexually repressed milquetoast who kills and then rapes women to relieve his urges, but one of his victims returns from the grave seeking revenge...or at least child-support payments. This story is the lamest of the four. Segment #2 is about a small-time thug who stumbles across the secret to eternal life. Only problem is, the secret rests with an old hermit who practices voodoo, and the hermit isn't keen on giving up his knowledge. Story #3 also involves voodoo, only this time it's a voodoo priestess who uses her powers to create freaks and geeks for her travelling sideshow. When one performer decides he can no longer stomach a life in show biz, he suffers more than a mere case of indigestion. The final segment is about a troupe of Union Soldiers who stumble into the hands of a band of Confederate orphans. Their minds tainted by the horrors they've seen, the children have formed their own theist government and plan to dish out some justice to the hapless Yanks. It's not hard to see the influence of William Golding's novel LORD OF THE FLIES on this yarn, and though one might also compare it to the screen adaptation of Stephen King's CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), this one is actually more chilling.
The wraparound ends the flick with a bit of a surprise ending, but it still just not as interesting as the individual segments. Though Price and Tyrell do an outstanding job with what they are given, each of the vignettes also feature stellar performers--performers such as Clu Gulager, Rosalind Cash, and Cameron Mitchell, to name but a few--and since they are working with better scripts, it makes the wraparound come off as a bit disappointing. Indeed, each of the individual segments, with the possible exception of #1, could certainly stand alone as a strong episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT or NIGHT GALLERY.
Overall, then, most genre fans will really enjoy FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, and the DVD from MGM will make a fine edition to any fan's collection. It's relatively no frills, offering only the theatrical trailer as bonus material, but the double-sided disc does offer the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) on one side and the full-screen butchery on the other. Well worth the very reasonable price of admission.
Beneath the small-town exterior of Oldfield, Tennessee lies a history of shocking violence and terrifying phenomena, as recounted by local historian Julian White (Vincent Price). In the '80s, an office worker (Clu Gulager) nurses a deadly crush. In the '50s, a witch doctor (Harry Caesar) holds the secret to unending life. In the '30s, fighting breaks out in a traveling carnival over forbidden love. Finally, in the 1860s, Union soldiers discover a group of orphaned children with a deadly agenda.
When you see Vincent Price’s name attached to “From a Whisper to a Scream,” your mind will drift to the classic films he made in the 1960s and 1970s, which were tame by today’s horror standards. I assure you that’s not the case here. The four tales presented come stuffed full of the gore and gruesomeness we all expect from 1980s genre movies.
“From a Whisper to a Scream” is rated R for violence and gore, adult situations, nudity, profanity, alcohol, drugs, smoking, and frightening and intense sequences. Necrophilia is insinuated which spawns a deformed monster baby in one of the most disturbing segments of the film. No nudity is shown in relation to sex. It was still unnecessary and added nothing to the story or plot.
Scream Factory packs the Blu-ray edition of “From a Whisper to a Scream” full of bonus material that will thrill collectors of the macabre. New audio commentaries are provided by Director Jeff Burr, Producer Darin Scott, and Co-Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner. A feature length documentary about teenagers making “Super 8” movies in 1970’s Georgia is included. Director Jeff Burr, Producer Darin Scott, Co-Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, Actor Clu Gulager, and others star in a feature documentary about the making of “From a Whisper to a Scream.” It also contains a still gallery, foreign theatrical trailer, and TV spots.
“From a Whisper to a Scream” fits perfectly somewhere between other portmanteau films made in the 1980s like “Tales from the Darkside” and “Creepshow” and 1960s classics such as “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.” Vincent Price serving as the teller of the sordid stories lends an air of nostalgia which leads the viewer to expect a bit more quality to what might be mistakenly thought of as just another attempt at an anthology collection. However, you’ll find yourself glad you made the trip to Oldfield as the ending credits roll.
There are four different stories linked together by the 74 year old Vincent Price who expounds upon the evil inherent in his hometown of Oldfield Tennessee which causes people to do violent and murderous things. The first story has mild mannered Clu Gulager killing a co-worker and then receiving his comeuppance from her offspring who was conceived after she died. In the second a wounded man discovers the secret of an extremely long life but at an awful cost. Story number three is there to satisfy the gorehounds as it tells what happens to a carnival glasseater who crosses the woman who first gave him the power. The last tale involves renegade Yankee soldiers led by Cameron Mitchell and a devastated Southern town inhabited only by children. This town turns out to be Oldfield and what happens here is the origin of the town's evil nature. Well directed by Jeff Burr (PUPPET MASTER 4 & 5) on a really low budget, this film apparently sat on the shelf awhile which is too bad because it's very effective although some may find the stories a bit too cruel. The DVD transfer looks great. Recommended for fans of both the old and new schools of horror.
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