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Scream of Fear/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Scream of Fear
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Not as well traveled as some of the other Hammer films released during this period, Taste of Fear (U.S. title Scream of Fear) is blessed with above board performances, haunting cinematography and a crafty twisting and turning script.

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Penny (Susan Strasberg) is a wheelchair-bound woman who’s returning home for the first time in ten years. Her stepmother Jane (Ann Todd) welcomes her with open arms and the family chauffer Bob (Ronald Lewis) befriends her and lets her in on a few household secrets. But where is her father? Penny is told that he’s away on business but she swears she’s seen him surrounded by candles sitting in a chair in the pool house.

Susan Strasberg (famed daughter of celebrated drama coach Lee Strasberg) is superior as Penny: at turns frightened, belligerent and quizzical. She also delivers on the promise of the film title: she screams well.

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Strasberg’s nuanced performance is matched by that of Ann Todd. Method acting, with its myriad subtleties, is front and center; side glances, lowered voices, stuttering. And Strasberg and Todd's contribution can’t be understated: they are why this mystery/thriller/horror film is memorable.

If there’s a questionable casting choice, it might be Ronald Lewis as chauffer Bob. Looking more than a little like a young Wayne Newton, Lewis performs in the giant shadow cast by Strasberg and Todd—and the lurking star-power provided by Christopher Lee (in a cameo) as Dr. Gerrard, Jane’s psychiatrist/friend.

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Director Seth (Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb) Holt’s pacing compliments Jimmy (Dracula) Sangster’s script, which appears to be modern-minded: Penny’s female best friend was also her long-time “companion,” a woman who, when she died, left her “well provided for.”

One of the better looking black and white horror films released by Hammer, Scream of Fear, with its duplicitous characters, murky motives and creepy isolation is haunting.

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Josiah Howard is the author of four books including the seminal Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide. His writing credits include articles for The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Village Voice. A veteran of more than 100 radio broadcasts he is a regular contributor to Grindhouse Cinema Database and in 2014-15 made regular appearances on TV One’s award-winning documentary series Unsung. Visit his Official Website.
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