Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scream (Part 2)

How can one go past a 1971 film called ‘Die Screaming, Marianne’, featuring a blonde babe go-go dancing in a bikini on the cover? How, I ask you? I am not made of stone. I had to buy this film, even though it cost nearly $3.34.

‘Die Screaming, Marianne’ tells the story of the eponymous heroine trying, fairly unsuccessfully it must be said, to escape the clutches of her evil father and her whacked out half-sister. She briefly escapes to England with her lover, but forces conspire to drag her back to her father’s incongruously sunny lair in Portugal.

To get more of a feel for ‘Die Screaming, Marianne’, it may be instructive to take a closer look at the six main characters. It’s also enlightening to see how they die… and no, that’s not a spoiler. It’s a 70s film – of course everybody dies in the end. That’s why there are so few sequels of 70s films: the entire cast were generally dead by the closing credits.

Rodrigues (although we inevitably referred to him as “Senôr Combover”.)

Senôr Combover is the Judge's sinister henchman, whose oily broken English and equally oily strands of hair lend him a threatening aura. But he's not a really bad guy. If only he'd had wild, untrammeled Warren Beatty hair he could have been the hero.

Death By: Electric chair, probably, since he strangles Hildegard after she makes an ill-advised attempt to seduce him. Girls, never bat your oversized false eyelashes at a tonsorially challenged Portuguese. That's one of the first things they teach you at any good finishing school.

The Judge

Marianne’s father, known only as The Judge, made his millions by taking bribes, which explains why he eventually had to flee to Portugal. He may be corrupt, but he doesn't take up the offer of incest made by his loony daughter, so by 70s standards he's not all bad.

Death By: Austin Healey convertible with faulty brakes (so basically any Austin Healey convertible). Of course one could argue that it was actually the plunging mountain roads of Portugal that killed him... I mean, you're not going to die if your Austin Healey's brakes fail when you're sitting in a stationary traffic jam on the A45 outside Thrapston, are you?


Marianne's half-sister Hildegarde is as mad as a box of frogs, and looks like Twiggy must have felt when she was woken up at 6am after a particularly hard night of partying. I suspect that she applied her eyeshadow (in a classic 70s shade of blue) by painting it onto a boxing glove and then getting someone to clock her one.

Together with her father, Hildegarde plots to kill Marianne before her 21st birthday so that she and her father can steal her inheritance. Psychopaths with poor impulse control are not, however, the most astute project managers, and her plans inevitably end with Marianne escaping and Hildegarde left bedraggled and fuming, like a wild-eyed Petula Clark who's been shoved through a car wash.

Death By: Irritable Portuguese man.

Bury me... with... my false eyelashes...


In theory, she's the perfect exploitation heroine: a nubile, blonde, free-spirited, bikini-clad go-go girl. And yet for some unfathomable reason we never get to see her boobies. Somebody didn't really seem to understand what the 70s were all about.

Marianne's a sweet girl who's had a hard life, having left home at 14 to escape her deranged family and making her way in the world using nought but her go-go dancing skills. She's not the cleverest bikini on the beach, however. Even after she's had incontrovertible proof that her sister is trying to kill her, she keeps going back to the family home instead of holing up in a busy motel... in another country. What can one say?

On the plus side, she never seems to be wearing pants. For this at least we are grateful.

Death By: Loneliness, given that she was the only who didn’t end up dead or arrested.


As Marianne's naive love interest, Eli is all smooth boyish good looks (somewhere under that giant pink and purple cravat) and twinkly eyed kindliness. Bizarrely the audience gets to see him with his shirt off twice, while Marianne keeps her outfits resolutely G rated. What a gyp.

Death By: Obscurely motivated former best friend.


Perhaps at age 32 Christopher Sandford was a little old to be playing Sebastian, especially as he had one of those angular, cadaverous faces that make a man appear to be 70 his entire life. He looks like somebody's grandpa cunningly disguised as a mod youth, with tight paisley shirts and an enormous mop top wig which smothered his head like a hirsute jellyfish devouring a sardine.

Sebastian starts out as Marianne's boyfriend, but gets seduced over to the Dark Side by Hildegarde's wiles and the promise of £1000. I appreciate that inflation ran high in the 70s, but even so £1000 doesn't seem like a lot to doublecross your sweetheart and your best friend. That'll barely get you a good iPhone plan, let alone a buffer from karmic retribution. Still, Sebastian agrees to the scheme, and presumably died knowing that he could at last afford to get the brakes fixed on his Austin Healey.

Death By: Falling into an abandoned cellar and being forgotten.

The odd thing about ‘Die Screaming, Marianne’ is that I think it’s actually better now than when it was released thirty eight years ago. Back then it would have been nothing more than a bland, low-budget little thriller which scandalously wasted several perfect opportunities to showcase Susan George’s breasts. Now, on the other hand, it’s a hilarious cavalcade of ridiculous hairstyles, ludicrous clothes and quaint attempts to shock. The whole “no breasts” problem still stands, of course, but other than that it’s a priceless piece of kitsch.

If only they hadn’t killed everyone. Then we could have had a sequel.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A classic, it really is, and the opening Gog dance sequence really is a treat


2:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home