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directed by Denny Harris
USA 1980

Too late to register for on-campus housing, Scotty (Rebecca Balding) must seek housing off-campus. After the montage of substandard rooms and eccentric landlords, Scotty ends up at the seaside Victorian mansion of Mrs. Engels (Yvonne De Carlo) and her tightly-wound son Mason (Brad Reardon) along with three other college students. No sooner are they settled in then one of their number (the drunk, playboy jerk) is savagely murdered on the nearby beach by a butcher knife-wielding killer. The police turn up no leads but the truth may be lurking between the walls of the old mansion watching the coeds through the vents.

Originally shot in 1977, SILENT SCREAM was actually a patch-up job in which the Wheat Bros. constructed a script around usable footage from a 1977 Denny Harris project. Among those recast for the new script were De Carlo, Mitchell, Schreiber, and Reardon along with several characters being re-conceived or written out. The filmmakers discovered it would be cheaper to build new sets on a soundstage (and shoot even more footage since commercial director Harris owned his equipment) for the same amount it would cost to re-rent and insure the old house location. While they made use of some interior footage from the original house, they found a different more atmospheric house in Highland Park. Had the film been released earlier, SILENT SCREAM might have taken the place of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN as the origin of the late seventies-eighties slasher craze (despite antecedents like BLACK CHRISTMAS) although the Carpenter film took such dangers to the suburbs while SILENT SCREAM retains the gothic horror element with its atmospheric seaside mansion setting. The chillingly effective presence of Barbara Steele in a pivotal role (without dialogue) is mainly what the film is remembered for but the rest of the performances are good (including one of the many Cameron Mitchell bit-parts that graced American horror films in the eighties). The scares are effective while the gore is restrained largely to PSYCHO-inspired stabbings. Due to the input of writer/producers Ken and Jim Wheat (and the participation of the original four college student actors), the film's style and tone are remarkably consistent considering the patchwork nature of the project (roughly 12 minutes of footage from the 1977 original survive in the final cut). The film also features an unusually elegant score - for a slasher - by TV/low budget genre composer Roger Kellaway.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 30 January 1980

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DVD Review: Scorpion Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Scorpion Releasing

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:26:27
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.9 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1); English (Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo)
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Scorpion Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary with writer/producers Ken and Jim Wheat and star Rebecca Balding
• SCREAM OF SUCCESS: 30 YEARS LATER (4:3; 40:36)
• SILENT SCREAM: THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT (4:3; 10:09)
• THE WHEAT BROS.: A LOOK BACK (4:3; 12:13)
• Director DENNY HARRIS' Final Audio Interview (30:00)
• Rebecca Balding Interview (4:3; 3:14)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 1:16)
• TV Spot (16:9; 0:33)

DVD Release Date: November 24, 2009
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Mastered in high definition, Scorpion Releasing's anamorphic and progressive DVD of SILENT SCREAM is quite an improvement over the VHS releases (the film was released on tape by Media Home Entertainment originally and then in an LP reissue by Video Treasures). The step-printed opening looks grainy (as expected) and underlit scenes still look dark (due to the rushed shooting) but gain in definition and sharpness. Contrast and detail are also better in the daylight exteriors. The film has been remixed in 5.1 and 2.0 stereo (not mislabeled dual mono) and does not feature the original mono mix but both mixes are strong and clear but not extravagant. Writer/producers Ken and Jim Wheat along with actress Rebecca Balding provide an entertaining audio commentary that clears up some of the mystery behind the film's production and distribution.

The SCREAM OF SUCCESS featurette (featuring input from the Wheat Bros. writing/producing team and actress Balding) seems overlong at 40 minutes and there is some overlap with the commentary but it is actually quite absorbing and conveys the large amount of planning that goes into an effective low budget shoot. The same team return for a shorter featurette about the contrived original screenplay and film before the reshoots. The Wheat Bros. appear in another featurette which briefly mentions SILENT SCREAM but focuses on their other projects like the original script for PITCH BLACK, their EWOKS sequel, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, THE FLY II, and THE BIRDS II. The audio interview with Denny Harris before his death was conducted by telephone over the course of five days so there are disclaimers about audio quality. Balding appears in a separate interview in which she briefly talks about her other cult horror film THE BOOGENS. A trailer and TV spot round out the extras of this excellent package.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Scorpion Releasing

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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