Die Screaming, Marianne (1970)
By: David Michael Brown on December 17, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.77:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 97 minutes
The Movie
Director: Pete Walker
Starring: Susan George, Barry Evans, Christopher Sandford
Writer: Murray Smith
Country: UK
By the end of his career director Pete Walker had produced one of the most grisly and downright disturbing bodies of work in British cinema. Full of nudity, corrupt judges, power tool abuse and an incredible line up of bad Seventies hairdos, his films are almost as shocking for their sideburns as they are for the then revolutionary graphic gore and gritty approach to the horror genre. For better of worse, Die Screaming, Marianne falls very early in the director's horror career. He had already cut his directorial teeth with a string of saucy softcore flicks including School for Sex, Cool it Carol and For Men Only but this film marked the beginning of a journey that would take in such classics as Frightmare, House of Whipcord, The Flesh & Blood Show and Schizo, not that he didn't return to his sleazy past with The Four Dimensions of Greta, in 3D no less.

Die Screaming, Marianne features a glorious title sequence to kick things off. Susan George, who went on to coarse a whirlwind of controversy with her performance in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, struts her stuff in a delirious go go dancing frenzy set to the marvellous music of Cyril Ornadel. It's a delightfully kitsch beginning that sets up George's character perfectly. She plays Marianne, a young heiress, living in Portugal, who is due to inherit millions, courtesy of her crooked mother, when she reaches the tender age of 21 years old. On the run from her father The Judge, played by Leo Genn from Lucio Fulci's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, she heads to England with Sebastian, Christopher Sandford, a dodgy wide boy and they decide to get married. The problem is she ends up getting hitched to his handsome friend Eli, Barry Evans, by mistake and so begins a strange series of events that lead Marianne back to the sun kissed Portugese coast and her money hungry father.

While the film never achieves the violent or sexual fervour of his other work there is plenty to enjoy in Die Screaming, Marianne. There are a few signature Pete Walker moments that lift this above the standard British thriller it could have easily become. Marianne's sister and her potentially incestuous relationship with their father is certainly bizarre. The Judge also marks the beginning of Walker's depiction of old English institutions, corrupt judges in House of Whipcord, the church in House of Mortal Sin. His villains have always taken the moral high ground despite the fact they are always in the wrong.

For modern day viewers Die Screaming, Marianne's kitsch charm's may be lost. The films pacing is almost static at times but Susan George makes for a desirable heroine who really holds the film together. The heroics of the two male leads are rather lack lustre.
Considering the age of the film and the usual gritty dirty look that most low budget early Seventies British horror's seem to strive for, Die Screaming, Marianne looks remarkably good. The print is dirty in places with plenty of scratches near any reel changes, but check out that opening sequence! The reds that form the backdrop to George's gyrations are strong and vibrant. A massive improvement on previous video incarnations.
The 5.1 surround mix is clear and sharp but to be honest not much use is made of the rear speakers. The soundtrack comes out loud and clear and is the main beneficiary of the new soundtrack upgrade.
Extra Features
The theatrical trailer plus a selection of similarly themed Umbrella trailers is all the extras we get. It's a shame that Umbrella didn't include the running commentary by Pete Walker included in the Anchor Bay box set dedicated to the director in the UK.
The Verdict
Whilst lacking the gory thrills of his later work this film does mark a turning point in the career of Pete Walker, and for that the film holds an interest. Yes, the film meanders, and to be honest it's not that as thrilling or as titillating as you would hope from the films horrific title and salacious DVD cover, but it does hold a certain charm. Maybe it's just the sight of a swinging London full of red double decker buses that does the trick, but for anyone with an interest in this era of British filmmaking, Die Screaming, Marianne has to be on your shopping list.
Movie Score
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