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Overall Rating
1.86

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad85.71%
Total Crap: 14.29%

1 review, 1 rating


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Die Screaming, Marianne
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by Jack Sommersby

"Arid and Inert So-Called Horror Tale"
2 stars

Susan George iis a dynamic screen presence. Too bad she's wasted in this mess of a film that's as tantalizing as a tax audit.

In the DVD notes for Die Screaming Marianne it states that this was director Pete Walker's first venture into the Horror genre, but the film is as far from a horror film as you can get -- it belongs in this genre like The Cannonball Run belongs in the Drama one. Set in Portugal, the story involves the young and beautiful Marianne (played by Susan George), a sexually-liberal woman who's first seen in bed with a shore-leave sailor. She then takes off from her family home and is almost accidentally run over by a motorist, Sebastian (Christopher Sandford), whom she reluctantly agrees to marry in London a couple of weeks later at his steadfast urging. But she pulls a bit of a doozy: while Sebastian is distracted, she has the name of his likable friend and best man at the wedding, Eli (Barry Evans), put on the marriage certificate, making her technically married to him. Sebastian is outraged, Marianne quickly moves out of his place and takes refuge at Eli's. This, however, is just the beginning of things.

Sebastian goes back to Portugal (and here's where the plotting gets really spotty) and to Marianne's family home, which is populated by her father (Leo Genn), a corrupt former judge (referred to only as The Judge), and her half-sister Hildegarde (Judy Huxtable), whom Sebastian has slept with before. At the onset, it's apparent that Sebastian and Marianne don't know one another, so how he was sleeping with her half-sister without her knowing is beyond me, especially when it's more than apparent that he had just left Marianne's home right before he almost ran over her. Anyway, the Judge, who has incestuous longings for his two daughters, hires Sebastian to bring Marianne and Eli back there, for it's less than two weeks before Marianne's twenty-first birthday, and on that day she'll inherit seven-hundred-thousand pounds from her deceased mother. And that's not all: for Marianne also possesses the numbers for a Swiss account that has blackmail notes concerning her father that he wants back. Suffice to say, the Judge and the conniving Hildegarde intend nothing but harm to Marianne but can't do so until they have those numbers.

The screenplay, by Murray Smith, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We're not clear on why Marianne agrees to go with Sebastian back to the Judge's seaside house for a few days since she doesn't trust Sebastian and knows what her family wants from her. And why does she have Eli, whom she's grown to love, tag along when she also knows that he'll be put in danger there, especially since two henchmen of the Judge's had accosted him just hours before? Why does Eli go along with this? In fact, how does Sebastian know that Marianne's staying with Eli when Eli made it clear several scenes back right after she walked out on Sebastian that he'd keep her staying with him a secret? And it gets worse. Since Marianne is needed alive, why does Hildegarde trap her in a fatally-hot sauna? Sure, Marianne finds a way out through the ceiling, and Hildegarde meant it as a way of weakening her, but what if Marianne hadn't found a way out? And then, why does Marianne still stay at the house rather than taking off? Eli's been sent to town to run an errand, but this still doesn't explain Marianne sticking around to give her family even more opportunities to harm her.

Die Screaming Marianne is intended as, I guess, a psychological thriller, but it's too overdeliberate and lumbering to function as one. It's devoid of both tension and suspense, the characters are pathetically drawn, and its point-of-view is stilted. Whose eyes are we seeing the story through? Marianne's? There are too many cutaways from her to her family's goings-on making us aware of their intentions too early on, so a you-are-there narrative drive is lacking that would effectively put us in Marianne's place so we could identity with her as she experiences things throughout. The film is odious with an attitudinizing of smugness that I found repellent -- it purports to be sly without ever incorporating tactful slyness into anything, and you're left pondering what exactly you're supposed to be held by. And Walker's work is lazy. He doesn't properly shape the scenes, nor is he able to locate the dramatic center to them, which is the kiss of death in any film intended to generate thrills. He simply has no talent for underlying, percolating tension of that of a François Ozon or Claude Chabrol. Watching Die Screaming Marianne is like watching a boneless white elephant lying in your living room for ninety-seven minutes without even a bag of buttered popcorn to alleviate the drabness.

Luckily, there's the ethereal presence of Susan George to somewhat make up for the film's many shortcomings. All of the other cast members are adequate, with Evan's Eli particularly fine, but George lights up the screen with a charisma and appeal that's simply breathtaking. Best remembered as Dustin Hoffman's libidinous wife in Straw Dogs, George hasn't had much of the career you feel she should have had, with unremarkable supporting roles in the horror films The House Where Evil Dwells and Venom. Here, in a starring role, she reveals a tenderness and a talent for feeling through dialogue that demands your attention and justifies your interest. Yes, she's drop-dead gorgeous and looks fantastic in her sometimes-revealing wardrobe, but she can emit the carnal heat of a sex kitten yet still retain the compassion of a dramatic character with skill. She can't make the behavioral transitions of Marianne's in the least bit plausible because the screenplay is a mess, but she amazingly strings as along as if Marianne, if not George, believed in it all. She's superb. Unfortunately, this bafflingly inane film doesn't do her justice. And that, more than trying to steal away Marianne's inheritance, is the real crime.

Makes you not want to see any of the director's other film,s but those starring Ms. George, who deserves better than this.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16144&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/15/07 08:04:51
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User Comments

10/07/11 PAUL SHORTT DULL AND TEDIOUS 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006

UK
  13-Aug-1971 (15)

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Pete Walker

Written by
  Murray Smith

Cast
  Susan George
  Barry Evans
  Christopher Sandford
  Judy Huxtable
  Leo Genn
  Kenneth Hendel



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