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May 2010

Die Screaming, Marianne

cast: Susan George, Barry Evans, Leo Genn, and Christopher Sandford

director: Pete Walker

96 minutes (15) 1971
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Odeon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
review by Jim Steel

Die Screaming, Marianne

It's not just Marianne's fate we are concerned with here; in Pete Walker's films you can watch the death of the entire British film industry. Starting in the late 1960s with sex comedies, he progressed in the 1970s to horror while still retaining a heavy dollop of titillation. By the 1980s the game was up. In his defence it has to be said that he has never claimed to be making anything other than exploitation movies and many of them have since gone on to become cult favourites. It's not a very successful defence.

Die Screaming, Marianne is an attempt at a thriller that starts off a mess, builds to some sort of coherence in the middle, and then seems to fall apart again. Filmed at haste with a restrained budget, it also feels as if it has been edited with a machete. Murray Smith is credited with the script but improvisation on the director's part is suspected.

Marianne (Susan George) is a go-go dancer in Portugal who flees her family. Stumbling down a hillside she is nearly run over by creepy Sebastian (Christopher Sandford) who just happens to be on his way to London. He offers her a lift and, a fortnight later, she is living with him in his flat when he springs a surprise registry wedding on her. Desperate to get out of the situation, she fills in the best man's name on the form and technically ends up marrying him instead. The best man, Eli, is played by the familiar baby-face of Barry (Doctor In The House) Evans who gives the film the unfortunate appearance of a 1970s' sitcom whenever he is on screen. Walker has since said that he would have preferred to have had his friend Ian McShane play the part instead if he had been free at the time. Or anyone else, really...

Anyway, it turns out that Sebastian has had a relationship with Marianne's half-sister, Hidegarde (Judy Huxtable), which Marianne has somehow not been aware of, and he knows that Marianne is due to come into a large inheritance in a couple of days. She will also come into possession of papers that will incriminate her father, a corrupt ex-pat judge. The Judge (Leo Genn) is desperate to get both Marianne and Eli back to Portugal and under his control. Once everyone is back in the Algarve, the conspiracies unravel and the body-count builds. Curiously, a couple of the characters die off-screen (one of them merely to provide a telegraphed 'twist') which merely adds to the 'so-what?' feel of the thing. Another dies in an anti-climactic car crash that would doubtlessly have been more impressive if half the cameras hadn't jammed on the day.

The whole thing has an air of shoddiness that isn't helped by a mono soundtrack and poor (or poorly transferred) film stock. Susan George dances through the opening shot in a bikini and doesn't manage to distract attention away from the credits, which must be some sort of cinema first. Having said all of that, the cast perform competently enough (even the miscast Evans) although the actors do seem to be a mixture of some who hadn't realised that their careers had already peaked and others who mistakenly thought they were destined for better things.

Walker regular Kenneth Hendel, possessor of the worst haircut in film history, is also there, wandering about without direction, but it was the bigger names that caused problems for the director. In DVD extras, there is a 14-minute interview with Walker where he goes into great detail about the problems he had, and it is much more entertaining than the main feature. He also contributes a commentary along with critic Jonathan Rigby, and a photo gallery and five trailers for his films fill out the rest of this package.



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