Scream Bloody Murder (1973)

ImageImage

ImageImageImageImage

I couldn’t decide which was the more lurid poster so I went with both.  I’d been looking forward to seeing Scream Bloody Murder (also known as Matthew, Claw of Terror and The Captive Female) for a while.  I had seen the trailer a number of times and boy did it look good!  Of course by good I mean, completely outrageous and devoid of anything resembling good taste.  And, to be honest, I’m a little surprised by the IMDB user comments, which claim that the movie was, among other things, boring.  It certainly wasn’t that!  I was torn though.

This may sound like a pretty lofty claim but during the movie, I kept thinking, “hey, there’s more to this than just a gross-out fest!”  Filmmaker Marc B. Ray probably would disagree but in making the female character likable and smart, Scream Bloody Murder almost felt like a strong woman film at times.  Or maybe I’m full of crap considering she was tied up quite often.  It just seemed that, unlike a lot of similar movies, you were legitimately on her side in her struggle as opposed to delighting in watching mindless chaos and violence.

First of all the pacing was a little strange.  I’ve seen the trailer for The Captive Female, so I was under the impression that the movie focused almost entirely on the two characters – the villain Matthew (Fred Holbert) and the heroine Vera (Leigh Mitchell) – in one of those tasteless “abducted women” exploitation films.  Maybe I had The Sinful Dwarf in mind.  I don’t know for sure.

The point I’m making is that Scream Bloody Murder is like two films in one.  The first half is pretty much just a slasher movie while the second is the disturbing dominance/submission thriller that the trailer was advertising.  Basically, what happens is that a little kid Matthew runs over his dad with a tractor, then loses his own hand to said tractor and is sent to the looney bin all during the credit sequence.  When the movie actually begins, he’s 19 years old and has a hook in place of his hand; I’m also positive that they had Norman Bates in mind for the character.  It’s a wonder how this character managed to feign sanity for so long considering how he immediately goes on a killing rampage starting with his mom and her new husband.

This is where it gets really crazy; he just kills tons of people on his trek from his hillbilly farm to L.A.  In the process he pictures every woman who is with a man as his mother.  The movie shows us what he sees before he kills people; it looks like a bad acid trip in which the screen gets really distorted and color and the women turn into hideous monsters.  So he kills them and the men they are with.

The tone and pace change when Matthew meets adorable, sassy, redheaded prostitute Vera.  I’m actually surprised people said the acting was bad.  I think she played the part with class and her role as the hooker wasn’t exploitative.  I suppose you could argue that Ray didn’t need to make her a prostitute in the first place.  But then, Matthew wouldn’t be able to complain about “all those men touching you.”

I feel like I’m giving away too much plot here but let’s just say to get Vera in the house – any house – he had to, ahem, get rid of its occupants; “sorry m’am but I’m going to need the house.”  Then the fun really starts!  Like I said the Vera character is intelligent, quick witted and likeable so the movie actually seemed to be about her struggle to free herself.  Furthermore, unlike a lot of these exploitation films, the villain doesn’t rape the victim or drug and sell her into white slavery.  Matthew’s intentions of taking Vera away from the prostitute lifestyle are essentially good, if not misguided.  But ultimately it’s Vera’s choice what she does with her life.  She even uses sex as a weapon against her captor.   Do you see where I’m going with this?  It seems Ray was trying to be a little more ambitious than your typical exploitation director.  On the other hand the Vera character was still tied up in a lot of scenes.

Bottom line is I really liked this movie and don’t understand why it gets a bad rep.  Let me rephrase that.  I don’t understand why people into this type of crap knock the movie so much.  The kill scenes were pretty predictable but then the plot soon had some twists and turns I wasn’t expecting.

But in case you really want to make sure it’s worth 4/4 iron crosses, here it is in its entirety!

Coven

Image
special introductory paragraph
Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls
Coven
Blood on the Snow

What do you do when your bar band can’t get a deal?  You have to come up with some sort of gimmick.  And that gimmick was, of course, Satanism and witchcraft.  Coven weren’t the only band doing this stuff; there was Black Widow, Lucifer’s Friend and some Italian band I can’t think of off the top of my head.  Coven was a psychedelic rock band with some jazz and prog influence thrown in for good measure.  They often get compared with Jefferson Airplane but that’s probably only because of female lead singer Jinx Daweson.  Otherwise the comparison is as superficial as saying Led Zeppelin sounds like Black Sabbath.  The other members of Coven were Chris Neilsen (guitar), Rick Durrett (keyboards), Steve Ross (drums) and – I know everybody flips when they hear this even though it’s just a meaningless coincidence – Oz Osbourne (bass).  Keyboardist Rick Durrett would be replaced by John Hobbs at some point as well.  They made three albums and called it day.

Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls – Mercury – 1969

Image

The world must have been really different in 1969 if Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls was controversial enough that Mercury deleted the record shortly after its release.  It’s easily one of the most unintentionally funny albums you’ll ever hear and I can’t imagine anyone but the squarest of the square taking it seriously.

First of all, in spite of the relatively negative tone this piece is taking, I DO enjoy this album even if it’s for the wrong reasons.  The album is fun to listen to overall and certain songs like “Black Sabbath” and “Wicked Woman” are pretty catchy.  The musicians are on the entire time.  It’s just hard to really take a band seriously when the only things they sing about are Satanism, witchcraft, sacrifices and selling your soul.  But Steve Ross does some neat drum rolls and fills and both Chris Neilsen and Rick Durrett jam out on their respective axe and keyboard instruments.

The group also varies their approach from song to song.  The album’s tone is set with opening track “Black Sabbath” which utilizes eerie minor notes and “ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh” chants when describing a black mass.  While I understand that Dawson is trying to sound like some evil old English cult leader or something, her singing is actually pretty annoying.  She pronounces “them” as “themMM-ah” and uses soft “L” sounds that you would get when touching your tongue to the top of your mouth.  Fortunately she only uses this singing approach in two other songs.  One of those is “Coven in Charing Cross”, which, incidentally is also about a black mass and has (rolls eyes) the entire band chanting “they are seven/seven are they.”

But the other songs on the album don’t even attempt at creating a scary or evil mood.  They stick to the subject matter at hand but with an inappropriately gleeful tone.  “The White Which of Rose Hall” is a toe-tapping number about that voodoo/witchcraft enthusiast Annie Palmer from Montego Bay.  “Pact with Lucifer” tells the tale of a struggling farmer who sells his soul in order to get his crops to grow.  “Choke, Thirst, Choke” sounds way too happy to have lyrics like “choke, thirst, choke/devil we evoke.”  “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” actually has a swingin’ jazzy vibe to it!  The lyrics go “everything she touches dies”!  And the songs “Wicked Woman” and “Dignitaries from Hell” actually kind of rock!

But the biggest culprit on the album is “Satanic Mass.”  I’d heard about it before and, from what I read, I was totally expecting it to be some sort of experimental piece or ambient sound collage.  But no such luck.  It is actually a thirteen minute long recording of a satanic mass with no musical accompaniment.  Maybe some people found this crap scary but I find it about as exciting as you could expect from *hearing* people say a bunch of satanic mumbo jumbo for thirteen minutes.  And, if that gives you nightmares, then you need to get out more.

Coven – MGM – 1972

coven_st

The track “Washroom Wonder” begins with the sound of a flushing commode.

Well, they lifted the veil on this operation pretty quickly.  I guess they really were a mediocre bar band!  There is absolutely nothing connecting the second Coven album to the first.  And don’t think this is some sort of artistic progression, hell no!  See how the cover contains a photo of the band with their faces whited out and a black cat sitting in front of them?  Well that black cat meets mysterious, ghost face motif is a complete lie!  There is nothing dark on this album.  Aside from having the same name and personnel – though I think this one has the second keyboardist on it – Coven is like a completely different band.

They now play Southern rock; ya know, Black Oak Arkansas, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, southern rock!  Eight of the eleven were either written or co-written by guitarist Chris Neilsen and he loves playing those Grand Funk style blues riffs while the pianist hammer’s away on his boogie-woogie piano almost the entire time.  Like I said there is no darkness on the album.  Jinx Dawson sounds like a sassy, tough broad and seems to have added a Southern twang to her singing.  The song “Lonely Lover” even has a cowbell!  The album also detours briefly into sentimental 70s soft rock.  One of those is album opener “Nightingale” – complete with string arrangement – which really throws you for a loop since it neither continues the approach of the first album nor sounds like the rest of the second.  The other soft song is a cover of anti-war tearjerker “One Tin Soldier” from Billy Jack.  I guess it was their only hit.  I find the song a little too sappy to get into.

And that’s it!  There is nothing else to say about the album!  Actually, I take that back; they cover “Jailhouse Rock.”  Also one of the other members sings on some of these.  But, as far as the rest of it goes, this music could have been made by hundreds of other bands playing in local bars across the U.S. in front of the drunken hillbillies that enjoy this stuff.

Blood on the Snow – Buddah – 1974

blood_on_the_snow

This is getting rough…

Why are they putting an image of the devil on the cover of their album?  Blood on the Snow has NOTHING to do with the devil.  The worst thing is how misleading this album is!  The opening track “Don’t Call Me” is an energetic, major chord, hard rock song with the guitars pumped up in the mix and the piano mixed so low that it’s negligible.  While not a great song, I thought, just for the sake of this here review, I’d somewhat enjoy this record.

What a fuckin’ joke!  Every song that follows is either a boring 70s soft rock song with a string section or an equally boring ballad.  And I know what you’re going to ask.  What the hell is the difference?  Well, I suppose that’s pretty negligible as well.  Okay, they’re not ALL ballads.  “Hide Your Daughters” is another piano driven, southern rock tune with lightly distorted guitars and “down home” style singing and I suppose “Lost Without a Trace” is an attempt at an epic rock tune with a darker mood.  Also, don’t be fooled by the song titled “Easy Evil.”  It’s (eye roll) another southern rock song – woa it has a saxophone! – this album sucks.

You old people with shitty taste can argue that Jinx Dawson has a pretty yet untrained voice and that she sounds sexy/sassy but, I don’t need this bland, 70s FM nonsense!  The last song is the title track and it has loud guitars and… eh, never mind.