Scream Bloody Murder (1973)

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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!

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