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Scream, Pretty Peggy
Gordon Hessler, the man who directed Scream And Scream Again, Pray For Death and the mighty Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park (to name only a few) was behind the camera and in the director's chair for 1973's Scream, Pretty Peggy, a made-for-TV movie co-written by legendary Hammer Films scribe Jimmy Sangster.rn
As to the story itself, the film introduces us to Peggy Johns (Sian Barbara Allen), a college student hoping to one day find herself a career in the art world and needing to make some extra money. She winds up getting hired as a housekeeper at a massive old mansion inhabited by a well-regarded sculptor named Jeffrey Elliot (Ted Bessell), whose work seems to be entirely comprised of weird, red, melted looking creatures, and his aged mother (Bette Davis). There's also a room that Peggy is absolutely not allowed to go into. Weirdly enough, it isn't until Peggy has been working there a little while that she finds out that the Elliot family has been harboring a deep, dark secret, squirreled away in this very house for years (that we can't really discuss here out of respect for not spoiling the movie for those who haven't seen it).rn
Scream, Pretty Peggy isn't the most original film and it won't take a genius to figure out what the aforementioned deep, dark secret is. You can see the ‘twist' coming a mile away and as the movie plays out you kind of get the feeling that you've seen all of this before, and done better at that. Still, the movie is more than watchable and does have a few things working in its favor that not only stop it from being a complete waste of time but actually elevate the film to ‘worth seeing if you like goofy old made-for-TV thrillers' mode.
First up is the acting. While Allen might be a slightly annoying character (she is wayyyyyyyyy too perky) who we have a bit of trouble actually liking, she is at least amusing to watch here. Ted Bessell is pretty good as the weird sculptor, whenever we get to see him working on his weird creations the movie is pretty enthralling (though that's more to the weird creations than Bessell himself, still, he's interesting enough here). As to Bette Davis? She's a bit underused here and honestly isn't given a whole lot to do except to spend most of her time in bed yelling at poor Peggy, but she does this type of thing well. Nobody played a shrew like Bette Davis did, and while the queen of hagsploitation may not deliver may not deliver her most memorable performance here, she's eminently watchable and quite amusing to see in the film and we're certainly all the better for having had her in it.
Hessler's direction is fine. It won't blow you away but it's decent enough and he keeps the film moving at a pretty nice pace. The script from Sangster and co-writer Arthur Hoffe is, however, riddled with clichés and you'd expect better from Sangster. Leonard J. South delivers some nice cinematography and if almost the entirety of the film takes place inside the old mansion, it is at least shot with a bit of style. Robert Prince's score is fine, it suits the tone of the movie well enough even if it isn't super memorable.
Scream, Pretty Peggy arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a 2k master framed in its original 1.33.1 aspect ratio. The transfer on this disc is very good, with nice, accurate color reproduction and strong, deep black levels. There isn't much in the way of print damage to note at all, the picture is quite clean while retaining the expected amount of natural film grain. The image is free of any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. All in all, this looks nice.
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English with optional subtitles provided in English only. This is a fairly dialogue driven film but the track handles everything well, giving things some punch when the movie calls for it and doing a very nice job with the score. No problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced nicely. The subtitles are clean, clear, easy to read and free of any noticeable typos.
An audio commentary by Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathanial Thompson. Like most of the tracks that they've done together, and there is a bunch at this point, it's an amiable and conversational talk. They cover Hessler's career in a fair bit of detail, Sangster's as well, and offer up plenty of thoughts and trivia regarding Davis' career and details on the other cast and crew members as well. As the same time, they offer their own thoughts on what works and what doesn't in the movie and make some pretty astute comparisons to other, similar films made prior to this one.
The disc also includes a TV Spot, menus and chapter selection options and comes packaged with a nice slipcover that features newly commissioned artwork from Vince Evans.
Scream, Pretty Peggy is predictable and riddled with clichés but it is competently made and features just enough weirdness to it to keep it watchable, especially when Davis is on screen. Kino's Blu-ray isn't as extras-laden as some of their other releases but the commentary provides some welcome background information on the film and presentation is nice. Recommended to Bette Davis devotees, a fine rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.