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Screaming Woman, The
Directed by Jack Smight from a teleplay by Merwin Gerard based on the shorty story by Ray Bradbury, the 1972 made-for-TV movie The Screaming Woman tells the story of Laura Wynant (Olivia de Havilland). Laura is very well-to-do, in fact she's loaded, but her life is not perfect. She's done some time in a mental hospital and since her release has been spending time out in the quiet countryside at her remote estate where she's hoping to keep her stress level low and continue to get better. She also has pretty severe arthritis in her hands, which obviously makes things difficult for her.
Things are going fine at first but it isn't long after Laura's arrival that she starts hearing a woman screaming, the screaming seemingly coming from under the ground that the estate has been built on. She tells her family members about this, but of course, none of them believe here, not her kids, Caroline (Laraine Stephens) and Howard (Charles Robinson) nor her lawyer, George Tresvant (Joseph Cotten), or doctor, Amos Larkin (Walter Pidgeon). In fact, there are certain parties hoping to use this as a way to prove that Laura has finally snapped, in hopes of taking control of her estate and her fortune.,/p>
As the story progresses, we wonder if Laura is imagining all of this or if someone really has been buried alive on her property, and if she isn't imagining it all, what can she do about it. She pays a local kid to try and dig up the area where she heard the cries coming from but that doesn't end well. If she isn't imagining all of this, can she figure out who killed the woman and why without putting her own life in immediate danger?
Jack Smight's direction in this film is really impressive. The story plays out at a fairly deliberate pace, never slow but hardly moving a million miles an hour, and this allows for some interesting twists and turns and some important character development, all of which works towards really bringing it all home quite nicely in the film's finale. Smight and company do an excellent job of very effectively building tension and keeping viewers on the edge of their seat wanting to know how all of this is going to play out, it's frequently pretty intense stuff and surprisingly strong for an early seventies NBC movie of the week.
Production values are good here. The cinematography is really solid and the locations prove to be the perfect place for a story like this to play out. Add to this an impressive score from the great John Williams and some rather ornate costume work and, when combined with the top notch cinematography, the movie looks and sounds great.
The film also benefits immensely from a very talented case. Olivia de Havilland was obviously Hollywood royalty at this point, a legitimate screen legend, and her work here demonstrates how and why she'd attain that status. She's completely believable here, portraying her character's frustrations, fears and emotions perfectly. Jospeh Cotton is also great here, though he's underused and now in the movie all that much, with Walter Pidgeon, Laraine Stephens and Charles Robinson all also doing very fine work in front of the camera.
The Screaming Woman 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. Picture quality here is quite nice, with good color reproduction and strong black levels. There isn't much in the way of print damage to note and the image is free of any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
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 Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani is the main extra on the disc. It's a good talk with some interesting information contained inside. Gerani offers up a nice history of the cast and crew, providing plenty of biographical details, while also analyzing the film, exploring some of the themes that it toys with, comparing it to other thrillers of its day and expressing his own opinion on what works here.
The disc also includes menus and chapter selection options and comes packaged with a nice slipcover that features newly commissioned artwork from Vince Evans.
The Screaming Woman is a genuinely tense and gripping thriller with some strong acting and equally strong direction, all of which points to this being a movie worth seeing. Kino's Blu-ray isn't stacked with extra but the commentary is a good one and the presentation quite solid. Recommended.
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.