Scream For Vengeance (1980)

They (don’t really) scream for anything. But I scream for mustaches. Judiciously.

For the past thirty years, Scream for Vengeance has led the world to believe that it’s an onerously brutal vortex of rape-revenge filthiness. At least, that’s the impression I got. Because this film is shrouded. Forgotten. Rarely seen or referenced. Since it happens to be the only movie that writer-director Bob Bliss ever made, the mystery has been free to thrive without hindrance. And I love that. I love the idea that there’s a slice of presumably nasty American garbage out there. Constantly regenerating. Waiting to debase us all.

Now, think of a man in a ski-mask. He is holding the largest walkie-talkie you have ever seen. He is standing in a nondescript suburban living room circa 1979 (lots of brown and woodgrain). He approaches a woman and begins fondling her. She is tied to a chair, and a piece of masking tape covers her mouth. This woman looks to be approximately 35 years old. Voices do not match mouths. The ski-mask says this:

“Yep…ooooowee. Hey hey hey! Sweet sixteen, hm? Nice. Sweet sixteen! Reeeeal nice. Ooooooh yeah! Look out, girl! Mmmm. OH YEAH!”

For the first 20 minutes, Scream for Vengeance is like the Dracula, The Dirty Old Man of rape-revenge trashers. Everything is inflated, clumsy, and unsuitably dubbed. And filled with giant mustaches. So the “true crime” plot, which concerns a handful of bungling diamond thieves, a house siege, and subsequent cabin-in-the-middle-of-nowhere adventures with a kidnapped couple, feels misplaced, as if superimposed from another movie. This is all very good stuff. And then it happens. A brutal stabbing! An oncoming rape! What will Bob Bliss do next?!

He will cut to a shot of a telephone.

Surprise! This is not an onerously brutal vortex of rape-revenge filthiness. At times, Scream is suspenseful and accomplished. Lots of people get shot. But the rape happens offscreen. And there is no literal “revenge.” It’s a lot like Another Son of Sam or The Zodiac Killer, but without the strangeness, variety, and general sense of electric-insanity that soaks through those films. By its conclusion, we accept Scream as sedate, late-70s exploitation as realized by Barry Mahon and his yen for static photography. That’s an entertaining concept. What you expect to happen, happens. After the initial burst of humorous technicalities, we wade through chase scenes, empty spaces, shoot-outs, fist fights, and pitchfork stabbings. None of it is remarkable. All of it is valid, as long as you find something that speaks to you on some level. But, there’s one problem — it goes on for 90 minutes.

That’s Scream‘s undoing. Regardless of content, Scream For Vengeance can’t match its creativity with its length. There’s a surge. Then, a lull. Then, a surge. And then, a big, big lull that never tapers off. By the 70 minute mark, you’re ready for the film to end. But it doesn’t. That said, the film still makes for a relaxed evening of dirty-minded, yet unexceptional, exploitation. Remember the mustaches.

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