Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


SCREAMING MIMI (1958) Director: Gerd Oswald.

After nearly being stabbed to death by a maniac, Virginia Wilson (Anita Ekberg) is sent to a sanitarium. She runs off with her doctor (Harry Townes) and reinvents herself as "Yolanda Lange," exotic dancer. When she is attacked on the street one night, everyone assumes she was nearly the second victim of "the ripper," who stabbed another blond beauty to death a month before. Phil Carey is newspaperman Bill Sweeney, who falls in love with Yolanda, and Gypsy Rose Lee is her employer, owner of El Madhouse nightclub. Carey decides to try and find out who the ripper is, and what he has to do with Yolanda. Part of the mystery centers on a figurine of a screaming woman that Sweeney believes is a fetish for the killer. Based on a novel by Fredric Brown, Screaming Mimi might be considered a very early "mad slasher" flick were it not for the fact that its style is completely different from that genre, which began in the late 70's. For one thing, Screaming Mimi has no style, tension, or suspense, making it hard to care who the slasher is or his connection to Virginia/Yolanda. Too much has been made of the fact that Virginia is attacked while taking an outdoor shower in a film made two years before Psycho -- the movies and the sequences are really nothing alike. There were other pre-Psycho films where the killer had psycho-sexual motives. The psychological aspects of Screaming Mimi are dubious. There's some moody if unspectacular photography from Burnett Guffey. The uncredited score seems to have been lifted from a much better picture.

As for the buxom Ekberg? Well, she isn't awful. She manages to get across the emotions of her character, although not with any kind of Katharine Hepburn-like skill. Some might say she's almost out-acted by her protective, snarling Great Dane, Devil (who isn't much use in protecting her on two separate occasions). Ekberg's "dancing" is both sexy and comical. Gypsy Rose Lee, who isn't bad, is given the best line: "The way he looks at her you'd think a bosom is something unique." (Well, Ekberg's bosom was kind of unique.) There seems to be a hint that Lee's character may be gay, but this isn't explored. Townes is effective as the doctor who's madly in love with his deeply disturbed patient. With all that's supposedly going on, it's amazing how dull the movie is. Screaming Mimi is not a gruesome shocker or flamboyant thriller along the lines of William Castle's Homicidal, more's the pity. Gerd Oswald also directed the far superior A Kiss Before Dying. He doesn't seem to have been inspired much by the script for Screaming Mimi.

Verdict: Even less interesting than it sounds.

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