Thursday, April 2, 2015

From a Whisper to a Scream (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Oldfield Revisited

I remember when this movie was on the video store shelf as The Offspring which is the way I truly think of it, but since From a Whisper to a Scream is how it was truly meant to be known, I guess I’ll start adjusting the way I talk about it. I don’t usually make that sort of a change when talking about a horror flick, but I have minimal nostalgic connection to it. If the same was said of From Beyond the Grave or perhaps an Amicus anthology (except The Vault of Horror being called Tales from the Crypt 2 of course) I’d be writing a piece in protest of the change. Scream Factory has offered us a chance to visit with one of Vincent Price’s last movies, not his strongest but certainly a look into his later life. Price recants four tales surrounding a small town in the south. They span time, genre and setting in a most unusual assortment of ramshackle connected stories soley based on the their geographic location.

This is not the first time I’ve watched From a Whisper to a Scream though it’s the first time I’ve done so in years. I didn’t dislike it upon my first viewing, but it wasn’t a movie that I found to have anything so gratuitous or that it was so pleasing to the eye that it was worth the rewatch. It comes off like a horror television program that didn’t quite make it. Perhaps like John Carpenter’s Body Bags. The stories are obviously disjointed, no common nexus and that in and of itself isn’t a problem. Each segment really feels like a slightly higher quality version of the TV show Monsters. That’s not a bad show mind you, but the production value was lacking. The effects, not great (but fun… ever so fun) and while the caliber of actor was strong, the story lines didn’t carry the show for very long, especially not in the shadow of Monsters’ predecessor, Tales from the Darkside.  From a Whisper to Scream feels like that with somewhat better stories. Strong actors, some interesting effects choices though none are high quality and while it feels like a movie, I’d sooner say made-for-TV movie than ready-for-theatrical.

From Whisper to a Scream makes use of a rather handsome cast of horror and cult favorites. Vincent Price is the big name on the box leading the wrap story and discussing Oldfield, Tennessee and its seedy underbelly, but what about a rather disturbing performance by Clu Gulager in the first segment? They made Clu look absolutely disturbed. His flat, emotionless face is the thing of beautiful homicide. The second installment features Terry Kiser… you know… Bernie from Weekend at Bernies! The final story of the four features Cameron Mitchell in what is perhaps the most cerebral of tales but boy does it feel long. This feels like a very unique role for cult star Mitchell.

That being said it’s got definite cult classic appeal, and I can see why it has a fanbase. There’s a story to this movie and the making of feature tells it. It’s over an hour of interviews and stories from the director and crew. The documentary almost feels like overkill, but when you realize what it took to get this small scale production off the ground, how Vincent Price got involved and how the organization of the stories created time and budgetary limitations, what seemed like an okay entry into portmanteau horror becomes more of an underdog worth rooting for. This isn’t a “featurette”. This is a feature length production. No twenty minute interview posing as a making of special. Add in a second feature length doc about making Super 8 movies featuring Jeff Burr and the run time of this entire Blu-ray shoots up exponentially. Literally you get hours upon hours of entertainment and information. Combine that with some audio commentary options, traditional trailer and TV spot package as well as some handsome cover art and you have a superior release that may almost be more than the film deserves. It’s a nice gesture by Scream to offer so much content. I’ve compared this to a made-for-TV movie or anthology TV show, but the quality of picture is quite good. It’s not the transfer or resto with which I take issue. It’s the original production value.

Full feature list:

Return To Oldfield - A Comprehensive Feature-Length Documentary About The Making Of From A Whisper To A Scream, Featuring Director Jeff Burr, Producer Darin Scott, Co-Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, Actor Clu Gulagar And More!
A Decade Under The Innocence - A Feature-Length Documentary About Teenage Adventures In 'Super 8' Filmmaking During The 1970's In Georgia, Featuring Director Jeff Burr And More!
New Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Jeff Burr
Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer Darin Scott And Writer C. Courtney Joyner
Still Gallery With Commentary By Writer/Director Jeff Burr
Theatrical Trailer
"The Offspring" TV Spots

From a Whisper to a Scream would have made a fancy addition to a third installment into the Vincent Price releases previously offered through Scream Factory. I’m curious to see if another volume is even possible given some of the recent divvying of Price titles across distributors by MGM. It’s a must pick up for Price fans with a healthy offering of extras and love. Call it The Offspring. Call it Whisper to a Scream. Call it Scream Factory.

You can order From a Whisper to a Scream from Scream Factory now:

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

On the night his niece is executed for committing a string of brutal killings, historian Julian White (Price) reveals the sinister secrets of her hometown, Oldfield, Tennessee, a horrific hamlet that spawns evil! But as the town's murderous legacy is exposed with White's chilling accounts – including stories of a necrophilic madman, a voodoo priest with life-prolonging powers and a legion of children with an appetite for flesh – White doesn't realize that he is about the write the final chapter of Oldfield's morbid his own blood!

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