Tuesday 24 July 2018

Scream queens… Sound of Horror (1964)

This film is fascinating for a number of reasons the most obvious being the pre-fame appearance of both Soledad Miranda (later to appeal in notable films from Jess Franco, Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstacy) as well as Ingrid Pitt – the Queen of Hammer Horror. But, on a micro budget director José Antonio Nieves Conde also manages to produce a genuinely atmospheric film with a largely unseen monster and a cast acting their socks off. Conde plays his monster just right and we only get a few glimpses as he prefers to focus on the human reaction to what seems to be unstoppable – and unlikely - alien carnage.

His two leading actresses don’t let him down and, Soledad Miranda in particular shows what a good dramatist she was before Jess Franco decided she could act much better with her clothes off…

This film owes a lot to the American sci-fi dramas of the fifties with an invisible monster from pre-historical outer space and a feeling of an unseen invasion. It may save money on special effects, but it also doesn’t puncture the tension by revealing a lame hand puppet – suspense is maintained as belief is suspended. Does this relate to Spanish politics in the same way as to US infiltration paranoia? Probably not, it’s just a good yarn.

The story begins in the Greek countryside, as archaeologist Dr Pete Asilov (James Philbrook) and Professor Andre (Antonio Casas) are attempting to uncover some mysterious buried artefacts. Desperation overcoming subtlety they dynamite a cave in the hope of revealing their goal but all they find are some petrified eggs… clearly some long-extinct dinosaur (yeah right). As they make their way back to their base one of the eggs hatches and a reptilian creature hatches before quickly disappearing…

Odd doings in the cave...
Back at the Professor’s villa we meet his lovely niece Maria (Soledad) and their superstitious housekeeper Calliope (Lola Gaos) who is convinced that nothing good can come from this pursuit of gold from the mountain. As if to prove her point the Prof’s former partner, Mr. Dorman (José Bódalo) arrives with the other half of the map revealing the gold’s exact location. Desperate Dorman is accompanied by his man Stravos (Francisco Piquer), his glamorous girl, Sofia (Ingrid) and happy-go-lucky driver Pete (Arturo Fernández).

The men go back to the cave uncovering mummified remains, presumably buried in ritual sacrifice or to preserve the secret of the treasure. But now things get spookily serious as strange screams fill the cavern and Stravos is slashed to death by invisible claws. Now this would be enough to convince most men to leave well enough alone but not this lot and they go back in only to be chased back by their unseen foe.

The hunters have now become the hunted and as poor Calliope is killed outside the villa they realise that even the brick walls of the villa may not be enough and they take the fight to the mountain and to the monster; there are thrills and twists as the limits of the tight budget are never exceeded…

Dusty verdict: It’s not a classic but it’s enjoyable hokum with the tension is sustained well by director Conte as the monster makes his way into the villa to terrify Maria and then refuses to be killed easily… inspite of the men’s ingenuity.

None of this would work if the cats didn’t act their socks of and there’s a whole lot of impressive emoting from Soledad and Ingrid. The moral of the story? Don’t look gift mountains in the mouth and quit while you’re still alive.

The Sound of Horror is available in so-so but watchable quality on DVD from Amazon, it really could do with a clean up given the status of the two female leads.

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