Wednesday, April 22, 2015

FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987)

FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code:
Duration: 99 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Jeff Burr
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Clu Gulager, Susan Tyrrell, Terry Kiser. Lawrence Tierney, Martine Beswick, Vincent Price

Horror anthologies are the comfort food of horror cinema, tiny vignettes of the mad and the macabre you can watch in one sitting or enjoy in bite-size chunks at your convenience, something you can watch a bit of and walk away from and then pick-up again a day or two later, maybe after work, which is how I usually digest them. 

Jeff Burr's anthology From a Whisper to a Scream, alternately known as The Offspring, begins with a pretty decent wrap-around device, and how could it not be, starring horror legend Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) as Julian White, the town librarian of Oldfield, Tennessee. He is sought after by a young reporter  (Susan Tyrrell, Cry-Baby) who is curious as to why the old codger did not attend the execution of his murderous niece (Martine Beswicke, From Russia With Love). As the conversation begins he spins a series of tales about the inhabitants of Oldefield throughout history, beginning with a tale of resident sicko Stanley Burnside. 

Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager, The Initiation) was an awkward grocery clerk who lived with his sickly sister Eileen (Miriam Byrd-Nethery, Leatherface). The two share a strangely intimate relationship with Stanley regularly bathing his nude sibling. Aside from his weird relationship with his sister it turns out that Stanley is creepily obsessed with boss, an attractive woman named Grace (Meghan McFarland), with whom he tries to make conversation with but just comes across as a weirdo. Eventually he manages to invite her to dinner, which she accepts. Unable to control himself on the date Stanley makes a pass at her, however, when she refuses his advances his intimacy turns to murder. Of course, old Stanley is not gonna let something a simple as death stop him from fornicating with her lifeless body. Needless to say the film goes where you might expect, and then it goes a few places you might not! Clu Gulager is fantastic as the creepy weirdo who suffers from the worst kind of nightmares, waking up in a fright, unleashing a nerve rattling scream that you won't soon forget, this one is a perverse shocker. Apparently the segment so angered Forry Ackerman of Famous Monsters magazine that he wrote a letter to Vincent Price decrying the damn thing, poor Uncle Forry couldn't handle the combination of possible incest, murder, necrophilia and demon babies, it's potent stuff, and not for everyone. 

The second story is set in the 1950s and concerns a criminal by the name of Jesse (Terry Kiser, Weekend At Bernie's) who is betrayed by his conniving girlfriend who drops a dime on the guy to a pair of gangsters who want him dead. After shooting him they leave him for dead in the swamp, where he is found and nursed back to health by an old swamp rat named Felder (Harry Caesar). As the two get to know each other it becomes evident that Felder is keeping a secret from Jesse, in fact he might be holding onto the secret to immortality and Jesse wants in on the secret. Of course, messing with someone who may or may not dabble in the occult is risky business and Jesse might just live long enough to regret his decision to betray Felder.

Onto the third story we move even further back in time, to a carnival side show during the 1930s where a local girl named Amaryllis (Didi Lanier) carries a torch for the carnival's resident glass-eater, a strapping young man named Steve (Ron Brooks, Leatherface), The relationship that must be kept a secret from the carnival Snakewoman (Rosalind Cash, The Omega Man), a controlling woman who does not approve of the romance with a local girl. The young lovers defy her at their own peril which ends with the young glass chomper being torn apart from within, this one is a very grotesque entry and the gore-fiends should enjoy it. This one benefits from some great carnival atmosphere and some gruesome flesh-tearing gore, not the best of the bunch but my second favorite so far. 

Keeping with the rhythm of the anthology the fourth and final segment reaches even further back into the history of Oldfield, set during the final days of the American Civil War as Union Sgt. Gallen (Cameron Mitchell, Raw Force) and his small band of men happen upon a farmhouse inhabited by what appear to be war-orphans, but these killer kiddies have a deadly secret. Sgt. Gallen is quite a despicable character from the onset,established as war profiteer and a cold-blooded murderer, what he and his men have coming to them is very well undeserved. Unfortunately the story makes for a lacklustre finale to an otherwise damn decent anthology, this is the one that should have been relegated to the middle of the film so it could have finished-up with something a bit more memorable or punchy in my opinion. 

The wrap-around device with Vincent Price ends quite appropriately, further feeding into the story of Oldfield being an epicenter of evil. From a Whisper to a Scream stands tall and is one of only a handful of anthologies from the '80s that manages to maintain a decent following. While maybe not quite on par with a classic such as Creepshow this one certainly has enough creepy charm to keep me coming back, that it is one of the more gruesome anthologies entities certainly doesn't hurt either,. 

Audio/Video: Jeff Burr's From A Whisper To A Scream (1987) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a 1080p HD transfer framed in the original widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio. The source material looks good with some minimal white speckling and minor dirt throughout but overall an impressive presentation. Colors are strong and despite heavy grain does show some minor depth and clarity, not an overwhelming abundance of fine detail but quite an improvement over the 2006 MGM DVD. Despite being advertised on the jacket as sporting a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track what we actually have is a LPCM 2.0. It does the job, the mix is decent and well-balanced but lat and unremarkable.

The A/V merits could be better but Scream Factory and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures have done as exquisite job with the extras for this release beginning with a brand-new audio commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Burr
and a second track with Writer/Producer Darin Scott And Writer C. Courtney Joyner. I only fast-forwarded through the Burr commentary and must say it was pretty damn entertaining with loads of behind-the-scenes anecdotes. I will definitely be revisiting the commentaries for this one again in their entirety next time I find myself doing some chores around the front of the house.

Motion Ballyhoo Motion Pictures have also produced two feature-length documentaries for this release.  A Decade Under The Innocence (77 Mins) is a doc about the Super 8 film culture that developed in Dalton, Georgia in the '70s, among them director Jeff Burr and many like minded folks who found each other through their love of film making, the film tracks their amateur film adventures from middle school on through to their days in college and beyond. There are loads of clips from the Super 8mm films they made, this was a fantastic watch and a nice companion piece to the film in a weird way. 

The Return To Oldfield (116 Mins) documentary covers the making of the film from the very beginning on through to the finish with new interviews from Director Jeff Burr, Producer Darin Scott, Co-Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, Actor Clu Gulager and many more. My favorite interviews are if Burr's recalling how he found out where Vincent Price lived and walking-up to his front door, the director was a bundle of nerves, and surprised when Price himself answered the door, apparently in his kitchen baking bread at the time. Equally amusing are the anecdotes of Price's unhappiness on set, particularly after ruining one of Price's own vintage jackets during the making of the film. Additionally there's a trailer, TV spots and an image gallery with commentary from writer/director Jeff Burr, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the alternate title of the film, The Offspring. 

Special Features:
- 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! (116 Mins) HD
- 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! (77 Mins) HD
- 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 (10 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer
- "The Offspring" TV Spots (2 Mins) HD


From A Whisper To A Scream is a bonafide '80s horror anthology made my young first-time filmmakers who clearly loved horror and the anthology format in particular, and they did a great job their first-time out! Scream Factory have put a lot of love into this one, the PQ is decent but the special features are something special. The perverse vignette with Clu Gulager is worth the price of admission alone, but everything else after is just gravy, highly recommended.  

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