Saturday, April 1, 2023

Scream for Vengeance! (1980)

... aka: Crying for Revenge
... aka: Schrei nach Rache (Screaming for Revenge)
... aka: Vengeance

Directed by:
Bob Bliss

She's a big city girl, student in her third year of college, granddaughter of a state senator and claims to be independently wealthy. He's a small town boy, community college graduate and doesn't have two quarters to rub together. When Jenny Bradley (Sally Lockett) and Mark Davis (Nicholas Jacquez) cross paths at a laundromat late one Friday night, he somehow manages to work his charms ("charms" being rather creepy and sex predator-esque leering in this particular instance) on her and talks her into grabbing a bite to eat after she finishes up. All on her, of course. Meanwhile, across town, jewelry store owner Anthony Lomas (Leonard Belove), his wife Del (Jane McMahon) and their teenage daughter Shari (Susie Gardner), who keeps flipping her shit because they're running a little late and some boy is supposed to call her, are heading home. 

Hey Shari, there are worse things that could happen! You know, like rapey robbers with nylons pulled over the heads breaking into your home, gagging you, tying you to a chair and threatening to kill you unless your father agrees to take them to his store and give them all the diamonds they can carry.

While three of the robbers - Mason (Walter Addison), Gandon (Steve Scearcy) and Dreyer (R.E. Roudebush) - run off to the store, the fourth stays at home with the mom and daughter. Unfortunately for the ladies, the one they're left with - Luke (Bob Elliott) - is a deranged, heavy-breathing pervert who immediately makes a beeline for the kitchen knives and decides to have a little fun while his pals are away. Naturally, his eyes gravitate right toward the daughter. He speculates about her age and whether or not she's a virgin, plays with her hair, rubs her legs ("soft and warrrrm"), sings to her ("Soft. Sweet. Sweeeeet sixteen. AHHhhhHH yeah."), rips open her top and feels her up. When he tries to take her into the bedroom, the mom fights back and lands a few kicks before the attacker stabs her to death and cuts her throat. Shari is then slapped around, kicked, thrown on the ground, stripped naked, raped and shot to death. She also misses her boyfriend's call.

Back in town, the jewelry store heist is going off without a hitch until an alarm is accidentally triggered. The three thieves panic, shoot the father, run outside, shoot a pedestrian and then carjack Jenny and Mark, who just so happen to be leaving the laundromat at around the same time. Mark is locked in the trunk, Jenny is thrown in the backseat and roughed up a bit and the thieves retreat to a remote country cabin in the Ozarks to hide out, where they'll soon be joined by Luke.

Disappointed at their jewelry store haul, the gang realize that Jenny comes from a wealthy family and plot an extortion attempt. They make her record a message to her parents letting them know what's going on and then three of them leave to go into the nearest town to find a payphone to make their demands known. Left alone to watch the hostages, Dreyer gets hot and bothered looking at porn mags and decides to try to rape Jenny, but Mark manages to break free from his ropes just in the nick time. A broken bottle over the head and a shotgun blast later and Jenny and Mark are free. They hop in a truck and try to get the hell outta Dodge but the remaining thugs catch up to them on the road and they're forced to flee into the woods by foot, with the killers in hot pursuit.

This very low budget regional production from Kansas City, made by a first (and only) time director, combines a number of popular exploitation subgenres (home invasion, hostage thriller, hunting humans...), but doesn't do any of them particularly well. Not that this is terrible either. Despite being middling to poor in most technical areas, the pacing feels about right and it's at least made with a certain basic competency. The first half hour has a few suitably nasty / sleazy bits but the film then curiously dials it back for the remainder once it relocates to the cabin. The biggest issue here is that the plot is simply too ordinary and predictable, making the film as a whole utterly forgettable. The fact it was made in the 70s when a lot of other filmmakers were pushing boundaries with similar material doesn't help the film's plight much either.

Filmed over the course of several years, finally completed in 1979 and, per an advertisement in the October 1980 issue of Variety, released theatrically the following year by Manson International... only not in the United States apparently! I don't believe this was seen by American audiences until the 1986 Magnum VHS release. There were also VHS releases in Argentina (on the Magnum Golden label), the UK (on the Intervision label), the Netherlands (on the Standard Video label), France (Proserpine), Germany (Video Medien Pool) and Greece (Video Standard). In Australia, it was banned in 1982 (reasons cited were for violence and sexual violence), but a cut version missing around six minutes was released there in 1984 on the Video Classics label. I believe most of the other VHS releases also have some cuts as most run below the 93 minute time that was submitted to Australian censors. The version I watched (the Dutch release) ran 89 minutes.

Though hardly an essential title, I'm still surprised that no one has picked this up for DVD or Blu-ray distribution as of yet. Any DVD releases you find online are bootlegs derived from one of the previous VHS releases. Since much of the second half takes place outdoors, this is a title that could conceivably be improved upon somewhat (at least visually speaking) with a proper restoration.

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