Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Screaming Mimi - English Language Review

Screaming Mimi
(USA, 1958)

Directed by: Gerd Oswald
Starring: Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Harry Townes

Rating: 3.5/5

A very attractive young woman (Ekberg) is left traumatized after being attacked by an escaped lunatic. While recuperating in a sanatorium, her psychiatrist (Townes) falls *madly* in love with her. Obsessed both with curing her and with jealousy, he takes her away, changes her name and pretends to be her manager. She is now an exotic dancer in a club. But, very soon, she is targeted (in an unsuccessful attempt) by a Jack-the-Ripper-type serial killer. This brings into the scene a nosy reporter played by Philip Carey, who also falls in love with Virginia (or Yolanda as she's now called). Could the two attacks on the young woman possibly be related?

"Screaming Mimi" borders on exploitation at times. Ekberg's (almost) strip-tease routine is clearly only in this movie for men to have something to leer at. Other times, the movie reminds of classic melodramas, such as "Gilda" (the same song is performed in both movies). However, for all it's worth, I think "Screaming Mimi" is an underrated movie. Despite its flaws (which are obvious), at its best it is a shockingly honest film noir, infused with sexuality and with hitchcockian plot devices (the numerous references to psychiatric illness) as well as even more hitchcock-ian tricks of light and shadow (the revisiting of the street where the attack on Yolanda took place or the neon lights intermittently shedding light on the two protagonists during the love-making scene).

Ekberg is not much of an actress. But she has her place set in stones in the history of cinema because of a famous scene involving a certain fountain in Rome. Other than that, I also find her interesting in low-budget noir-ish dramas such as this one or "Valerie", of which I've also written some time ago, directed by the same Gerd Oswald. As for "Screaming Mimi", it's worth mentioning that the novel on which it is based was adapted again a decade and a half later by Dario Argento, in the very stylized "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", which was a more notable success than Gerd Oswald's forgotten little movie.

No comments: