The Screaming Woman (1972)

THE SCREAMING WOMAN (1972)
TV-Movie

Article 3603 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2011
Posting Date: 6-26-2011
Directed by Jack Smight
Featuring Olivia de Havilland, Ed Nelson, Laraine Stephens
Country: USA
What it is: Thriller

A rich but possibly mentally unstable old woman discovers that a woman has been buried alive in the ruins of an old smokehouse on her property. Her attempts to get help to save the woman are met with disbelief in her mental capacities, and time is running out for the buried woman…

It’s been years since I read the Ray Bradbury short story on which this movie was based, but the entry in John Stanley’s “Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again” reminded me that in the original story, the person who discovered the burial was not an old woman but a child. It would have been more interesting had the movie retained this approach; after all, I think the fear of not being believed because you were just a kid is more universal than not being believed because you’re a mentally unstable rich woman, but I suspect the latter route lent itself to more standard TV-Movie dramatic approaches, which was no doubt a factor. Still, that doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t more or less work; it does, in fact, work well enough. Still, it could have been better. There’s a few false moments here and there; in particular, the old woman’s reaction to her discovery of the burial (she runs through the woods screaming nonstop) is way too overwrought and melodramatic to be convincing. I would also have liked the movie better if it had featured less of either the old woman’s daughter-in-law and the buried woman’s husband’s lover (two pushy and unlikable characters who add little to the story) and spent some time developing the character of the buried woman; after all, it’s her life that is really on the line here, and she’s treated as little more than a plot device. It’s not near as suspenseful as it could have been.

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