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Monday, April 30, 2018

My World Dies Screaming (1958) Psychological Horror

My World Dies Screaming (1958) - aka "Terror in the Haunted House".  This is a pulp horror film that used the gimmick of Psychorama to pull in audiences. This subliminal image flashing was thought up in the advertising world and this is the first time it was used in a film.  It is pretty silly single framed cartoon images of a devil, or a googly eyed man etc. that is suppose to subliminally create an emotion in the viewer.
The film is told through the point of view of Sheila Wayne (Cathy O'Donnell) a young woman who after some childhood trauma has lived in Switzerland into what is now her twenties, well there was that two year stint in an insane asylum but after that Europe is where she called home. Having met an American Philip Wayne (Gerald Mohr) and quickly fell in love and married. It opens in a voice over as Sheila tells us about a house in her dreams that terrifies her. She describes it in detail and how she enters and makes her way to the attic, then we see the character for the first time coming out of her telling screaming that this is where she knows she will die. She is in a psychiatrist office and he psycho babbles her about what the dream represents. We learn that her husband Philip is going to take her back to America and that this may be making her dream come back.
Written by Robert C. Dennis and Director Harold Daniels who both worked mostly television do a nice job of create doubt about  Philip Wayne. They make him a suspicious character, about 10 years older than Sheila and a bit domineering. You are led to believe that maybe there is some secret he is hiding. Sheila catches onto inconsistencies in his behavior but he always has some excuse to explain his behavior away. Later we learn just that.
   When they return to the States, Philip takes Sheila to a house in Florida to rest, but unfortunately it is exactly the house in her dreams. She does not want to stay but she is a character with little agency and Philip sort of brow beats her into entering. Then makes the excuse that the car won't start making her stay the night. They are not welcomed by the old caretaker of the house. A simpleton named Jonah (John Qualen)who tries in vain to chase them off. Scary times for Sheila who begins remembering more about the house in her dreams.
  When the house owner hears of the couple staying in his place he arrives to confront them. Philip remarkably knows the owner, Mark Snell (William Ching) and there are major revelation of who Snell, Philip and Sheila really are and what their relationship is. It is a convoluted story of madness, love and murder as well as a bit of inheritance swiping. When all is said and done Sheila's memory comes back to remember one horrible night where the lives of all the main characters were changed.
  This is not a great movie, it rolls from suspenseful mystery to weird family drama on a dime, leaving the viewer to wonder why the quick turn. The need of the characters to explain the plot instead of showing us reflects the low budget nature of this production. Still the acting by Cathy O'Donnell is solid even if the characterization of her as a fragile oppress woman does not hold up in these more feminist times. Mohr plays his part with the proper suspicious overacting so we can't miss the cues to the fact he is hiding something. Ching is stiff and not quite up to par with the other two. Even with all this said I have to say I sort of liked this film, it is a short little story that comes around in the second half to be more than it started out as. Available free on YouTube this may be a waste a bit of time on.

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