Saturday, April 23, 2011

HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR, EPISODE 7: THE SILENT SCREAM (Alan Gibson, 1980)

A convict’s humanity is transformed into nothing more than Pavlov’s dog, a groveling animal reduced to behavioral impulses. Alan Gibson directs this taught thriller that eschews the supernatural for the purely rational, an experiment of Mengeleian proportions where empathy succumbs to the scientific method and sadism takes the path of least moral resistance.

Peter Cushing portrays a seemingly gentle pet shop owner whose sympathetic visits to prison inspire Chuck to set his life straight. When Chuck is paroled, he is offered a job in the dank shop but soon becomes its victim, locked in a secret room, a cage without bars. His very nature dooms him, baited to commit a theft by his criminal impulses and his screams ring loudly from thick walls, freedom an electric discharge. The once friendly mentor is revealed to be a Nazi fugitive from one of the many Death Camps, his cruelty hidden beneath a veneer of aged wisdom. Chuck’s wife falls prey to the fatal trap and together they escape into another private hell, isolated from a world only yards away.

This is a nasty tale of greed and failed salvation, where a criminal momentarily reverts to past behavior and pays an unjust price while his wife becomes collateral damage. Though the sadistic Nazi meets his Munch-like fate, here there are no survivors: only animals in invisible cages.

Final Grade: (B+)

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