“What happened darling? What frightened you?”
Penny Appleby’s (Susan Strasberg) parents divorced when she was young. Since then she has lived in Italy with her mother. When her mother died she stayed in Italy. When her best friend committed suicide she was at loose ends and decided to reconnect with her father who lives in France. She hasn’t seen him in ten years. Her father has remarried. Penny has never met her stepmother Jane (Ann Todd). Penny is in a wheelchair due to a horse riding accident nine years ago. When she arrives at her father’s estate she learns that he is away on business. Her stepmother doesn’t know when he will return.
Even though her stepmother has welcomed her and tried to make her comfortable there is something about the woman that Penny is uneasy about. That night she sees a light out in the summer house. She investigates and sees the corpse of her father in a chair. She tries to wheel back to her room and falls into the pool. When she awakens she is in her room. Doctor Pierre Gerrard (Christopher Lee) is there along with her stepmother and the chauffer Robert (Ronald Lewis). She tells them what she saw. When they look, nothing is there.
That is only the beginning. Strange things keep happening. She hears a car and in the garage she sees her father’s car. But when they look it is not there. She sees her father dead, in a chair, in her room. She hears the piano playing. Then no one is there. Each time something happens she is proven wrong. Robert the chauffer starts to believe what she is seeing may be real. She thinks she may have an ally. Or does she? He asks her who would inherit is something did happen to her father. She says she is the beneficiary. Unless she is deemed incompetent.
“Scream of Fear” AKA “Taste of Fear” was released in 1961 and was directed by Seth Holt. This is a Hammer Film that was distributed in the US by Columbia Pictures. It isn’t so much a horror movie as it is a thriller/mystery film. Christopher Lee has been quoted as saying: "Taste of Fear was the best film that I was in that Hammer ever made.” He also said that Seth Holt was one of the best directors Britain ever had.
I agree with him. It may take you awhile to get into the movie, but hang in there. Bit by bit the suspense builds. Then when you think you have it figured out, everything is not what it seems. As a matter of fact, nothing is what it seems. This thing twists around five ways from Sunday. It is one of those hidden gems. For some reason it’s been overlooked a lot. It may have something to do with the stupid name. Whatever the reason, it is much better than a lot of critics give it credit for.
Lee’s French accent may not work, but Ronald Lewis’s performance is incredible. Don’t try to get to analytical with this movie. Just let it flow. If you try to figure it out, you’ll miss all the fun.