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Screaming Mimi, The 
Written by: on March 29th, 2011

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1958
Director: Gerd Oswald
Writer: Robert Blees
Cast: Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, Harry Townes

DVD released: November 22nd, 2010
Approximate running time: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Sony Pictures
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95

Synopsis: A woman’s dog is killed and she is attacked by an escaped lunatic from an insane asylum, but her brother-in-law shoots him dead. She is so distraught she is committed to the same institute he escaped from. There her doctor falls in love and smuggles her out, despite knowing she is hopelessly insane. She becomes a stripper at a dive burlesque show, but meanwhile people are murdered by the ‘Ripper’.

Gerd Oswald was a competent director who helmed many of the best Original Season 1 Outer Limits episodes. Those stories were straightforward linear tales with barely a flashback in the bunch. So he takes Frederic Brown’s ode to alcoholism and debauchery and front loads all the surprises that were formerly revealed via flashbacks. Now we have a murder mystery without any suspense or mystery, and not many murders. The original beginning, a newspaper man in the depths of a five day bender who stumbles upon a wounded, naked, and curvaceous babe ferociously guarded by her attack dog, and then suddenly swears off the hooch in order to get some cootch, well, that all had to be eliminated.

The new beginning sequence is extraordinary for many reasons: a buxom sexy woman in a swimsuit is on the beach, takes an outdoor shower, her little yappy dog gets killed [offscreen], she is attacked by a psycho slasher, and her brother-in-law shoots the assailant dead while she’s left holding the bloody knife. And she puts some lungs into those screams. After the credits roll, things become quite a bit more mundane and talkie. But not all the sleaze from the source has been eradicated. We do have the crazy dame and her Great Dane named Devil. That dame is the sighful eyeful Anita Ekberg (39-22-36) as a shell shocked floozy who performs a chain-bound slave girl exotic dance routine in a low class dive. Gypsy Rose Lee is the hostess / proprietor of said dive, El Madhouse, and the cigarette girl is her [implied] lesbian lover. Lot’s of other things are implied, as well, which keep things interesting.

The pacing is tight and moves smoothly and quickly from scene to scene resulting in a movie that is easy to watch from beginning to end. An investigative reporter happens upon the newest murder by the ‘Ripper’ and falls in love with the elusive Anita; hence a love triangle weaves a web of intrigue. He also discovers that the murders were all accompanied by a fetish statue: model SM – Screaming Mimi, which was created by Anita’s brother-in-law. Anita IS the Screaming Mimi.

Also of interest is that Brown’s source novel was later the inspiration for Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. The most important set piece in that film – the discovery of the stabbed and bloody woman and the double glass doors, is also the event that sets the novel in motion. It happens midway through and was filmed outside without the doors in this original film adaptation.

The DVD:

This Sony / Columbia MOD disc is widescreen anamorphic from a very fine source, there are no blemishes or other issues to report. The sound is likewise excellent – but no subtitles or closed captions. The trailer is included. 

The Screaming Mimi is a crossover between the late noir period and the early psycho thrillers. Certainly Anita Ekberg displays the film’s greatest assets, but there’s plenty here to be dazed and confused about – just like Mimi.

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