The Silent Scream (1980) [31 Days of Hammer Horror Review]

Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Peter Cushing, Brian Cox, Elaine Donnelly
Director: Alan Gibson

Out of all the episodes of Hammer House Of Horror, The Silent Scream is far from the most traditionally “horror”-based. To be honest, it’s more of a dark, psychological thriller than anything else.

Over the course of this 31 Days Of Hammer marathon, I’ve only been focusing on the Horror output from the studio, but with this, I’m prepared to make an exception. Why? Two words. “Peter” and “Cushing.”

Chuck Spillers (Brian Cox) has recently been released from prison and goes to see pet shop owner Martin Blueck (Peter Cushing), a seemingly kind philanthropist who had visited him in jail.

He offers Spillers a job, though not in his store, but looking after his secret menagerie of animals he’s keeping in his basement. There’s a tiger, a panther and more in there, all in cages with no bars, as Blueck is experimenting on them, in a bid to train them to stay confined on their own volition.

There’s more to the kindly shopkeeper though. He’s secretly a former Nazi concentration camp guard and his experiments with animals are only the start. He imprisons first Spillers, then his wife Annie (Elaine Donnelly), to help further his goal of human prisons with no bars, where everyone stays where they are told out of sheer terror of the consequences of trying to escape.

Okay, it’s not a horror as such, but there’s some pretty horrific ideas at play here. The concept of a Nazi concentration camp guard conducting experiments on humans in an average suburban town in England is brilliant and the character of Blueck is another perfect showcase for the talents of Mr. Cushing.

Ostensibly kind and well-meaning, Cushing pitches himself as frail, warm and appealing, but wonderfully, allows a little steel and intensity to peek out from under the facade. When the mask drops though, he’s utterly transformed into a malevolent, evil human being, taking great delight in the fear and pain of his prisoners. Naturally, Cushing utterly convinces with both sides of the man.

It’s never easy acting across from the great man, but Brian Cox is a fine, fine actor in his own right and does a sterling job here as the jailbird who just can’t keep out of trouble, while Elaine Donnelly more than holds her own against the other two. It’s a small cast, but it’s as solid as you’ll get.

Like many of these shows, the ending is fairly predictable, but it’s a great ending all the same and leaves you wondering what could happen next.

The Silent Scream would be Peter Cushing’s only appearance in the Hammer TV series, but as always, he makes the most of it, resulting in what is definitely one of the high points of the entire 12-episode run.

Rating: 4/5.


The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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