I first watched Dario Argento's 1969-1970 Giallo Masterpiece L'uccello
dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) sometime
in the 1980's and i think it was on an american VHS. Then i read the
pulp fiction novel that the film was based on, written by the Crime
Sci-Fi writer Fredric Brown - The Screaming Mimi. The novel was published
originally in 1949 and the pic above shows my old worn pocket
book edition from 1955 (i've read it 3-4 times).
As a huge lover of Crime litterature i can't recommend this crime novel
enough. Sadly it seems that this novel (and the writings of Fredric
is forgotten today. There's a pulse to the story, it's snappy, and the
plot and the twist are great, it actually has to do with the title of
The Screaming Mimi - a figurine, a small macabre statuette
of a half-naked woman with her face contorted by terror.
Anita Ekberg and Phil Carey is making out on her
sofa with her dog, Devil, on the floor. A scene smartly shot without
any lighting and
with only short blinks of light from a light-sign outside her window
The original story fom the novel takes place i Chicago,
in this film on the west coast, LA perhaps and in Argento's film in
Dario uses a macabre naivistic painting as a vehicle for the plot instead
of a figurine.
Certainly you can't compare the movies since they're on different levels,
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are on the A level, and Screaming
Mimi on the B level regarding the actors, budget and direction, and
Ekberg's rockets look like they are on the DD level.
But more important than that Screaming Mimi looks visually great in
it's late Film Noir style with cinematography from the famous and highly
respected veteran photographer Burnett Guffey (awarded
for his work on films like Fom Here to Eternity and Bonnie and Clyde.
The movie trailer blurts out "Excitement around
every curve" and by that they sleazily mean our own Swedish treasure
Anita Ekberg and her
famous bust. She's not that good in the role, that has to be said, as
it's dramatic and dark for her Thespian art at that time. But, the other
actors weren't that good either, so, and this is a B movie after all.
However, she's GORGEOUS and i sat staring at her, just like her audience
at the El Madhouse nightclub did, and her protective dog Devil too for
that matter. Devil could well be the best actor in this film.
Contrary to the novel and to the Argento movie there's
no real twist in Screaming Mimi as the film starts with a scene that
comes at the end of
the novel, and most viewers won't have any problems to identify the
killer. The film starts with Virginia (Ekberg) being attacked by knife
maniac, something that traumatizes her so much she has to stay at a
mental asylum where the doctor (Harry Townes) treats her and falls in
with her. Virginia is finally released and she goes back to her old
work as a burlesque dancer (a sort of arty stripper) under the name
A crime reporter, Bill (Phil Carey) turns up, and they're
soon lovers. Bill is handsome and neat and NOT as in the novel a drunken
slob. Even though
Bill acts as a piece of wood he manages to charm the busty Swedish beauty,
but he better watch up as Devil the Dane Dog looks jealous.
(A cool scene from the nightclub shows how the male faces ogles her
striptease act hungrily and bug-eyed, and thise interspersed with the
dog watching her too with his hungry snout). Why watching her
like that, is there something to see?
Answer to the question above: Yes, i guess there is.
Anita Ekberg were HOT and i'm sure Russ Meyer agree from a cloud above,
It's a pity that this film is so obscure as Burnett
Guffey really knew how to use a camera, Screaming Mimi looks great.
Even though the
film has little of suspense what it does have is a nice fall from a
window, a spectacular looking Ekberg, a charismatic dog, nice photo
and also some small parts for non-actors as the great jazz musician
and vibraphone player Red Norvo and his Trio who plays in the
nightclub music numbers and .... a performance from Burlesque legend
Gypsy Rose Lee, a woman deserving a whole page on her
(read about her on Wikipedia) and who plays the hostess of El Madhouse.
Gypsy Rose Lee
Gypsy Rose Lee or Joann Gypsy Masters plays herself
and performs a dance routine with some singing, and watching her movements
on the stage you can clearly see the difference between her dancing
and Ekberg's lame moves. The real thing so to say.
At this stage of her successful career she keep her clothes on and she
gives you an impression of being both sympathetic and
intelligent. She co-wrote (with crime writer Craig Rice) the crime novel
The G String Murders (filmed with Barbara Stanwyck).
This DVD is a Columbia Pictures restored copy and was
released in 2010, but in a bare bones edition with only a trailer as
with very little info on the sleeve. That's a pity as Screaming Mimi
is one of those Good Bad B movies you love, and deserves a lot of
extras about the people involved with this picture, as Anita Ekberg,
Burnett Guffey, Fredric Brown, Gypsy Rose Lee, Red Norvo and
Dario Argento. Then a commentary audio track with e.g.
the king of Film Noir Eddie Muller.
Presented in widescreen (ratio not specified), black & white, english