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When the

Screaming Stops

a/k/a Las Garras de Lorelei

a/k/a The Lorelei's Grasp

a/k/a The Night the Screaming Stopped

     "During the seven full moons, the Lorelei transforms into an obscene beast, devouring human hearts to continue her centuries old dream."

--- an old Teutonic Folktale     




Gonzoid Cinema




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Sights &
When the
  Amando de Ossorio
  Amando de Ossorio
  Ricardo Sanz
 Astor C.C.

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In a small town nestled along the banks of the Rhine River, as a nervous, semi-naked bride-to-be tries on her veil, her attention is soon drawn to a menacing tap at the window. Turns out it's only her fiancé (-- whew!), who just couldn’t wait for their wedding. Reminded that it’s bad luck to see the bride early, he leaves, but as the girl returns to her grooming, an evil POV-shot begins to lurk outside her window. Hearing something again, and thinking it's the groom, again, she investigates only to find a reptilian-like were-monster -- that resembles the Hideous Sun Demon in drag -- that viciously mauls her to death, and as the credits roll, the beast digs into her heavily lacerated chest, seemingly searching for something...

And already we’ve broken B-Movie Rule #36 and #37: Showing both nudity and the monster before the opening credits. This does not bode well for the viewer. In fact, the entire credit sequences is run over a still of a dead naked woman. Heaven help us, but let's press on.

At the bride’s funeral, overcome with grief, her grieving fiancé begins burying the coffin before the preacher can even finish the eulogy. While he scoops, we spy a mystery woman in black observing all of this from her horse-drawn coach. Back in town at the local café, as the gathered villagers discuss the gruesome incident, when the doctor reveals that on top of being murdered, the victim’s heart was torn out and is still missing, most of the locals assume it was a bear attack. But then the blind minstrel pipes up, saying the facts of the case suggest to him not a bear but the legendary Lorelei -- an evil water demon who lured sailors to their death, enthralled by her singing and feminine wiles. Also according to the legend, the minstrel continues, at a certain time during the cycle of the seven full moons, the nymphoid demon is transformed into a hideous beast and must devour human hearts to remain immortal. 

When Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa), the headmistress of the local college for girls, interrupts the plot exposition to ask the mayor for some protection, of course, every guy in the place quickly volunteers. Pulling the plug on all this testosterone, the mayor instead promises that he will send Sirgurd, the mighty hunter (Tony Kendall), alone, to protect the school -- and all the shapely students.

Later, at said school -- and the school for what, exactly, I haven't a clue, but I have a pretty good idea that it has something to do with *ahem* chicken-ranching -- the thirty-something coeds are frolicking around the pool, which appears to be the only class or curriculum the school offers. Anyways, cue up the drum roll of "C.C. Rider" as a man, who looks suspiciously like Elvis Presley in a polyester leisure suit, rolls in on his motorcycle. Ladies and gentlemen, This. Is. Sirgurd! As the crowd of girls goes wild over this hunk of burnin' whatever, I gotta think maybe they’ve all been locked up in the school just a little too long as recess ends and they reluctantly return to class. Wow ... His alpha-maleness firmly established, Sirgurd quickly sets the ground rules with a curfew at nine, and complete lockdown by nine-oh-five. Meanwhile, even though she gives him free run of the place to help protect the girls, Elke isn’t all that impressed with him -- or his chest hair, so you know they fall in love by the end. Later that evening, as Sirgurd patrols the grounds, all the girls come to their windows to say goodnight and good luck to the brave hunter -- and I have a funny story about this scene, so stick around. But the hunting will be bad around the school, for back in town, the lizard-clawed POV-shot stalks and kills another woman while our hero plays the Peeping Tom several miles away.

The next morning, wanting to know more about the Lorelei legend, a guy who looks like Col. Sanders (Luis Induni) confronts the blind minstrel. When asked why he's so interested, Sanders reveals that he believes the Lorelei monster is real. Elsewhere, at the funeral of the latest victim, Sirgurd spots the mystery woman in her coach, but she magically disappears before he can catch up to her. That night, at the blind minstrel’s home, after the POV-shot breaks in and kills him, we then get our first big graphic gore-shot as the monster rips his heart out. (Hey, it’s a Euro-horror film, it's like a law or something.)

The next day, since Elke won’t allow Sirgurd to swim in the pool, he goes for a dip in the nearby lake instead. There, he spots the half-naked mystery woman aimlessly running around. After watching her for awhile, Sirgurd decides to skip his bath and head home. On the way, he catches Col. Sanders spying on him. Turns out that Sanders is really a scientist, who takes Sirgurd to his secret lab to show off his research that is "Against all elemental principles of biology." To try and convince our hero that the Lorelei is real, the scientist takes a cadaver’s severed hand and injects it with some kind of mystery liquid. He then shines some gizmo on it that simulates moonlight, and it isn't long before the appendage changes into a lizard-like claw. Claiming that the hand has regressed back to its original, primordial state (-- What the? Oh no, it’s The She-Creature all of a sudden --), Sanders also reveals that the only way to kill the beast is to use the mythical Sword of Siegfried -- and luckily enough, he just so happens to have one those handy. Warning Sirgurd that the blade is radioactive, he demonstrates its power by stabbing the scaly hand, which reverts back to normal. 

But despite all of this evidence, Sirgurd writes Sanders off as a crackpot and leaves. Once back at the school, the glacial ice between Sirgurd and Elke begins to break as we're treated to a looooooong padding sequence of a boat ride down the Rhine. And as Elke fills us all in on some old Teutonic folklore, unbeknownst to them, the mystery woman is just below the water’s surface spying on them.

Sometime later, when Sirgurd returns to the lake, he finds the aquatic mystery woman who overcomes her shyness and reveals herself to be the real Lorelei. (I guess that means the legends are true.) Lured into a derelict building, our hero then introduces her to something called foreplay as they discuss the Lorelei legend further, where he mentions the loony old scientist. And I’m not really sure who’s seducing whom, here, but they've taken too long; Lorelei has been out of the water too long and is drying out. From out of nowhere, Alberic (Luis Barboo), her hulking guardian, appears and takes her back into the water, leaving the dumbfounded Sirgurd behind. Later that evening, Alberic and Lorelei pay a visit on Col. Sanders, and while Alberic whips the scientist bloody, Lorelei burns all of his notes. To defend himself, Sanders tries to grab the magic sword, but accidentally grabs a vial of acid instead -- and promptly spills it all over himself! And as his face disintegrates and sloughs off, the two assailants leave.

Back at the school (-- and it must be recess again because they’re all at the pool), the mayor has come to ask for Sirgurd's help because they’ve finally found the blind man’s corpse, convincing the town elder that he has a homicidal maniac on his hands. Now convinced that Lorelei is behind this rash of killings, Sirgurd takes the mayor to see Col. Sanders. When they find the gooey mess of what's left of him, Sirgurd takes the magic sword. Meanwhile, as is the tradition, the local villagers have gathered with their torches and pitchforks, ready to hunt the monster down. (They’re in Germany; again, it’s a law.) At the school, when the Lorelei monster interrupts the obligatory lesbian bathtub scene, luckily, Sirgurd overhears their screams and manages to chase the beast off before they’re turned into unwilling organ donors. (Why doesn’t he use the sword instead of the rifle? No. I'm asking you!) And later, after another obligatory plot-line is put to bed -- Sirgurd and Elke’s "We don't really hate each other, we’re really in love" scene -- when their mutual mooning by moonlight is interrupted by a spring-loaded bush (-- all apologies to Jabootu), Sirgurd sends the headmistress back inside while he investigates. But as she runs back to the school, the spring-loaded bush catches up and closes in on her, and when it’s almost upon her, Sirgurd arrives in time to scare it off. *whew*

Okay, now you really need to hang on at this point because the film is about to take a wild and reckless plot-tangent right into a brick wall:

Suddenly, we’re in a motor boat out on the lake with Sirgurd and the mayor. Donning an aqualung, Sirgurd leaves the mayor behind with instructions to blow up the lake if he doesn’t return. (Blow up the lake. Right. Gotcha ... What? -- wait!) After some minor underwater scuba-footage, Sirgurd emerges in an underwater cavern, where he's greeted by Alberic and given some renaissance festival clothes. We also catch a glimpse of a few other, semi-clad sirens lurking about as Alberic takes him before Lorelei, who tells Sirgurd that he has the honor of being selected to spend eternity with her. But when the noble Sirgurd declines because she's spilled the blood of innocents, the she-demon even tries to hypnotize him but the hunter cannot be swayed. Extremely annoyed by this, Lorelei orders Sirgurd to be held prisoner while she goes to the surface and kills Elke to punish the hunter for spiting her. But first, she must change her into blood-thirsty alter-ego ... Lying on her altar, as the moonlight washes across her body, a restrained Sirgurd watches Lorelei transform into the lizard-thing. But after she leaves, the other mischievous sirens free Sirgurd to take advantage of him. And while they wrestle to see who goes first, he escapes back to the surface. After the mayor pulls him into the boat, the soggy hunter drops a timebomb back into the water that lands on top of Lorelei's cave.

I call this previous segment a tangent into a brick wall because at no point in the film has this lair of the Lorelei ever been mentioned. Meaning, How did he know where the hell it was!!

At the school, when Lorelei attacks Elke, the creature draws some blood but Sirgurd arrives in time before his girl loses her heart to another. After he plunges the magic sword into the beast, Sirgurd watches the mortally wounded Lorelei stumble off into the woods. Meanwhile, back at the bottom of the lake, the bomb goes off -- collapsing the cave, killing Alberic and the other Sirens. Above, trailing the monster back to the lake, where it reverts to her female form as it expires, Sirgurd cradles the body until her spirit appears to him on horseback, which proclaims she'll be waiting for him on the other side before riding off.

The End

I probably could have picked a better film for my first foray into Euroshock cinema, but this particular film holds a special significance for me as my first theatrical Midnight-Movie experience ... Back when I was still in high school, when the local theater announced a special, one-shot only midnight screening, the film in question was none other than When the Screaming Stops. Somewhere between highly excited and total nerdgasm, I arrived early, and after paying for my ticket, received a small paper sack. Assuming this was for free popcorn, when I sauntered up to the snack-bar and asked the cute counter girl to fill it up, hold the salt, she then informed me -- as politely as she could -- that the sack wasn’t for popcorn, but was a complimentary motion-picture-sickness-bag. It was then that I noticed the sacks striking similarity to an airliner’s barf-bag: turns out the film I was about to encounter was supposed to be so gross, that we were to use the bag if we got nauseous. Man! I said, needling toward that nerdgasm ... This was gonna be great! We we’re also informed that the screen would flash red whenever one of these gruesome scenes was fast approaching, so those with weaker stomachs could avert their eyes. Barely containing myself, I settled into my seat and, with the bag at the ready, watched the film.

Turns out I didn't need to use the bag, and the warning lights were totally unnecessary, but I always remember enjoying the film. Back then we didn't have the internet and couldn't have known in the age of slasher-movies that When the Screaming Stops was nothing but a recycled and re-titled monster movie import from the early 1970's. I didn't mind at all, and the fact that I kept calling the hero Elvis, the gratuitous gore sequences, and that I knew all about the Teutonic folklore because of the Thor comics I’d read, all kept this film alive for me. But with almost the entire film committed to memory, I unfortunately couldn’t remember the damn title right, and so, for the last fifteen years, I’ve been looking for a film called The Night the Screaming Started. Oh, you wouldn’t believe the elation I felt when I picked up When the Screaming Stops at the Video Kingdom a few days ago, read the synopsis on the back, and realized that this was a Holy Grail I’d been searching for.

Watching it again, the film itself was as goofy as I remembered it. Written and directed by Amando de Ossorio, he is probably best known for the spectacular Tombs of the Blind Dead. But everything that he did right in Dead, he basically does wrong here. A weird mish-mash of Italian horror conventions and German mythology, the film obviously loses something in the translation because the fact that Sirgurd knew about the Lorelei’s underground lair is just too big a plot hole for me to forgive.

I also recall the scene at the school when all the girls came to their windows to say goodnight to Sirgurd. I could have sworn that after they opened the curtains, and just as they began to strip out of their nightgowns, there was a real bad film-splice -- and then the girls were magically lacing their nightgowns back up, and closing the curtains, much to the dismay of males in the audience. Unfortunately, this seems to be a false memory, or a hormone induced figment of my imagination. All the other nude scenes and some of the gore were also spliced out of the print we were shown back then. Still, even undiluted, compared with other films in the same genre, there is little nudity and the gore-effects are strictly Chef-Boyardee as many a can of tomato paste we’re sacrificed in the making this film. And once again, the loopy organ-soundtrack appears to have been abducted from a porno film. And there really is no mystery or suspense to the film, either. My faulty memory also had the headmistress of the school being the monster. (Note to self: I have got to cut back on the beer.) And the fact that it doesn’t take long for all the locals to accept the fact that a monster is doing the killing still makes me giggle. As mentioned before, the scaly critter appears to be a cross between an alligator, the Sun Demon and a Gorn. And the gals will be happy to know that said monster is an equal opportunity killer as it actually kills more men than women.

The only real problem that I have with When the Screaming Stops is the lack of a likeable character. Sirgurd is a pompous ass who just oozes smarmy machismo -- and I counted at least eleven different leisure suits sported by this guy, and Elke switches from ice queen to floozy so fast, and so often, you don’t know which one will show up from scene to scene. And everybody else is killed off as soon as we’re introduced to them, cutting the best thread of the film short as we barely get to know the wacko mad scientist and are afforded only a glimpse at his lab with all the free roaming animals (-- including a sheep that’s perhaps just a little too friendly). I also loved the way Sirgurd wasn’t fazed at all by the scientist’s collection of cadaver parts, or that his sci-babble made absolutely no sense. But I think that’s the main reason why I enjoyed When the Screaming Stops so much: because it is so absurd -- in content and execution. I’m also happy to report that the flashing red lights are included on the video, but alas, there were no complimentary barf-bags at the video store check out.

Originally Posted: 07/21/00 :: Rehashed: 05/31/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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