Scream Pretty Peggy

I usually liken the winters spent in Kindertrauma Castle with THE SHINING. You know, unavoidable cabin fever, highly repetitive writing and the occasional Big Wheel ride. This past winter though, sheesh, that analogy just won't cut it. Winter 2010 was more like JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING, more Antarctica than Colorado. Beards were grown, long johns were worn and as we fond ourselves surrounded by suspicious pets, paranoia reigned. The only alleviation from the madness was found in roller-skating to STEVIE WONDER tunes, whiskey and the occasional video chess game (well more like UNCHARTED 2 than chess, but you get the idea). And yes, I admit it, mysterious shredded clothes were discovered and somebody ended up tied to a chair. Let's not talk about the noose, "I'm all better now."

I tell you this because last week when spring finally frickin' sprung it was time to get the hell out of this stinkin' shoebox! How could we though, we had just discovered SCREAM PRETTY PEGGY on VEOH (thanks to readers Mike & Senski) and it simply had to be viewed at once, what to do?

Then I had an idea of Blair Warner magnitude. Since we were locked into watching SCREAM PRETTY PEGGY on the laptop anyway why not take it into the backyard and watch it outside under the stars? A.J. groused like a man in love with his couch but I insisted. I needed to get outside before my head popped off and grew lobster legs!

Kids, do you know that watching T.V. in the backyard is the best, most fun thing on Earth? You can drink beer freely and they have something called oxygen there. If your brain is made of Play-doh like mine is, you can even imagine that you are at the drive in! It's easy, just pretend that you're as big as a matchbook and that you're sitting on the space key of your computer. Naturally, the more experience you have beating reality into submission the easier this trick will work for you. Good luck and remember to turn back to normal size after the show!

Now on to the movie, one of the first things that I noticed while watching this one was how much of a fan I WAS NOT of Peggy. I had just seen actress SIAN BARBARA ALLEN in YOU'LL LIKE MY MOTHER and found her tolerable enough so I'm assuming it's the way the character is written. I'm sorry, but if the first thing I learn about you as a person is that you CUT IN LINE, our relationship is pretty much null and void. I thought momentarily that Peggy and I could be pals when she said she was looking for a "lighthouse keeping job" as that too is my dream. Turns out she didn't say, "lighthouse keeping," she said, "light – housekeeping." Oh, Peggy, you and I haven't a chance.

You see, I have your number Peggy, I've encountered your type before! You feign helplessness to get your foot in the door and then suddenly you own the place. Your too easy grin, your phony self deprecation, do you think I was born yesterday Peg? You are obnoxious and pushy and that is why I've re-titled your film SCRAM PUSHY PEGGY!

I have a hard time believing anyone would hire Peggy but get hired she does; I guess it helps when you're willing to sell your services for 75 cents an hour (an amount that shrewd, manipulative Peggy jacks up to 1.65 within minutes of arrival.) Peggy is hired by famous sculpture Jeffrey Elliot (TED BESSELL, THAT GIRL's ever patient Donald) who lives with his mother Mrs. Elliot (some lady called BETTE DAVIS). The audience is aware that the Elliots are hiding secrets almost instantly and Peggy, who's not the brightest peg on the Lite Brite board, has a notion too. FREE ADVICE: If you have a horrendous, odious secret you're trying to keep, a secret so dark and twisted that discovery of it will land you a lifetime gig in Sing-Sing do your own "light-housekeeping." Don't allow strangers into your web, fool! There's a reason why everything in Kindertrauma Castle is covered in fur balls and on the fritz!

Although more cliché ridden than a thousand hipsters, there are several elements to this 1973 made-for-television movie that raise its ass above the chaff; the killer in a long flowing nightie with disheveled hair is tops for one. The image is not used enough but it's grand and slasher worthy. Check out TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978)'s TOVAH FELDSHUH's opening kill it's pretty good (incidentally, TOVAH did the voice over work as "grown-up Jane" in SILVER BULLET. Man, I wish she got the part of Peggy.) In addition, I LOVE the evil red sculptures that Jeff creates; they're these gigantic molten creations and they steal every scene they're in (plus they'd look great in the backyard.)

Then there's BETTE DAVIS, it may be the gay gene talking but you're more likely to look away from a UFO landing than her. I know A.J. has a penchant for her because he has a soft spot for snide, irascible misanthropes (don't ask me how I know that) but I dig her because she never fails to remind me of MARTIN SHORT. Some feel that DAVIS has little to do in this movie but I think that's kind of the beauty part. More often than not she is just propped up on a bed, handed a teacup filled with hooch and prodded to squawk lines like "!," "You don' here!," and "You're...(pause)...fired!"

SCREAM PRETTY PEGGY is generally bland and predictable but speckled with splinters of semi-greatness. I'm sure its final revelation held some kind of scandalamity power back in the day but to contemporary audiences, it's the second most overused "twist" right behind "P.S., you're already dead!" Still one does not look a DAVIS cameo in the mouth and I have to admit my abhorrence toward the title character made it a particularly fun movie to bark and throw imaginary jujubes at. That's another great thing about watching movies outside; what better way to announce to the neighbors that their cruel summer of bad eighties music noise pollution is right around the corner? I know it's rude to subject innocent ears to archaic pop tunes but at least I don't cut in line.

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Amanda By Night
13 years ago

Here are just a few reason I hold Scream, Pretty Peggy close to my heart:

1. The director, Gordon Hessler made Manhattans in his Hollywood Hills home (and we got drunk!).

2. My boyfriend is constantly doing impressions of the infamous "You're fired," line.

3. For most of my life I was mashing up this movie with an episode of Thriller (the British one from the 70s) and that version was AWESOME!

4. Ted Bessel is frumpy in this movie, but I still think he's hot.

5. And yes, those statues. CREEPY!

Mr. Hessler told me they shot this movie in FIVE days. A lot of TV movies were made under these kinds of shooting schedules so I have to give it props because many times, like you said, there can be glimmers of brilliance.  Imagine shooting a whole film in five days and having it turn out watchable! That's hard!

I like Peggy, but at first I didn't care for her. I guess it was her appearance on the Waltons and in Columbo that made me "get" her. And I like the gothic feel of this movie. I LOVE movies that take place in giant houses where you see very little of the outside. There' something truly creepy about the setting of this film.

Great review. Glad spring has hit and I hope it's not too cruel of summer for my favorite kids at the castle! 🙂

13 years ago

Alright, you're definatly at the top of your game with this review. Hilarious, informative, and all those other things that make compulsive reading, BUT I still can't quite warm up to this one. I tried to work with your thought that there's a certain beauty in "some lady named Bette Davis" (very funny, by the way) not having enough screen time, but after having to slog through the rest of the cast (all 2 or 3 of them), I just wish the whole thing had been a one-woman show with Davis in every role. Oh well, thanks for trying to get me to come around to this one. You've definatly come closer than anybody thus far in leading me to believe it's better than I thought.

13 years ago

Ive always wanted to see this one but could never track down a copy.

By the way, they now make these things you can play movies in that project the film on "any blank wall" . I have a white fence in my yard so I plan on buying one and playing movies back there in the summertime. As if my neighbors dont hate me enough (I like to play 80s hair metal at night!) they now will look out their windows and see me and my homies out there watchin FRITZ THE CAT by the light of the moon!

aunt john
13 years ago

@craig: You can sign me up for BETTE DAVIS one woman productions of just about anything…