Suburban Grindhouse Memories # 14 – A SCREAM IN THE STREETS
“The Epitome of 70s Sleaze…”
by Nick Cato
This week’s classic is a film I actually saw first on VHS as part of a double feature series titled “Harry Novak’s Frightful Flicks.” Novak was an exploitation film pioneer during the 60s and 70s, producing and releasing countless “nudie cutie” films, cheap horror and sci-fi outings, and the following gem that just may be the world’s first “cop/buddy movie.”
A SCREAM IN THE STREETS (1973)—while fun to watch on VHS—was even more fun when seen in a theater alongside the DEATH WISH-esque VIGILANTE (which was directed by William “MANIAC” Lustig). I don’t know if a more entertaining movie night was had by me during the year of 1983, when this twisted double bill pulled into the Fox Twin Theater in my hometown.
Knowing there was a good chance NO ONE else in attendance had seen A SCREAM IN THE STREETS, I put my feet up on the back row and anxiously waited for the crowd’s reaction to this soft-core sex film that Novak cleverly disguised as a slasher/police drama.
From it’s opening (nearly) credit-free sequence of a transvestite slashing up some poor young girl, to it’s closing shot of the same tranny slashing up someone else, this crudely directed “police drama” had most patrons either drooling over the extended peeping tom scenes, cringing over a brutal massage parlor beating or laughing whenever detectives Ed and Bob came on screen, each with the acting ability of a parking meter.
Ed and Bob cruise around downtown L.A., looking for perps (and pervs). One poor girl who works at a massage parlor has to deal with some old freak, who—not satisfied with using his hands to spank—ends up chasing her around the joint with his belt, swinging at her (and occasionally connecting) in a scene so absurd most of the theater didn’t know what to make of it. I found out a few years later (thanks to some horror fanzine) that A SCREAM IN THE STREETS’ massage parlor sequence was actually a peek into a “roughie” film, i.e. late 60s/early 70s sex films that used S&M and/or light bondage or hitting as a replacement for hardcore sex scenes. Whatever the case, this was one of the more obscure things I’ve ever seen in a suburban cinema, and I’m sure everyone at this screening would agree.
Next, we’re treated to a peeping tom spying on two housewives who decide to turn their afternoon tea party into an experimental lesbian session. Wouldn’t you know our hero detectives happen to spot this creep hiding in the bushes, but he escapes before they can bring him in. A few more peeping tom scenes fill up the rest of the time in-between completely lifeless dialogue and some of the more hideous fashions ever committed to celluloid.
Our transvestite slasher (who rapes and kills girls for no apparent reason) is played with an emotionless smirk by Con Covert, an actor who starred in countless 70s soft core films (including 1974’s THE PLAYMATES IN DEEP VISION 3-D!) before landing a supporting role in the 1984 cult classic REPO MAN. His face is partially covered by a bad wig and Sunday church hat to help hide his horrendous facial expressions.
A few people left the theater, either offended by the belt-sequence or off to get a large Coke to help caffeinate them through the rest of the film, which, while truly slow at times, does have that certain charm lovers of bad cinema have come to love.
While detectives Ed and Bob may or may not be the first “cop/buddy” team, A SCREAM IN THE STREETS is arguably one of the trashiest low-budget features to not only get a theatrical release (in 1973), but to be brought back ten years later as a back-up for Lustig’s semi-successful street justice actioner. Director Carl Monson (who directed the pseudo-cult epic PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER, also in 1973), evidentally not satisfied with the transvestite or the peeping tom, also manages to squeeze some goofy-looking cokehead into the mix, and even throws in semi-underground star John Tull as a reefer-smoking hippie.
With more nudity than a nudist camp, worse acting than PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958), choreography-free fight sequences, sloppy-aftermath gore “F/X” and one of the lamest slashers ever to hit the screen, A SCREAM IN THE STREETS is a cop/buddy movie that also features two of the lamest cops ever to be paired (but thankfully the tranny kills one during the suspense-free finale).
For belt fetishists and trash-film completists only. (If you MUST see this, Something Weird Video released a deluxe DVD edition a few years ago…even I have yet to revisit it).
© Copyright 2010 by Nick Cato