Blu-ray Review: The House That Screamed


The arrival of DVDs (and later Blu-rays) opened up so much for cinephiles. Most importantly, the format allowed cinephiles working for home video companies to provide so much more than you could do with a Beta or VHS tape. The format allowed them to do so much more to an import film that a viewer might have seen as a crummy pan and scan version on the late-night creature feature. They could give the proper aspect ratio. They can allow the viewers to hear the dialogue in the intended language. They can even show how the film played before the American distributor recut the film to make it more palatable to an American audience. The House That Screamed was a major horror hit in Spain in 1969 when it was released as La Residencia. When American International Pictures put the film in theaters in 1971, they’d changed the title to The House That Screamed, gave it an English dub and ran a slightly altered version. Now people who were able to enjoy the extended cut of the film and also watch the AIP cut they enjoyed in their youth. We can enjoy both cuts of The House That Screamed along with bonus features that let us know this was a prestige production and not a cheapy horror when it was made in Spain.

Headmistress Señora Fourneau (The Boys From Brazil’s Lilli Palmer) runs a boarding school that turns the unfortunate girls of France into refined women. Or it makes them disappear. She’s rather ruthless with the girls since she knows they’re rather feral. She has warned her teenage son Luis (Vampire Circus‘ John Moulder-Brown) to stay away from them since none are good enough for him. Her main form of punishment is to lash the girls with a whip. Her little toady is student Irene Tupan (Crucible of Terror‘s Mary Maude). There’s no talk of demerits. Teresa Garan (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie‘s Cristina Galbó) arrives at the school and realizes this might not be a great educational choice. While the other girls might have done criminal activities, Teresa’s there because her mother is a hooker. She does sense that there’s someone spying on her no matter where she goes in the dilapidated school. Irene isn’t cut out for being a future sadistic headmistress and plots her escape. Before she can make it to freedom, her throat is slashed. The next morning, the headmistress rules that her Mini-me has escaped. A few students fear something else is happening and is making this extra creepy boarding school even more creepy.

There are two cuts of the movie on the Blu-ray. First is the American International Picture release known as The House That Screamed. It last 94 minutes. The film didn’t do well when released back in 1971. Perhaps it would have done better as The Girls School That Screamed? There is also an extended cut listed as The Finishing School that lasts 105 minutes. This is the preferable cut of the film and a more ominous title for a horror film. This works well as a double feature with Dario Argento’s Susperia.

What’s astounding is that The House That Screamed was given a GP rating (original version of the PG). The film has quite a few nasty moments of bloodletting, whipping and there’s even a group shower scene with a boy peeking through a hole in the tiles like Porky’s. While the girls in the shower are wearing white nightgowns, they show off everything when soaked like a wet t-shirt contest. The movie must have had the same MPAA panel that gave a G rating to the original Planet of the Apes. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador has created a rather frightful tale. The House That Screamed deserves to be fully enjoyed on Blu-ray.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the little nasty corners of the finishing school. You’ll see a lot more in the shower room scene than when you stayed up to see the movie on the Creature Double Feature. The audio for The House That Screamed version is only in English LPCM mono. Finishing School features LPCM Mono tracks for both the English and Spanish dub. While the movie was shot in Spain, the cast is from all over Europe so both dialogue tracks were created in ADR. Both versions of the movie are subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary by Anna Bogutskaya has the host of the Final Girls podcaster. She grew up in Spain and is thrilled to get to talk aobu the influential Spanish horror film. She gets into the cultural things. She was a fan of the director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s TV series that made him a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. He also made a long running gameshow.

This Boy’s Innocence (24:20) catches up with John Moulder-Brown. He talks about being 15 and moving from child actor to more adult roles. There’s talk of the shocking ending so watch this after you see the movie. This was recorded in 2017 and John still looks so youthful.

An Interview with Mary Maude (11:51) has her talking at the Fantastic FIlm Festival in Scotland back in 2012. She talks about after getting cast in England, she went to Spain and discovered she’d been promoted to the lead role when the Spanish actress didn’t work out. She describes the film and gives away the ending. Also talks about how everyone spoke different languages, the movie was all dubbed for both Spanish and English. But she did learn Spanish quickly to understand what the crew were saying.

All About My “Mamá” (9:25) talks with Juan Tebar, who wrote the original story. He admits the Hitchcock elements to the tale. He goes into the things they had to do to work around the state-run media censors to get their movie made.

The Legacy of Terror (13:55) meets up with Alejandro Ibanez, the son of the director. He talks of his father’s role in establishing Spanish horror and suspense between his movies and anthology tv series. He gets into the horror and fantasy elements of his dad’s work.

Screaming the House Down (20:23) is Spanish horror and film scholar Dr. Antonio Lazaro-Reboll giving background and impact of the film.

Excerpts from the Spanish Version (6:09) has moments that had to be altered on the Spanish version to keep the local censors from being upset. There’s also a cut for the letter being read is written in Spanish. The American cut had the better scenes.

Trailer Gallery includes US Theatrical Trailer (2:04), US TV Spot #1 (0:58), US TV Spot #2 (0:27), US Radio Spot #1 (1:00) and US Radio Spot #2 (0:30).

Image Gallery has 34 press photos and posters

Arrow Video presents The House That Screamed. Directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. Screenplay by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. Starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown and Mary Maude. Rated PG. Running Time: 94 minutes. Release Date: March 7, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.