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'Screaming Mimi': Anita Ekberg Must-See of Sorts

Screaming Mimi (1958)

Dir.: Gerd Oswald. Scr.: Robert Blees; from Fredric Brown's novel. Cast: Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, Harry Townes, Linda Cherney, Romney Brent, Red Norvo Trio


Screaming Mimi by Gerd OswaldWhen a big, busty blonde is assaulted in an outdoor shower by an escaped lunatic, her life is spared just in time by her stepbrother. The shattered victim is then committed to a mental hospital so she can try to put her life back together in Gerd Oswald's lurid melodrama Screaming Mimi.

The over-sexed, busty, blonde Swedish actress Anita Ekberg plays the over-sexed, busty, blonde specialty dancer Virginia Wilson in this confusing film noir about knife-wielders and screaming statues. See if you can follow all this:

Virginia's psychiatrist (Harry Townes) becomes obsessed with her and quits his position at the sanitarium to become her business manager. She gets a job as a nightclub entertainer under the stage name of “Yolanda Lange,” eventually becoming the star attraction at the sleazy El Madhouse, where she works for none other than Gypsy Rose Lee (convincingly playing a character named Joann 'Gypsy' Mapes).

Virginia specializes in “exotic dancing,” i.e., all legs and tits writhing and undulating in skimpy outfits onstage, while being leered at by everyone in the room – including Gypsy, who plays what appears to be a latent lesbian. (Gypsy does get to come onstage to sing “Put the Blame on Mame,” wearing a fabulous white fox-tail coat and enough fringe on her dress to sink a sub.)

Anita Ekberg in Screaming MimiVirginia is then pursued by a handsome newspaper reporter (Philip Carey) who tries to put the pieces of her story together. (Good luck!) And even though she's guarded by a large, mean-looking dog named “Devil,” she is stalked by a maniacal killer. It all has something to do – don't ask me what – with the statue of a screaming woman.

The Swedish Bombshell Ekberg tries hard to be believable, but she is no threat to either Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman. When Virginia is questioned about her past life, she says, “Zometimes I can't remember zings. Many zings.” Including, apparently, her character motivation.

Artistically speaking, Screaming Mimi does try to be innovative. Burnett Guffey's black-and-white cinematography is solid, with effective use of lighting. The problem is that I couldn't make head or tail of the plot (written by Robert Blees from a novel by Fredric Brown). But for bad-movie lovers, I'd give Screaming Mimi a big thumbs-up.

As the poster advertises, Suspense around every curve!.

© Danny Fortune

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