- Screaming Mimi (movie 1958) review: “Lurid” is an understatement when describing Swedish actress Anita Ekberg’s pre-La Dolce Vita foray into American B noirdom.
Screaming Mimi (movie 1958) review: Swedish Bombshell Anita Ekberg struggles to find her way in impenetrable American B noir
When 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.
None other than big, busty, blonde Swedish actress Anita Ekberg was cast as the big, busty, blonde and oversexed specialty dancer Virginia Wilson in this confusing film noir – adapted by Robert Blees from a 1949 novel by Fredric Brown – about knife-wielders and screaming statues.
See if you can follow the plot, as described below.
Exotic dancing & latent lesbianism
At first, Virginia’s psychiatrist (Harry Townes) becomes obsessed with her and quits his position at the sanitarium to become her business manager.
She then 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 Gypsy Rose Lee (the notorious stripper was than 47 years old), convincingly cast as a character named Joann ‘Gypsy’ Masters.
Virginia specializes in “exotic dancing” – i.e., wearing skimpy outfits while writhing and undulating her legs and tits – that attract the eye of everyone in the room. That includes Gypsy, who appears to be a latent lesbian.
I should add that at one point Gypsy herself gets to come onstage to sing “Put the Blame on Mame” (Rita Hayworth’s main number in Gilda), donning a fabulous white fox-tail coat and enough fringe on her dress to sink a sub.
Zings to forget
Next, Virginia is pursued by a handsome newspaper reporter (Philip Carey) who tries to put together the pieces of her story. Good luck!
And even though she’s guarded by a large, mean-looking dog named Devil, Virginia is stalked by a maniacal killer. It all has something to do – don’t ask me what – with the statue of the aforementioned screaming woman.
Anita Ekberg tries hard to act and sound 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.
Bad-movie lovers, rejoice!
Artistically speaking, the filmmakers do try to be innovative. One example: The black-and-white cinematography by Oscar winner Burnett Guffey (From Here to Eternity, 1953) is solid, with effective use of lighting.
The problem with Screaming Mimi is that I couldn’t make head or tail of the plot.
But for bad-movie lovers, Screaming Mimi deserves a big thumbs-up. As the poster advertises, Suspense around every curve!.
Screaming Mimi (movie 1958) cast & crew
Director: Gerd Oswald.
Screenplay: Robert Blees.
From Fredric Brown’s 1949 novel.
Cast: Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, Harry Townes, Linda Cherney, Romney Brent, Red Norvo Trio, Alan Gifford.
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey.
Film Editing: Gene Havlick & Jerome Thoms.
Art Direction: Cary Odell.
Producers: Harry Joe Brown & Robert Fellows.
Production Company: Sage Western Pictures.
Distributor: Columbia Pictures.
Running Time: 79 min.
Country: United States.
“Screaming Mimi (Movie 1958): ‘Lurid’ Is an Understatement” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes © Alt Film Guide.
“Screaming Mimi (Movie 1958): ‘Lurid’ Is an Understatement” notes
Cinematographer Burnett Guffey would win a second Academy Award for his work on Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Screaming Mimi movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.
Anita Ekberg Screaming Mimi movie image: Columbia Pictures.
“Screaming Mimi (Movie 1958): ‘Lurid’ Is an Understatement” last updated in April 2023.
What? no credit for the performance of Harry Townes, a character actor I’ve seen and never taken much notice of…until this performance. It’s a blinder…blind obsession and hunger for love. He carries this nutty little film from start to finish. I’ll look out for him in the future because he’s bound to have done outstanding work in better films.
It’s a strange movie, and you’ll be lucky to see it in its proper form, i.e. a movie screen. As for Anita, she’s incredibly sexual even when she isn’t dancing. That said, you’ll never see another woman built like her doing a movie like this….in today’s concussed Hollywood, she’d be considered “fat”. Yeah, right.