Blu-ray Release: August 24, 2021
Audio: Castilian Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 92:12
Director: Eloy de la Iglesia
When a woman spies her neighbor disposing of his wife's corpse, she will cross the line from witness to accomplice to something far more depraved. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Following years of controversy and censorship during the closing years of General Franco’s regime, Basque firebrand Eloy de la Iglesia found his greatest international success with horror films. Like some of his counterparts in Italy, who turned westerns and cop dramas into politically-charged subgenres, de la Iglesia was able to infuse his first horror movie, Cannibal Man (Spanish: La semana del asesino, 1972), with shades of his left-wing ideals. Despite the grotesque English language title (the Spanish title translates to Week of the Killer, which makes more sense, because the title character doesn’t actually eat anyone) and reputation as one of the UK’s original Video Nasties, Cannibal Man is, in fact, a dark, violent satire of Francoism and surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of homosexuality. Working off the momentum of Cannibal Man, de la Iglesia made another horror-adjacent thriller with a lightly disguised political slant entitled No One Heard the Scream (Spanish: Nadie oyó gritar, 1973). Reportedly, this one didn’t get away unscathed by Franco’s censors and was never widely available outside of Spain.
I’m comfortable categorizing No One Heard the Scream as a Spanish giallo – a common enough occurrence that we should really call them amarillos, but I digress. It doesn’t have a large body-count and it isn’t a procedural murder mystery, but it borrows from the Agatha Christie drawing room tradition and is full of Hitchcockian touches, which is enough to count in my book. That Hitchcockian angle also applies to Cannibal Man, which is entirely built around a murderer’s psychological damage and his attempts to hide his crimes, but what’s even more interesting are the similarities between No One Heard the Scream and de la Iglesia’s first thriller, The Glass Ceiling (Spanish: El techo de cristal, 1971). The Glass Ceiling is sort of a tawdry, Spanish-flavored Rear Window (1954) that plays with the isolated, neurotic woman motif seen in Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and a number of early ‘70s gialli, which is probably enough to qualify it as giallo itself, probably even more of one than No One Heard the Scream.
The argument could be made that No One Heard the Scream is sort of a combination of Glass Ceiling and Cannibal Man, not least because it stars the leads of both films, Carmen Sevilla and Vicente Parra. Moreover, all three were co-written by Antonio Fos (Gabriel Moreno Burgos is also credited here) and share specific plot & character themes. In Glass Ceiling, Sevilla is a lonely housewife who suspects that her upstairs neighbor has murdered her husband and is disposing of his body by feeding it to the landlord’s dogs. In Cannibal Man, Parra is a tormented killer who disposes of his victims’ bodies at the slaughterhouse where he works during the day. In No One Heard the Scream, Sevilla plays a woman who, while listening through the walls, catches her neighbor, played by Parra, throwing his wife’s dead body down their apartment complex’s elevator shaft. While de la Iglesia and Fos may be reusing ideas, the film remains surprisingly unpredictable and, what is set up as a hostage situation, eventually morphs into a darkly comedic, sometimes utterly sincere romance.
Acknowledging the fact that Cannibal Man is openly critical of the Spanish government and that de la Iglesia isn’t the type of filmmaker to rest on genre trappings, you don’t need to be schooled in the region’s history to recognize that No One Heard the Scream is more than an amusing reworking of garishly fashionable Italian movies. There are genuine, clearly stated bits of ironic comedy, but the film also has plenty to say about the social situation beyond this specific murder, such as moral culpability, class structures, and banality of evil. Unlike Glass Ceiling, which is sometimes lost in paying homage to other films, or Cannibal Man, which is sometimes lost in allegory, No One Heard the Scream comes closest to working as both a surprising and suspenseful thriller (the moment when the couple happens upon a multi-vehicle accident on the highway out of town and are asked to assist ambulance crews by moving injured people to a nearby hospital, for example, is sensationally scripted) and a veiled social statement. The startling denouement is a testament to both of these strengths.
I can’t find any evidence that No One Heard the Scream was ever released on North American VHS or theaters. De la Iglesia’s fans could import a Spanish PAL DVD from Filmax, but it didn’t have an English language option, so they’d have to understand Castilian Spanish. The new disc from Severin Films marks the film’s US and world HD premieres. The back of the box states that the 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is derived from an “HD scan of the original negative.” Typically, Severin lists a 2K or 4K scan, so I’m guessing they were dealing with a slightly less than ideal transfer, at least compared to the standard they’ve been keeping over the last five or so years. This isn’t a bad transfer at all – especially not when compared to the way over-sharpened, low resolution Spanish DVD (assuming the screencaps I found are accurate) – but it’s not as natural-looking as many of the studio’s more recent releases. It’s fuzzier with flatter film grain and has issues with what appears to be noise reduction (it might just be the resolution of the scan, though). Still, colors are bright, element separation is strong, black levels are tidy and deep, and there’s very little notable print damage. There’s room for improvement, but this will do just fine. Also note that, for whatever reason, my Blu-ray screencaps appear rougher than the footage in motion.
No One Heard the Scream is presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono and its original Castilian Spanish. The dialogue was dubbed in post, but everyone seems to be speaking Spanish, so the lip-sync is solid. The bulk of the track is satisfactory, including clear vocals and decently layered, though infrequent effects work, even if there are the usual problems with a film this old, i.e. slight hiss on some of the performances and occasional dips in volume consistency. Composer Fernando García Morcillo’s groovy, often rock-infused score sounds great, while exhibiting almost none of the issues heard on the dialogue and effects tracks. The same goes for the diegetic music that plays throughout the movie.
Eloy de la Iglesia and the Spanish Giallo (23:45, HD) – Via Zoom meeting, film scholar and film studies professor Andy Willis discusses the tradition of gialli in Spain. He describes the genre as defined by the Italians, the Spanish variations’ attempts to disguise the fact that they aren’t Italian, the differences between Italian and Spanish gialli, the influence of Franco’s regime, allegory in Spanish horror, and voyeurism and homoeroticism of de la Iglesia’s work.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.