DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown
Writing Credits:
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador

In 19th century France, a strict headmistress runs a secluded school for wayward girls whose students are disappearing under mysterious circumstances.

Rated GP.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English LPCM Monaural
Spanish LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min. (Theatrical)
105 min. (Extended)
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/7/2023

• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Anna Bogutskaya
• “This Boy’s Innocence” Featurette
• Interview with Actor Mary Maude
• “All About My ‘Mama’” Featurette
• “The Legacy of Terror” Featurette
• “Screaming the House Down” Featurette
• Excerpts from Spanish Version
• Trailer Gallery
• Image Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The House That Screamed (La Residencia) [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 16, 2023)

According to publicity materials for 1969’s The House That Screamed, it offers “Spain’s first major horror film production”. This leaves me curious to see if the movie succeeds on its own merits or it simply acts as a historical trivia question.

Set in 19th century France, Mme. Fourneau (Lilli Palmer) runs a boarding school for “wayward girls”. Into this setting, teenaged Teresa Garan (Cristina Galbó) becomes a new arrival.

Teresa soon learns that Mme. Fourneau takes a stern, strict attitude that goes well beyond acceptable levels. This leads to a mix of complications that threaten the well-being of Teresa and the other girls.

Although I refer to the movie as The House That Screamed, I actually watched La Residencia, or The Finishing School. The 1969 version went by that title and runs 1:45:11.

In 1971, the film received a US release under The House That Screamed. However, this didn’t just alter the title, as this version chopped down the original to 1:34:22.

Apparently the US cut dropped some graphic violence to get a “GP” rating and also lost some footage for pacing reasons. Whatever the case, I figured I should watch the original vision rather than the edited edition.

After a screening of the longer one, I find myself mildly curious to watch the shorter cut. I feel that way less because I enjoyed House and more to see if the edits made this snoozer a better movie.

The 105-minute House comes with the bones of a good thriller but it rambles and meanders its way to nowhere. Essentially a movie that follows the “women in prison” genre but uses a more genteel vibe, the film attempts to combine those exploitation roots with a stronger arthouse feel.

This flops, as House fails to satisfy either side. Its pretensions come across as silly and like over-reach.

For instance, a sequence in which one of the girls gets some action comes from the other students’ perspectives. They become all hot and bothered as they hear this tryst.

While this could provoke emotion – whether erotic or anxious – the end result seems silly. Director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador even resorts to a laughable shot in which thread goes through the eye of a needle in one of the more ridiculous metaphors for sexual intercourse ever depicted.

House toys with the exploitation side of things as well but it fails to indulge in these well. It feels like Serrador wants to indulge the drive-in Roger Corman flick House tells at its core but he can’t let go of those arthouse aspirations.

Of course, some of this stems from the conservatism of the era. House comes from a time when movies tended to hint at themes rather than make them explicit, and Spanish censorship made it tough to depict much.

As such, we get hints of lesbian tendencies and sexual tension without anything concrete. The movie also skirts nudity, though we do see the girls shower in nighties that the water makes see-through.

Would a more “R”-rated House seem more entertaining? Maybe, but the end result still suffers from the thin nature of the plot and the characters.

House probably should stay from Teresa’s point of view, but it broadens its horizons and spends a lot of time with supporting roles as well. These choices don’t work and just make a flimsy story even less coherent.

The film can’t decide if Mme. Fourneau’s teen son Louis (John Moulder-Brown) is a creepy perv or a cute boy next door. His relationship with Isabelle Delome (Maribel Martín) – a student who goes missing – feels more like a plot contrivance than anything organic.

Worst of all, House simply lacks drama or tension. Because it fails to develop its characters or themes well, it never conveys the supposed horror at its heart.

We do find a fairly good performance from Palmer. She seems strong and cruel but still shows some humanity, as one can tell she thinks she’s doing what’s best for the girls.

No one else manages much personality, unfortunately. That said, the script leaves them with such flat characters that even more talented actors would find it tough to prosper.

Serrador does manage a reasonably oppressive tone, but even that doesn’t really work, mainly because the on-screen action rarely feels especially threatening. While the boarding school doesn’t come across as a fun place, the film fails to convey the sadism and nastiness it needs to make the location seem horrifying and intolerable.

House always feels like a professional production, and this allows it to remain watchable. It simply lacks much actual impact or drama.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

The House That Screamed appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, the image held up well.

Sharpness was strong. The vast majority of the film looked tight and concise, with only a little softness on display.

I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and no edge enhancement occurred. Print flaws caused no problems – outside of some light scratches during the opening credits.

Colors looked good, as they often appeared clear and accurate. The movie didn’t offer a broad palette, as it preferred subdued brownish tones much of the time with some light pinks and purples. The hues were positive within those parameters.

Black levels also worked well, as they demonstrated depth and richness, and shadow detail looked fine. Overall, this was a fine transfer that did the film justice.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it felt more than adequate for a thriller from 1969. Speech seemed fairly natural and firm, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess, though some sibilance interfered.

Note that the film came with both English and Spanish renditions, and the actors used different languages through the production. In other words, English-native performers did their lines in English and Spanish speakers used Spanish.

This meant neither language was “right” or “wrong”. However, most of the movie went with English speakers, so I opted for that one. Both ended up heavily looped anyway, so dialogue sounded less than natural whichever version you chose.

Effects lacked much range, but they lacked problems with distortion and seemed acceptably concise. Music also felt thin and without a lot of power.

Still, those elements demonstrated adequate reproduction. Nothing about the audio excelled, but it seemed fine for a flick of this one’s age and ambitions.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film critic Anna Bogutskaya. She provides a running, screen-specfic look at director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, story/characters/themes, cast and performances, filmmaking techniques, interpretation and genre domains.

Though not a bad commentary, Bogutskaya also never makes this an especially compelling track. She tends to stick with views of the end product, with an emphasis on notes about narrative and roles.

These thoughts don’t seem necessary because House doesn’t represent an especially deep film. The viewer can pick up on all the subtext already so the “insights” lack punch.

Bogutskaya also goes MIA a little too often. Again, this becomes a listenable chat but not one that becomes particularly valuable.

Under “Interviews”, we find five segments, and This Boy’s Innocence provides a 24-minute, 20-second chat with actor John Moulder-Brown.

He tells us of how he got his role, his character and performances, and some experiences during the shoot. Moulder-Brown gives us a good collection of notes.

Another actor appears during An Interview with Mary Maude. Shot in 2012, this one spans 11 minutes, 51 seconds.

Maude covers her memories of House. This becomes a short but informative reel.

All About My “Mama” lasts nine minutes, 25 seconds and brings a chat with author Juan Tébar.

He looks at his story, its move to the screen, and the film’s legacy. A smattering of decent notes emerge but this feels like a lackluster chat overall.

Next comes The Legacy of Terror, a 13-minute, 55-second conversation with director’s son Alejandro Ibáñez. He offers a look at his dad’s life and career in this moderately useful piece.

Finally, Screaming the House Down occupies 20 minutes, 23 seconds and involves horror/fantasy film scholar Dr. Antonio Lazaro-Reboll.

“Down” looks at aspects of the production as well as cast and crew. We find a reasonable overview.

Excerpts from the Spanish Version fill six minutes, nine seconds. These show changes made for the edition of La Residencia that ran in Spain.

Don’t expect much, especially because 4:27 of that 6:09 just displays the opening credits in Spanish, and another shot simply shows a student’s letter in Spanish.

A few mildly “objectionable” elements get “censored” here. However, the changes remain minor.

A Trailer Gallery provides a mix of ads, all from the US. We get a trailer, two TV spots, and two radio spots.

Lastly, an Image Gallery presents 34 stills that mix publicity shots and print ads. It becomes a mediocre compilation.

An awkward mix of sexual exploitation flick and arthouse fare, The House That Screamed never finds a groove. Despite some moderate positives, the film lacks tension and tends to meander. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, adequate audio and a mix of bonus materials. While the core of an interesting movie exists, the end result fails to connect.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main