Nisha Rathode (Editor)

The Night God Screamed

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
1 Ratings
Rate This

Rate This

Crime, Horror

Music director
Don Vincent




Gil Lasky

Gil Lasky

United States

The Night God Screamed movie poster

Release date

(Fanny Pierce), (Willis Pierce),
Dan Spelling
(Peter Coogan (as Daniel Spelling)),
Michael Sugich
(Billy Joe Harlan), (Nancy Coogan)

Similar movies
Lets Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

Death is the only way out!

The Night God Screamed is a 1971 American psychological horror film, independently made on a low budget by Lasky/Carlin Productions (producers Ed Carlin and Gil Lasky, with Lasky writing the screenplay). Due to the sensitivities connected with displaying such a provocative title, theater owners in small town and rural communities were offered the option of using the short alternative appellation, Scream.


The Night God Screamed The Night God Screamed USA 1971 HORRORPEDIA

Copyrighted in 1971 and intermittently distributed between 1971 and 1974 by exploitation producer Jerry Gross' soon-to-be-bankrupt Cinemation Industries, the sparsely exhibited feature was directed by Lee Madden and gave top billing to Academy Award nominee (Best Actress for 1949's Pinky) Jeanne Crain, whose previous two film appearances were in 1962 and 1967, with her one remaining film credit, a year after filming The Night God Screamed, being a fifth-billed supporting role in MGM's big-budget airplane drama Skyjacked.

The Night God Screamed NIGHT GOD SCREAMED THE 1971 DVD modcinema

Billy Joe's deadly baptism

The Night God Screamed THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED Movie Review 1971 Schlockmeisters 405

In the seven-and-a-half-minute pre-credits sequence, a faceless hooded figure, dressed like a monk and carrying a six-foot cruciform staff, walks through a forest, stopping on a hill overlooking a lakeside baptismal ceremony conducted by a Christ-like figure (Michael Sugich) who starts making a speech/plea to God, expressing gratitude for being shown the light and receiving "a chance to be saved". He then thanks God for giving him the power and for making him "Your son". He tells God that all those present "were just a bunch of sinners", but "I saved them", because "I made them see that using dope was the way to turn on to you". Continuing, "we got trouble, Lord — the heat won't leave us alone — they want to bust us for being hooked on you", he then declaims that "they don't dig our kind of faith — they put us down cause we ain't one of them uptight establishment churches with one of them phony moneymaking ministers, lying and stealing…" He tells God and the assembled young followers that one among them was sent to "spy on us and try to bust us". He then focuses on one of the girls and announces, "there's a chick that don't want to be baptized — she don't want to follow me" and finishes by pronouncing, "Oh, yes, Lord, in our happy flock, maybe we got us a Judas". When the girl (Andrea Darvi) gets up and tries to run, she is quickly caught and held, as the Christ-like figure, now revealed to be the leader of a Charles Manson-styled cult, calls for "The Atoner" who, appearing from the bushes, is the initially-seen silent hooded figure with the tall cross/staff. The cult leader, whom the girl addresses as "Billy Joe", forcibly "baptizes" her, with The Atoner holding her underwater, in front of all assembled, until she drowns.

Evangelist Willis and his wife Fanny

The Night God Screamed NIGHT GOD SCREAMED THE 1971 DVD modcinema

As credits start appearing, a woman (Jeanne Crain) carrying a large shopping bag, and a smaller one in her arm, is walking through a busy shopping street of a rundown neighborhood, ignoring the stares and glances of various slum dwellers. As she stops alongside an aging, toothless denizen of skid row, he grabs the smaller of her grocery bags and quickly walks away with it. She enters the back of a chapel kitchen while, in the main hall, a local evangelist (Alex Nicol) is pouring coffee for destitute men who line up with round metal trays and then sit in the auditorium eating mess hall-style. The woman, Fanny, is the evangelist's wife and she is increasingly unhappy, telling him about the stolen groceries and adding, "I'm drowning, Willis". He reassures her that things will get better and that he rented a quality hall for tonight's revival meeting.

The Night God Screamed Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies The Night God Screamed 1971 or The Wrath

Hoping to stimulate the meager offerings, Willis had paid fifty dollars for the construction of a huge wooden cross but, while driving with the cross propped-up and prominently visible in the back of their dilapidated pickup truck, he and Fanny stop at a gas station at the same time as Billy Joe, riding the back of a motorcycle of his followers, Tennessee (Miller Petitt), passes by and stops. Intrigued by the cross, Billy Joe gets off the bike and, as the astonished evangelist watches, the Christ lookalike climbs into the back of the truck and lays in a crucifixion pose upon the cross. He compliments Willis on the "mighty fine cross" and asks him "what're you gonna do with it?" Willis describes tonight's meeting and invites him and his friend to come and be saved from damnation. Billy Joe slowly repeats the word, "damnation". Meanwhile, Tennessee walks over to the truck and tells Fanny that "I prefer the older stuff", while looking at her appreciatively. After he makes a few more suggestive remarks and, opening the truck door, reaches to touch her, Fanny responds, "I think you've said just about enough, young man". Meanwhile, Billy Joe asks Willis if he expects to make a lot of money tonight and Willis tells him that it could be a good crowd and maybe he will see him there. "Maybe you will", replies Billy Joe as Willis walks away, returns to the truck and sits behind the wheel. Fanny comments to him, "strange young man" and Willis replies, "probably part of those silly cults the kids are always coming up with". Watching the truck leave, Billy Joe says, "we're goin' on a crusade — just you and me and Izzy... and The Atoner".

Willis' final sermon and crucifixion


As Willis and Fanny arrive at the meeting hall, they are met by Deacon Paul (James Sikking) who helps Willis bring the heavy cross inside, with Willis carrying it in the traditional "Jesus at Calvary" manner and saying, "there's a hammer and some nails in the tool chest, will you get them, Paul?" That evening, Willis delivers his sermon and asks for donations to help run his mission. As Deacon Paul walks around with the plate, he is taken aback to see the Jesus lookalike Billy Joe sitting in the audience, with nearby Fanny also noticing him. After the auditorium empties, Paul gives the bag containing the offerings to Willis and walks outside with Fanny, as Willis prepares to shut the lights. Upon opening the exit door and seeing the silent Atoner, with his tall cross/staff, looming in front of him, Willis asks, "Who are you? What do you want? Is this a joke?" and subsequently, after pleading with Billy Joe not to take the money for the mission proves ineffective, says to him, "God will punish you hoodlums". Those words incite Billy Joe into a wrathful fury as he shouts accusations of apostasy at Willis and then adds, "but I got the power — the Lord give it to me to deal with false prophets".

Outside, Fanny asks the reluctant Paul to speak with Willis about the meagerness of their resources, telling him, "we don't have a dime in the bank and he goes and buys a cross", and when Paul responds, "well, that cross is important to him, maybe it's worth the sacrifice", she adds, "I've had twenty-five years of sacrifice — no children, no money, no nothing". As Paul gets into his car, Fanny returns to the hall and hears Willis' cries as he is being put on the cross. She runs outside for help, but Paul has just driven away and there is no one around in the darkness of late-evening streets. Hurrying back inside and into the hall's phone booth, she tries, with shaking hands, to pull out coins, but Willis' agonized cries cause her to drop the wallet and spill the coins and then have to crawl on the floor to retrieve them. Additional screams spur her to peer through a door into the auditorium and hear Billy Joe say, "nobody's gonna hear you now, except God, and he's on our side", as The Atoner hammers the heavy construction nails into Willis' supine body. As the four intruders head for the auditorium exit, Fanny hides in the hallway closet and then enters the auditorium to behold Willis' bloody crucified corpse upon the upright standing cross. She screams and falls to her knees.

Billy Joe's trial and death sentence

Judge Coogan (Stewart Bradley) gavels the court into order as the prosecutor (Jack Donner) continues his summation, calling Billy Joe along with his two co-defendants, Izzy (Richard Smedley) and Tennessee, "vicious murderers" who are just as guilty as the unknown hooded figure whom key witness Fanny described as the one committing the act. The jury finds all three guilty and Coogan sentences them to be executed. Billy Joe gets up and exclaims, "you damn son of a bitch! — you're making me a martyr!" and, as he is led out of the courtroom, looks at Fanny and shouts, "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord!" All of Billy Joe's followers/disciples are in the courtroom and, as Fanny walks out, one of them tells her that the whole system is guilty and adds, "an eye for an eye". She passes their gauntlet, hearing the word, "die, die, die".

Fanny's fatal assignment of supervising the judge's children

About a year passes and the widowed Fanny continues to hear voices of Willis and Billy Joe, while working as a general housekeeper and assistant to Judge Coogan and his wife (Corinne Conley). She is asked by the judge, who is planning a long weekend getaway with his wife, to supervise his four teenage children, Peter (Daniel Spelling), Nancy (Barbara Hancock), Sharon (Dawn Cleary) and Jimmy (Gary Morgan), with an additional payment of fifty dollars. The childless Fanny is very reluctant, but ultimately agrees, on the condition that the kids, who appear to be approximately fourteen to seventeen years old, stay home the entire time, so she doesn't have to worry about them. Since they had sports practice, play rehearsal and dates planned, the kids are very annoyed.

The departure of the judge and his wife is observed by two bikeriders (James Waring and Terry Pratt) who had been following the judge's car when he drove Fanny to his house. Barely settled in the house, Fanny begins to experience upsetting disturbances — phone calls with no one on the line or a voice saying, "vengeance is mine" and "those who judge shall be judged and the sentence is death… tonight", then the line going dead. Shortly thereafter, the kids spot someone in the back yard and Fanny volunteers to go outside to chase him off. The "intruder" turns out to be what she describes to the kids as a "stuffed dummy", but doesn't tell them that it had a note attached with the word "vengeance". Now agitated, she declares that the house, which is half a mile from the nearest neighbor, has to be secured, with all windows as well as basement and back entrances locked. Peter, the eldest, says that he saw a hooded figure in the backyard and that Fanny's presence puts them all in danger. Movement and sounds indicate an attempted break-in and Peter tells Jimmy to run to the neighbors' house, but the hooded figure prevents that. The lights go out and the Coogan siblings express fear for their lives. Voices are heard, "God is on our side". At that point, Jimmy does decide on the need of running to summon help but, peering through the window, Fanny sees the hooded figure catch him in the back yard and plunge a knife into him, however, she tells his siblings that Jimmy got away. Shortly thereafter, Peter discovers the "vengeance" note taken from the "dummy" and accuses Fanny of keeping it to herself.

The back door opens and the hooded figure walks into the house, just as Peter disappears. Fanny goes through the house looking for him and sees blood, hears screams and realizes that the kids are gone. Looking behind various doors, she finds Peter's body hanging in a closet and runs, screaming, towards the front door, but opening it, sees the hooded figure and slams it shut. Letting out another scream, she sees the lights go out again and hears Nancy's voice pleading, "help me". Running upstairs, she enters a dark room and barricades it, while the voices of Willis and Billy Joe continue to be clearly audible for her, but are interrupted by the sound of more pleading from Nancy, "if you don't come out, they are going to kill me". Fanny un-barricades the door, comes out and embraces Nancy and, as they proceed downstairs, Sharon's lifeless body comes into view on the couch. Spotting the hooded figure at the top of the stairs, Fanny grabs a butcher knife, gives out a scream of desperation, and runs up the staircase towards him. Following a very brief struggle, she falls backwards and rolls down the stairs.

The judge's children meet their fate

The hooded figure reveals himself to be Peter who, with the assistance of his siblings, staged all the terrifying events to frighten Fanny into running away and giving them freedom to participate in their pre-planned activities. As the "murdered" Sharon rises from the couch, Peter explains, "she tried to kill me" and the returned Jimmy adds, "she did that to herself — she tried to stab Peter with that knife", while Peter tells him to switch the lights and the phone back on and, upon checking Fanny's body, states, "she's dead". Nancy exclaims, "we killed her!" as Peter protests, "I just pushed her away". As they start to discuss what story would be most believable to tell the police, the phone rings. Peter picks up and hears an ominous voice, "the sentence is death… on Judge Coogan's children… and the execution is tonight". In front of the house, The Atoner is seen standing with his cruciform staff, which now appears to loom at least twelve feet high. The lights in the house are suddenly extinguished and Peter's voice is heard emitting a piercing scream.

Evaluation in film guides and taglines

Two specialized guides had no praise for the production. Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1983 edition, page 508) gave The Night God Screamed a very brief three-sentence blurb, describing Jeanne Crain as a "Forties star" who "returns to play a woman hunted by a murderous Manson-like hooded figure". A quarter-page black-and-white posed photograph (from the film's lobby card) is on page 509, depicting Jeanne Crain looking at the skeleton-faced "stuffed dummy" which has an attached note (more visible than in the actual scene, which occurs in semi-darkness) with the word "Vengeance" and a drawing of a skull.

The other genre tome, John Stanley's The Creature Features Movie Guide (1984 edition) described the lead characters as "Priest Alex Nichol and wife Jeannie Crain", the villains as "devil worshippers, who have just drowned a young woman as a sacrifice" and the film as a "Low-budget job, inadequately directed by Lee Madden and leadenly scripted by Gil Lasky". The 1988 edition, John Stanley's Revenge of the Creature Features Movie Guide retains the misspelling "Nichol", but corrects "Jeannie" to "Jeanne" and introduces an orthographic error by changing "drowned a young woman as a sacrifice" to "drowned a young women as a sacrifice to Satan". The words "to Satan" are newly added to the 1988 edition. The 1994 edition, John Stanley's Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again further expands the sentence so that it states, with the same orthographic error, "drowned a women as a sacrifice to Satan, and now they're being terrorized by the religious fanatics".

Among mainstream guides, The Motion Picture Guide (1987 edition) assigned 1 star (out of 5) and gave another dismissive write-up consisting of three brief sentences which mention Jeanne Crain's status as a 1949 Oscar nominee, the plot as well as opinion that "The film is as intelligent as the synopsis implies", while Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever (2011 edition) threw the film its lowest rating, "WOOF!" (out of possible four bones), giving it a one-sentence plot synopsis, "fanatical cult leader is convicted of murder and the cult goes wild".

The film's taglines were:

  • Death is the only way out!
  • "A nightmare of horror so shocking, so grotesque you'll scream out loud!"
  • "A hunger for power… a thirst for blood… a night of unspeakable horror!"
  • "SCREAM — So they'll know where to find your body!"
  • References

    The Night God Screamed Wikipedia
    The Night God Screamed IMDbThe Night God Screamed Rotten TomatoesThe Night God Screamed