Judge Dylan Charles quickly abandoned his plans to renovate a mill in Dunwich.
From Gothic to Golem—A Terror Twofer!
British horror, at least British horror from the 1960s, seems to fall into one of two categories: stuff by Hammer and everything else. Everything else, such as The Deadly Bees and The Projected Man, seemed to wind up fodder on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Still, I had high hopes here because I recognized Roddy McDowall in It! and Oliver Reed in The Shuttered Room. Surely these two actors can bring their A-games and ensure some quality entertainment. Well? Sort of.
Facts of the Case
Horror Double Feature: The Shuttered Room/It! is a double feature:
• The Shuttered Room: Based on a novel by H.P. Lovecraft. Susannah (Carol Lynley) and her husband Mike (Gig Young) head to Susannah's hometown of Dunwich to reclaim family property that was left to her, but they find the locals are obnoxious and that Susannah's family has some kind of vague death curse placed on it. Straw Dogs meets Lovecraft basically.
• It!: Arthur Pimm (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes) is an assistant curator who has gained control over a museum piece that's actually the Golem, a creature of Jewish legend that's basically a living clay man. One of the more bizarre movies I've seen unfolds.
As far as entertainment goes, It! has it in spades. Roddy McDowall appears to be having a great deal of fun as the prim and proper lunatic with a murderous, indestructible mud man at his disposal. It's not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. The plot is ludicrous. The Golem somehow manages to fall into the hands of a man who keeps his dead mother in his house a la Norman Bates. Of the hundreds of thousands of people in London, Pimm is perhaps the worst possible candidate to wield an unstoppable force of God.
And the Golem itself is not very frightening, no matter what the characters say. The day I get the shivers from something that looks like a badly constructed, half-melted wax figure wearing a dress is the day I store my dead ma in my attic.
McDowall is so over the top, the characters so odd and the plot so loopy that it's actually fun to watch, if you're the kind of person who enjoys a good bad movie—and that I am!
The Shuttered Room on the other hand is just boring bad, but it's just as incomprehensible. The young married couple wants to take an old rundown mill and turn it into a summer home. Fair enough. This rundown mill is on an extremely isolated island populated with unlikeable people, but the young couple still wants to stay. Little weird. The locals try and rape the young woman. Several times. But they still want to give it the old college try. Throw in the fact that woman never seemed to really want to be here in the first place and hasn't lived here since she was four, not to mention the death curse, and there's absolutely no reason why these two lovebirds should want to stay on this shitheap of an island except that the script demands it.
There's also the weird mix of accents. This is, I think, supposed to take place in New England somewhere, except a few people have English accents or barely repressed English accents. Oliver Reed has adopted some kind of weird, lilting version of Generic New England Accent.
And so little actually happens. It's not horror. It's not even a half-decent thriller. There's just vague warnings whispered and implied threats. I spent a good deal of the movie wondering when someone would do the decent thing and die already, if only to justify all the superstitious fear the island folk had about the death curse. It's hard to feel any level of concern for the main characters when even the supporting cast and extras aren't in any danger.
When the monster/curse was finally revealed I was so surprised. Wait, I wasn't surprised at all. It was predictable and doesn't actually make that much sense—so the less said about that the better.
There are no extras, but everything at least looks pretty good. Which is something. When I watch a movie about a living mud man, I want to be able to see every crease, by God.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If the original release dates and the name of H.P. Lovecraft conjured up images of classic horror, you could be disappointed by this one.
It! is worth watching for Roddy McDowall alone. He amps up the creepiness factor for the bizarre Mr. Pimm and makes the film's flaws bearable. The Shuttered Room should be ignored. Just watch Straw Dogs if you want to watch young people battling a group of hostile English people.
The Shuttered Room put the courtroom to sleep during its opening argument and this judge was forced to declare a mistrial. It! was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
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Scales of Justice, It!
Perp Profile, It!
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, It!
Scales of Justice, The Shuttered Room
Perp Profile, The Shuttered Room
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, The Shuttered Room
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