- Click Here For Trailer -
It! is almost certainly the lesser of the two movies, and yet it holds a peculiar fascination for me. I'm a sucker for any even remotely watchable old movie about which I've somehow manage to remain previously unaware. This faux Hammer flick about museum employee Arthur Pimm's pet golem - an imposing ambulatory statue Pimm commands to do his nefarious bidding - is a loopy B-movie hoot. Pimm is played to hammy perfection by the late Roddy McDowall, who maintains viewer sympathy throughout even though he lives with the corpse of his dead mother and evokes the creature (identified specifically as the Golem of Prague) to murder on his behalf. You've gotta love any movie that has the chutzpah to culminate with the British military attempting to address the golem's impervious nature by detonating a nuclear warhead in a heavily populated area of London.
It! was written and directed by Herbert J. Leder, the same man who wrote and almost directed the delightfully peculiar monster brain flick Fiend Without A Face (1958) - currently available from Criterion. It! enjoyed wide release on a double bill with Leder's equally obscure The Frozen Dead (1966) - currently available from the Warner Archive. So where is It! currently available? Well aside from this particular OOP disc, I was unable to find it anywhere. I discovered evidence of an airing or two on Turner Classic Movies several years ago, but that's about it. This is precisely the kind of movie that makes a case for not entirely abandoning the notion of collecting movies on hard media. I couldn't even find It! available to stream.
One final bit of trivia: although shot in color, all prints for the U.S. theatrical release of this British production were in black and white. As illustrated in the screen caps below, the disc release is in glorious Eastmancolor.
|It! (1967) Stephen King had the confidence to omit the exclamation mark.|
|Arthur Pimm (Roddy McDowall) lives with the corpse of his mother. Why? Because Psycho (1960).|
|Simon Says . . . hold your arms out parallel to one another in front of you like the Golem of Prague.|
|Then there was this gratuitous slice of cheesecake, courtesy of Pimm's fevered imagination.|
|. . . so they'll obviously have to go with the nuclear warhead in a populated area.|
|When all else fails, make your golem take a time out at the bottom of the ocean.|
The Shuttered Room (1966)
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The Shuttered Room, based upon a story idea left incomplete by the late H.P.Lovecraft, was actually written by Arkham House founder and "posthumous collaborator" August Derleth. As such, it enjoys a slightly higher profile than It!, and this movie adaptation actually is one of the better attempts to translate the notoriously difficult tone of Lovecraft's work into cinematic terms. The story revolves around a newly married couple that inherits an abandoned watermill on the island of Dunwich, Massachussets from the wife's recently deceased parents. The mill harbors an unspeakable horror in its shuttered attic, and the locals clearly know more than they're willing to share. Though the tale is set in New England, The Shuttered Room was filmed in Norfolk, England. It utilized a pre-existing mill location that was, in fact, an ancient landmark. The mill burns to the ground at the end of the movie, and it actually was razed for filming despite the protests of the local populace.
The Shuttered Room isn't particularly original, but it's a solid slow building mystery highlighted by performances that are uniformly better than the material demands. In particular, Oliver Reed has a jolly old time chewing up the scenery as a lecherous local thug named Ethan. The Shuttered Room also makes effective use of attractively shot locations and languid pacing to build the eerie atmosphere that is the most Lovecraftian element of the movie.
Unfortunately The Shuttered Room, like It!, is also now a difficult movie to see. So why am I posting about these movies? Well, I'm trying to pay it forward. The only reason I nabbed this disc when I found it was because I'd seen an article about The Shuttered Room a year or so prior in Rue Morgue Magazine. Otherwise I would have had no awareness of either of these titles, and I would have most likely left the disc when I came across it. So heads up: if you happen upon a copy of this release at a reasonable price, buy it.
|The Shuttered Room (1967) Imagine this title card accompanied by off-putting jazz music.|
|And that means you're only a ferry ride away from lots of creepy, whispering locals.|
|Oliver Reed enjoys a game of grab ass (more than necessary, perhaps) with co-star Carol Lynley.|
|What unspeakable evil lurks behind the door of the shuttered room? Hope it's flame retardant . . .|
|. . . because in the sixties, almost every horror movie ended with a conflagration.|
Keep an eye out for the second Warner Home Video Horror Double Feature, as well. It features Chamber Of Horrors (1966) and Brides Of Fu Manchu (1966), and it can still be had for a much more reasonable price. Chamber Of Horrors features both a "Horror Horn" and "Fear Flasher" gimmick that kick in whenever something terrifying occurs, and Brides Of Fu Manchu is one of five movies produced by Harry Alan Towers featuring Christopher Lee as the evil criminal mastermind.
On a related note, Warner Brothers also released an aborted attempt at a series of Sci-Fi Double Features comprised of only three releases, and these seem to be even more scarce.