January 23, 2014

It! (1967) and The Shuttered Room (1967) - An Obscure Best Of The Big Lots Bargain Bin Double Feature

Warner Home Video Horror Double Feature It! The Shuttered Room Cover      A copy of the out of print Warner Home Video DVD pictured at left goes for anywhere from thirty to fifty dollars now.  I fished it out of the Big Lots bargain bin and paid only three dollars.  The monetary value of this disc in the secondary market doesn't necessarily correlate with the merit of the movies on it, but it does make this purchase one of the prouder moments of my career in disc speculation.  Fortunately, both It! (1967) and The Shuttered Room (1967) are decent movies, as well.  They're probably not fifty dollars worth of decent, but they make a passable double feature for a rainy afternoon - provided you can lay your hands on them.

                                   It! (1967)
                    -  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) main title featuring the golem
It! (1967) Stephen King had the confidence to omit the exclamation mark.
Roddy McDowall and his mother's corpse from It! (1967)
Arthur Pimm (Roddy McDowall) lives with the corpse of his mother.  Why?  Because Psycho (1960).
Roddy McDowall and the Golem of Prague from It! (1967)
Simon Says . . .  hold your arms out parallel to one another in front of you like the Golem of Prague.
racy shot of Jill Haworth from It! (1967)
Then there was this gratuitous slice of cheesecake, courtesy of Pimm's fevered imagination.
a hyperbolic newspaper headline from It! (1967)
. . . so they'll obviously have to go with the nuclear warhead in a populated area.
the golem walks into the ocean at the end of It! (1967)
When all else fails, make your golem take a time out at the bottom of the ocean.
                                                               The Shuttered Room (1966)
                                                                    - Click Here For Clip -

     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 (1966) titles
The Shuttered Room (1967)  Imagine this title card accompanied by off-putting  jazz music.
ferry to dunwich sign from The Shuttered Room (1966)
And that means you're only a ferry ride away from lots of creepy, whispering locals.
Oliver Reed and Carol Lynley's ass from The Shuttered Room (1966)
Oliver Reed enjoys a game of grab ass (more than necessary, perhaps) with co-star Carol Lynley.
view through the peephole from The Shuttered Room (1966)
What unspeakable evil lurks behind the door of the shuttered room?  Hope it's flame retardant . . .
the final conflagration from The Shuttered Room (1966)
. . . because in the sixties, almost every horror movie ended with a conflagration. 

Warner Home Video Horror Double Feature Chamber Of Horrors and Brides Of Fu Manchu cover     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. 


  1. For some yet-to-be-justified reason I'm always leery of Warner Home Video multi-feature releases, do they do the cheesy, cheap double-sided disc in these? One of my pet peeves is buying a double feature only to get one double-sided disc and no disc art. Otherwise, I really should pay them more mind because both of these sound like a great watch.

    1. It's a dual layered disc rather than double-sided, and it has the same image on the top of the disc as the cover. It is a very bare bones disc, though. No trailers, and if I'm remembering correctly, it doesn't have chapter stops (!?). The screen caps above are actually pulled from the disc. I don't usually go to the trouble, but there were relatively few screen grabs of these movies to use otherwise. It sounds as though you've gotten a few disappointing double-sides MGM Midnite Movies? Warner actually intended this series to compete with that, but it seems as though the demand wasn't there.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. I went to Prague and saw the Jewish Temple where the Golem of Prague was supposedly kept. Now I need to go see It and find out how the whole Golem thing went down for poor Roddy McDowell. If you want another good haunted house flick, check Roddy out in The Legend of Hell House. The film's based on the even better novel by the late, awesome Richard Matheson.
    As for the shuttered room, it looks moody, atmospheric, and low budget. Those are three of my favorite things when it comes to horror.
    Thanks for tipping me off to these movies. Now every time I pass a bargain bin, my eye will wander to see what hidden gems will be waiting for me.
    Thanks for the great read, Brandon!

    1. I suspected that mention of the Golem Of Prague would pique you interest, Carl. lol Both movies are great rainy day flicks. I can't believe neither is available from the Warner Archive. Keep your eyes open - you never know what you might find. I'm a little bit ashamed to admit I haven't seen The Legend Of Hell House since I was a child. Is this the one with "breathing walls", or am I perhaps thinking of Burnt Offerings?

    2. That may be Burnt Offerings or The Haunting (Based on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House).
      You remind me that I need to catch up on all my movies!

    3. Same here. Don't tell anyone, but I finally watched You're Next a couple of nights ago, and I have no idea what all the fuss was about. Sigh. Hopefully, some of the other titles I pinched from everyone's "Best Of 2013" lists will prove more impressive.

  3. Nice find, man! I like both films quite a bit. I remember reading about It! when I was a kid and when it finally became available on this disc, I was psyched! The Shuttered Room was completely new to me when I got the disc and that was a nice find.

    As to posting about little known movies....I'm glad that you do! I think that it's far more interesting to explore the seedy underbelly of cinema and explore and talk about the little known films that are either hard to find, or perhaps never even made it past VHS. If we don't keep these films alive then they will fall from the obscure mist that they are in into a total abyss and be lost forever. Keep up the great work, amigo!

    1. Agreed, Matt. I always enjoy sites that dig a little deeper, too. I just know I find it frustrating sometimes when I read a post about a flick I'm interested in and discover it's borderline impossible to lay my hands on it. Of course, The Shuttered Room wasn't available on disc when I read about it, but awareness guaranteed I picked up a copy when it was. Public service, then? lol

      Thanks for checking out the post!

  4. That is true. It can be a bit frustrating when you hear about a film that you really want to see, only to hear that it's either OOP or only available on a format that you don't own. Having said that, I often review more obscure films in hopes that people will perhaps become interested enough in the films to invest in the format, whether it's VHS or Laserdisc (which I actually have been wanting to pick up) some searching on the secondary markets can often yield some results......though those results may be costly sometimes!


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