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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Shuttered Room (1967)

You can't go wrong with an evening of early H P Lovecraft films which really don't get shown that often and TCM treated us to three on Halloween. 1970's The Dunwich Horror was terrible and 1963's The Haunted Palace was a solid textbook example of the period shenanigans Vincent Price and Roger Corman could get up to together. This one comes in between those two and was made in England, based on The Shuttered Room, different source material but highly reminiscent of the others. Nobody ever accused filmmakers of being accurate with their Lovecraft adaptations and they all cross pollinate.

This one has Susannah Kelton travelling to a small island off the New England coast, near to the town of Dunwich. She was born there, as Susannah Whateley and her lawyer sent her the keys to the old mill on her 21st birthday. Now she and her husband Mike have vague plans to turn it into a summer home but they hadn't counted on how how serious the danger is. Her Aunt Agatha is glad to see her after 17 years but warns her to leave for the mainland with all haste, because she fears for a resurgence of evil if a Whateley stays just one night in that old mill.

Aunt Agatha is cool because she's played by Flora Robson, lives in a cross between a castle and a lighthouse and keeps some sort of eagle as a pet, but her dire warnings about the Whateley curse don't have the desired effect. In fact they take the edge off Susannah's fear, so she and Mike stay for the night. There is evil in the house though, not in the supernatural sense that Aunt Agatha may have hinted at, but in a more literal sense in the form of the creature that lives behind the door with the cool spiked peephole at the end of Susannah's childhood bedroom.

To be honest this evil is well handled, in the traditional don't show the monster in the first ten seconds of the movie way, and that side of the film is slow, subtle and effective. The surprising thing is that it's far from the most obvious side of the story. Much more apparent is the danger of the locals, led by Oliver Reed, understandably believable in his loutishness. Nothing like typecasting, huh?

Partly because Carol Lynley makes for such a beautiful Susannah and partly because there seems to be a dearth of women in the village, the local young men are more than willing to take their turn in trying something on with her. This is far from supernatural though and puts us firmly in Straw Dogs territory, albeit four years earlier. It's a decent thriller with a cool location and some consistently good acting. Everything about it is handled very well indeed. It's just not quite what you'd expect for a Lovecraft story.

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

This is still one of my all time favorite cult movies and Carol Lynley is (arguably) the most gorgeous chick in history, well maybe only Heather O`Rourke was more desirable.