It! (United Kingdom 1967)

Roddy McDowell is at his paranoid best in this typically insane, typically 1960s, horror picture. Most fans of these flicks know this one is about a Norman Bates–like character who uses a monster named the Golem, (from Jewish folklore) to do his bidding. And the bidding is not nice. The Golem itself is a burnt but creepily imposing–looking statue. The rest of the cast pale beside Roddy and his chum so what do we get here for our attention? It has no great cinematography, direction, script or anything conventional to recommend it. It’s hard to explain but this movie is worth a watch if you like the offbeat, the original etc. You just have to see…it (I can’t stop typing the word!). C’mon, how many other films have a two letter title?

But there is an extreme problem with It! The character of the central protagonist, Arthur Pimm (Roddy McDowall). Before he hooks up with the Golem we are led to believe he is a fairly normal functioning museum curator. Except for the fact that he keeps the corpse of his mother at home, propped up in a chair, the skeleton still wearing a night gown and wig. This is a really cheap imitation of Psycho that gets in the way of the viewer identifying with Pimm.

There is no explanation for why he has done this, or what went wrong with his mind originally. Its a throwaway reveal that made me feel the director is toying with us by being deliberately puerile. This prevents us from fully believing in Arthur, even though McDowall puts as much of his tortured psyche into the role as he can. Maybe the character would have worked better if a younger actor had been cast as his motivations seem quite adolescent.

Right from the start, (after a warehouse fire that first brings the statue to his attention) Pimm starts to wonder about the monstrous looking slab of clay. Especially as it seems responsible for a death in the first few minutes of the story. More deaths occur (not very dramatic ones), and Pimm starts to uncover the truth about the statue – that it is in fact a Golem which can be brought to life and controlled. Pimm is an unhappy man with a crush on a pretty colleague, Ellen, who prefers a visiting macho American museum curator. Maybe Ellen will be impressed if Arthur uses the Golem to destroy Hammersmith Bridge? Worth a try! This was the type of teenage character motivation that doesn’t sit well with McDowall’s persona.

The climax to all this involves kidnapping, a picturesque country estate, the British Army, a nuclear bomb in the Home Counties– before a highly noble end to it all. The film also benefits from some suitably wacky 60s tongue-in-cheekness. Headlines on newspapers include “Golem indestructible – artillery like peashooter” and a nutty dream where Pimm sees his naked object of lust turn into the rotting corpse of his mother. Ewww! With so much meat for a horror story, the film falls short by lacking in atmosphere and pulling its punches when it comes to any action scenes. Too much ‘action’ is never actually shown. There’s plenty of murder but it’s unimaginatively shot and mostly offscreen, with facial expressions substituting for real mayhem. As some have pointed out, you could say this is the original terminator. But on a budget one million times smaller than the Schwarzenegger nonsense.

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Comments

  1. Brilliant review! I remember liking the monster but forgot how much of a Norman Bates rip-off the main character is. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. Yes, poor old Mr Bates was the go-to archetype when film makers in the 60s were stuck for inspiration. 🙂

    Like

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