Cast & Crew
Susannah Kelton returns with her husband, Mike, to her childhood home on an isolated island off the New England coast to inspect an old mill she has inherited. She has not been there since she was sent to New York City after both her parents died. The islanders, openly hostile to the couple, are aghast at their plans to use the millhouse, which has an ominous history, as a summer house. Mike and Susannah ignore the warnings of her brutish cousin Ethan and her morose Aunt Agatha. Curious about the shuttered room on the top floor of the millhouse, Susannah conducts an investigation. She does not know that Mike has been waylaid and beaten up by Ethan's gang of wastrels. Frightened by the dark old building, Susannah is about to leave when she is suddenly confronted and nearly assaulted by the lecherous Ethan. She takes refuge in the shuttered room, but Ethan follows her with a lighted torch. As he pursues Susannah, a strange figure lunges at him from out of the shadows, causing him to fall to his death. Mike, meanwhile, has learned the truth about the millhouse from Aunt Agatha, whose silence has been broken by the murder of Emma, Ethan's sluttish girl friend. The strange figure in the shuttered room is Sarah, Susannah's insane and physically malformed sister, who, chained in the room, has been sustained through the years by the devoted Agatha. Racing back to the millhouse, Mike arrives in time to drag Susannah from a fire started by the lighted torch Ethan dropped when he fell. Agatha then appears and locks herself in the shuttered room, choosing to perish in the flames with Susannah's terrified and bewildered sister.
Charles Lloyd Pack
D. B. Ledrov
The Shuttered Room/It! - IT! & THE SHUTTERED ROOM - Double Feature Horror on DVD
Filmed in England, 1967's The Shuttered Room feigns an American setting and succeeds fairly well, a few awkwardly dubbed voices aside. It gains in interest for being derived from a book by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, a fact confirmed by a rickety road sign reading "Dunwich Island" in the very first scene. New York marrieds Mike and Susannah Kelton (Gig Young & Carol Lynley) drive his convertible T-Bird to the remote New England birthplace she left as a small child, to find out what happened to her long-lost relations, the Whately family. Susannah's Aunt Agatha (Flora Robson) is an eccentric living atop an abandoned lighthouse. Agatha tells them that her childhood home in an old mill is cursed -- any Whately who goes there, dies. Young hoodlum Ethon (Oliver Reed) is concerned about losing his inheritance to Susannah, and his crude attempts to harass her develop into a stalk-and-rape scenario. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that some entity indeed inhabits the old mill, and watches Susannah as she undresses.
The Shuttered Room is signed by the prolific and accomplished TV director David Greene, who may have been responsible for the class-act casting of the notable Dame Flora Robson and the busy Oliver Reed. Greene lends the show a stylish visual surface, with many subjective-camera shots and an entire prologue filmed from the point of view of the "thing in the attic". His eventual defeat is due to a script that gives the show away before the main titles and moves laboriously from story point to story point. Dunwich Island and its crazed inhabitants are so obviously sinister that we quickly lose sympathy with the clueless Mike and Susannah. Faced with Ethon's open malice and Agatha's blunt promise of dire consequences, they nevertheless walk calmly into the mill. Mike goes to town for groceries, leaving the vulnerable Susannah to play at sweeping cobwebs. A haunted eye watches from a hidden panel in the wall...
The script provides a town strumpet for some sex teasing and sends Susannah on a beach stroll to be menaced by Ethon. To provide a hot trailer moment, Susannah inexplicably avoids rape by provocatively disrobing. Meanwhile, Madison Avenue ad man Mike (we can visualize him returning to Manhattan to dine with Rock Hudson and Doris Day) uses deft karate chops to best four or five yokels and the strapping Ethon. All of this strains credibility, especially with the English cast performing as if this hack 'n' slash horror movie were a Faulkner classic.
The ending gives us an entirely non-supernatural cause for the haunting, and has much more in common with Friday the 13th than Lovecraft tales like The Dunwich Horror. The Shuttered Room earned some positive reviews for some atmospheric scenes stalking about the decrepit mill, and camera techniques that would become celebrated in later 1970s Eurohorror films. Good intentions aside, its horrors remain stubbornly formulaic.
It! was written and directed by Herbert J. Leder for Warners/Seven Arts at the same time as The Frozen Dead, a cut-price melodrama. That film wins the bad taste award by having Dana Andrews revive dead Nazis to launch a Fourth Reich. It! is nothing less than a modern-dress version of the classic Der Golem, written to sidestep most of the original story's fuss about Cabalistic Jewish magic. The new Golem is a piece of "primitive art", a non-clay statue complete with Hebraic inscriptions and a handy toe-box containing the secret scroll that brings it to life.
Ambitious museum assistant Arthur Pym (Roddy McDowall, his name misspelled on screen) is frustrated because his boss's shapely daughter Ellen (Otto Preminger protégé Jill Haworth) only wants to remain good friends. The careless script has Arthur keep the mummified corpse of his Mum in a rocking chair, an angle that puts the entire show off balance. It! isn't an outright satire and it doesn't even possess a sense of ironic detachment. After a visit to a local Jewish scholar, Arthur begins using his newfound indestructible friend to eliminate people he doesn't like. He orders the Golem to cover his thefts from the museum's exhibits, and on a whim dispatches it to knock down Hammersmith Bridge.
Unfortunately, neither money nor unlimited power can buy Pym true love. As Scotland Yard closes in he kidnaps Ellen and holes up in his new estate with Mum's gnarly remains. When field artillery shells bounce off The Golem's supernatural hide, the authorities calmly choose to nuke Pym's country house. But don't worry, because they're using a special bomb guaranteed not to bother residents outside of a five-mile radius.
Filmed in bright color and enlivened by McDowall's spirited performance, It! is weak in most departments. The pointy-headed Golem looks like a driftwood carving. Aside from a hesitation or two it shows no personality, unlike the clay monster of legend that rebelled against ill use by humans. Arthur Pym's desiccated mother is a completely extraneous Psycho riff added for horror content, as arbitrary as a salacious bit in which Pym hallucinates that Ellen is lying nude on his couch, eager for his attentions. Pym makes just one effort to rid himself of the monster before greed and lust "force" him to continue its misuse. He's crazy all right, but not scary-crazy like Norman Bates or fun-crazy like McDowall's wonderful Allan Musgrave in George Axelrod's Lord Love a Duck.
Leder's direction is on the weak side; he can't enliven the finale's laughable conclusion in which the dull hero outruns a nuclear bomb on a peppy Honda motorbike. The Golem legend has produced classic cinema starring German Paul Wegener (1920) and Harry Bauer (1936) but Roddy McDowall's effort has to be chalked up as an also-ran. Soon afterward, McDowall became a horror director in his own right with the obscure but worthwhile Tam Lin (1970) based on a Scottish folk song and starring Ava Gardner.
Horror fans will welcome the Warner Home Video Horror Double Feature of The Shuttered Room and It! Both shows are much improved from TV airings interrupted by used car commercials. The studio has delivered excellent enhanced widescreen transfers with fine color and clear audio. Otherwise the presentation is without frills or extras. Although the disc has chapter stops, the one menu card serves only to choose which film to view.
For more information about The Shuttered Room/It, visit Warner Video.To order The Shuttered Room/It, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Shuttered Room/It! - IT! & THE SHUTTERED ROOM - Double Feature Horror on DVD
The Shuttered Room
The Shuttered Room , one of the more intriguing adaptations to emerge from this earlier period, isn't really an authentic Lovecraft story at all. It was actually penned by August Derleth, Lovecraft's publisher (Arkham House) and literary executor, and first appeared in 1959. Although Lovecraft died in 1937, Derleth's story "The Shuttered Room" was based on the horror writer's notes and ideas, particularly his interest with hereditary disorders, tainted bloodlines and physical and mental deterioration in his stories. The film version opens with Susannah Kelton (Carol Lynley) and her husband Mike (Gig Young) traveling to her ancestral home which is located on a remote island off the coast of New England. Susannah, who was sent away by her parents at a young age to be raised in New York City, has returned home to transform the old family mill into a summer home. The local villagers, however, seem not only sullen and unfriendly but try to discourage Susannah from inhabiting the property. She soon learns the mill has a dark and violent history but, despite warnings, Susannah and Mike move into her family's house where she begins to suspect they are not alone. And she's right! Something horrid is in the attic, shackled with chains, but it doesn't stay chained for long.
Despite the New England setting, The Shuttered Room was actually shot on location in Cornwall, England and completed at Twickenham studios. The project was originally slated as a project for Ken Russell (Women in Love, 1969) but abandoned until David Greene agreed to direct it. Greene, who had several years of television experience behind him on such series as Espionage [1963-1964], The Nurses [1962-1965] and The Defenders [1962-1965], made his feature film debut with The Shuttered Room and he followed it with two well received British films - Sebastian  and The Strange Affair  - before returning to a prominent career in TV with occasional feature films on the side.
If nothing else, Greene brought a fresh, distinctive visual style to The Shuttered Room and gave it a contemporary feel that set it apart from previous Lovecraft film adaptations with their fog-enshrouded sets and art direction that placed the story in the early twentieth century. Some aspects of the movie are too modern and stray far afield of the Lovecraftian universe such as the confrontation scene between Mike and some village thugs in which Mike easily defeats them all with his jujitsu skills! The frenetic jazz score by Basil Kirchin also seems to belong to another movie but often produces disparate emotions in relation to the action.
The casting is admittedly offbeat and Carol Lynley (in a dual role) and Gig Young make an unlikely married couple. Lynley plays the part of Susannah as someone who vacillates between deep introspection and nervous anxiety while Young brings a sense of bemusement to the role of Mike, the true outsider in the story and the only one who keeps a wry, detached perspective on the strange events. The rest of the cast is composed of British actors speaking with American accents and Flora Robson is impressively stern as Aunt Agatha, the keeper of the dreaded family secret. Oliver Reed, on the other hand, gives a hyperactive performance as Susannah's hooligan cousin who has lecherous designs on her but also greatly resents Susannah for reclaiming the property he thought he was going to inherit. In the role, he exaggerates all of the menacing mannerisms he displayed in other villainous roles such as the Teddy Boy gang leader in Joseph Losey's These Are the Damned  or the wealthy psychopath in Paranoiac . Leaping, running, swaggering, throwing temper tantrums or trying to contain his volcanic rage (notice the quivering lower lip and the tormented brow), Reed is the ultimate scene-stealer/scene-chewer and if you're a Reed fan, he's mesmerizing here, even if his attempts at an American accent results in one of the oddest dialects and delivery you've ever heard.
Offscreen Reed had quite the reputation as a brawler and skirt-chaser and his behavior during the filming of The Shuttered Room was no different. According to biographer Cliff Goodwin in Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed, "Within weeks Oliver and Lynley had started a passionate affair. To celebrate the New Year, the actor invited John and Nita Hogg out for the night. When the couple arrived in London Oliver and his latest girlfriend [Lynley] met them. 'It was obviously a very serious and intimate affair,' recalls Hogg. 'Anyone who did not know Ollie was already married would have assumed they were very much in love.'
Gig Young was having his own problems prior to filming The Shuttered Room. His alcoholism was affecting his work and his marriage was in jeopardy because of it. He saw The Shuttered Room as an opportunity to make a fresh start and arranged for his wife Elaine, their child Jennifer and her nanny to join him in England for the shoot. The change of locale, however, didn't help alleviate the problems in the relationship and by the time The Shuttered Room opened at cinemas, Gig and Elaine were already divorced. The actor would marry once more (to Kim Schmidt) in September 1978 but it would end tragically a month later when he shot and killed her and himself on October 19th. But following the release of The Shuttered Room, Young's film career took a sudden upward turn with his acclaimed supporting role in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), a role that won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar®.
The Shuttered Room was not a critical or a commercial success upon its initial release. The New York Times proclaimed the movie "terrible," drawing particular attention to Reed's "atrocious" performance, and added, "For the simple eeriness of the story, whatever else Mr. Lovecraft conjured, is squashed into absurdity by an anvil emphasis on brutality, sexual trimmings and haunted-house spookery, replete with a thump-thump musical score." The Variety reviewer was more favorable, stating "With a good quota of shudders and a neat suggestion of evil throughout, this is an efficient entry in a somewhat old fashioned vein of melodrama...The script is adequate in the plotting but feeble in the dialog department, sparking off untoward laughs in the wrong places. Lynley is competently scared throughout. And Reed brings a brooding touch of lechery to the over-excited Ethan." While the movie might not be the best cinematic representation of Lovecraft's brand of horror, its reputation among genre buffs is considerably better and more forgiving now than it was forty years ago.
Producer: Philip Hazelton
Director: David Greene
Screenplay: D.B. Ledrov, Nathaniel Tanchuck; H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth
Cinematography: Kenneth Hodges
Music: Basil Kirchin; Jack Nathan (uncredited)
Film Editing: Brian Smedley-Aston
Cast: Gig Young (Mike Kelton), Carol Lynley (Susannah Kelton/Sarah), Oliver Reed (Ethan), Flora Robson (Aunt Agatha), William Devlin (Zebulon Whateley), Bernard Kay (Tait), Judith Arthy (Emma), Robert Cawdron (Luther Whateley), Celia Hewitt (Aunt Sarah), Ingrid Bower (village girl), Anita Anderson (Susannah as a child), Charles Lloyd Pack (Bargee).
by Jeff Stafford
Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed by Cliff Goodwin (Virgin)
Final Gig: The Man Behind the Murder by George Eells (Harcourt)
The Shuttered Room
Filmed on location in Cornwall, England. Released in Great Britain in July 1967.