Monday, September 26, 2011

One A Week Reviews #36: It! (1967)

Time for another fun and thorough look at a B-movie, this time one where Roddy McDowell brings some camp...

It's appropriate that It! shares a disc with The Shuttered Room, as it stars with an attic a-fire just like the other film ends with one. We meet assistant museum curator and all around nebbish Arthur Pimm (McDowell) and curator Grove as they find out one of their museum's storehouses has just burned to the ground. Prissy Pimm is acting a little put upon and possibly guilty, but they meet some law types, including a young, future B-movie stalwart Ian McCulloch, at the rubble and try to figure out if anything is salvageable. All that has survived is a somewhat ominous looking statue that Pimm doesn't like at all. Grove tries to read the inscription on it, then somehow winds up dead as soon as Pimm turns his back. The question raised isn't so much "Did the statue do it" as "how'd he do it?" Especially as the arms are in a different position. Being that we then get the title "IT!" shown next to him I think it's a big 10-4.

Pimm heads home to hang out with his Mother, who he brings home "borrowed" jewels for her to wear. We quickly find out that Mother Pimm is a Mother Bates, dessicated and in a rocking chair. Less than 10 minutes in and things are completely whackadoo. Here's where you'll distinctly start thinking "This might just be a good flick."

Pimm was hoping to be named as replacement curator, but instead gets a raise and a new boss. He also finds that our Golem is now transported to the museum.The arms have moved yet again, but one could assume that Pimm, being loco, is imagining all of this. There's some dramatic lightning - this is all getting very Hammer Horror - and then the dishy electrician shows up. Either Pimm or McDowell is gazing at him longingly, and it's a shame when he's almost immediately crushed under the statue. Well, that's what tall, blonde, and dumb gets for blowing smoke in its face. Crazy pants even puts Mummy's necklace away before our cops are called in again. Two deaths in less than 24 hours would seem to make Mr. Pimm suspect number one. Everything is getting delightfully goofy in this flick. While we know he's secretly nuts, he behaves in a manner where everyone is going to conclude he is, even stating outright the unseen can be more real than the seen.

The papers already are having a field day while Pimm is using daddy's death as an opportunity to get close to Ellen (Jill Haworth), Grove's daughter. She's not really into him, thinking he's a bit of a mama's boy (not to mention clearly a repressed homosexual), but she's gonna humor him. That's not gonna end well.
Anyhow, an American art expert shows up, planning to possibly buy our statue while delivering a whole wad of plot exposition about the legend of the Golem. McDowell gives him some great looks, alternately cruise-y and "back off, bitch." The American, Perkins, also makes a play for Pimm's beard, Ellen and they go out for some lovely cocktails in front of a back-projected Thames. Pimm, meanwhile, takes a rubbing of what everyone says is Hebrew writing on the statue and comes away with Hieroglyphs. I'm chalking that up to sloppy filmmaking.

It's off to the Rabbi, who lets him know the Golem is some major bad juju that could cause major problems, like destroying the world. Pimm is practically slobbering with glee at the thought of his own, personal enforcer - especially as he returns to the office to suck up to replacement-curator Weal. He's a big ol' sourpuss bitch, so the faster Pimm can knock him off, the better for the audience. Pimm goes to bond with It with a little overacting and too many closeups of his crooked teeth. He brings the statue to life and cackles his little ass off. Then he proceeds to have It kill the new boss. Everyone trying to get a leg up at work can take away a valuable lesson from this. Get a Golem, get a promotion.

Now that there's a third death on his watch the police start sniffing around more closely. They also indicate they'll eventually want to talk to his mother, too. He goes off, somewhat drunk with power, to meet up with our lovely Ellen. When she shoots him down for being obviously gay, he winds up hallucinating her turning into his dead mother. There's more than a little Freud in this flick. He overcompensates for this by dolling up in basic black and going to steal himself a big ol' hunk of Golem before it can get shipped off to the US. At one point, he tells Ellen he's powerful and can bring a bridge down in a snap - so he takes the Golem off to do just that.

A drunky-drunk Pimm calls Ellen to gloat and winds up with a Perkins in his face, pulling some subtle alpha-male crap on him. You really can't blame Pimm for taking him to see the Golem. Perkins is subtly-yet-smugly douchy. It's a shame Pimm can't kill him now. The cops interrupt to say people saw the statue when the bridge came down. Both Perkins and the Inspector seem to jump right on the idea of the statue having done it. I assume both are Jewish? Seriously, they're now willing to jump to major conclusions for the rest of the movie. McDowell is actually really good here, putting more layers into conversations than expected here. He was a better actor than he was given credit for. It's also nice to see a leading man willing to play regret with tears in that day and age. Pimm has the Golem cast itself into the river, never mind the alibi for the statue's disappearance... which is perfectly fine as it's back in the museum the next day.

He decides to try and dispose of the statue by burning, never mind the movie starting with it surviving an inferno. Unsurprisingly, it returns to the museum, burned and leaving bodies in it's wake. Things from here start moving choppily and quickly. Perkins shows up to hardass American our sloppy little Pimm. The cops show up and then everything jumps to Pimm in a cell, with the Golem breaking in to get him out. Things jump ahead to Perkins and the Inspector. Ellen's disappeared and they've finally caught on to his having swimped his pickled mother. Pimm's run off with Ellen, who's finally aware crazy is up, to hide the Golem. They head up to the Cloisters, where they drag a poor, older Miss Swanson into things. She's too no nonsense to put up with things and winds up murdered by Pimm, but she's drawn outside attention. Camping up, we've not got a military siege, dictated by an Inspector, trying to shoot the statue. Amazingly, no one's sneaking around the back.

The Powers That Be then decide, rather smartly, to use a small nuke on it. Again, a "small" nuke. Seems sensible. Ellen tries to talk her way out, but by now he's to loopy to be reasoned with. She's probably safer in the castle than the good guys, who're a mile down the road hiding out from a nuclear warhead behind sand bags. Bitter Pimm chucks Ellen out - a move less about sanity than plot expediency - and Perkins just barely gets her away before the bomb goes off. The massive stock footage mushroom cloud oversells the damage, as there's still flaming rubble, and the Golem walks away undamaged. It then walks itself right off stage and into the sea, conveniently also within a mile away, now that Pimm's dead and we assume stays in the Ocean as that's a wrap for the movie.

All-in-all, a wannabe Hammer film elevated by McDowell's performance. Beyond that, a total program B-movie more for empty, retro amusement than original thrills.

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