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DVD Review: It!/The Shuttered Room

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Straight from the dust-laden vaults of Warner Brothers comes yet another Double Feature: It! and The Shuttered Room! This double bill (along with another two-fer, Chamber Of Horrors/The Brides Of Fu Manchu) was originally released as a Best Buy Store Exclusive, prompting hoards of horror and sci-fi geeks of every shape and color to pick up as many as they could to sell on eBay.

But selling time was limited for those eBay Power Sellers, as the folks at Warner Home Video realized that people were rarin’-and-a-willin’ to gobble these Gothic ditties up (especially after taking a peek at Best Buy’s tallies on their previously released Sci/Fi Double Features), and so these new pairings were released to the general public shortly after they hit Best Buy shelves.

Now, I’m a lover of British Horror flicks from the '60s, and will pick up just about anything starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing that was produced by either Hammer Films or Amicus Productions. Unfortunately, with It! and The Shuttered Room, we are at long last offered up some scientific proof that not every horror film from Great Britain is good…

The Shuttered Room (1967) - Directed by David Greene; Not rated / 100 minutes. Although it is listed as the secondary feature on the artwork (and the title), The Shuttered Room is the first film in this set. The tale, which is taken from a book by August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft, is loosely taken at best, while the movie itself is unfathomably slow and uninteresting. And no, that’s not my age talking, either — I realize that an entire generation was scared shitless from watching this movie on late night TV back in the '70s and I can see their various reasons for being scared (the movie does have the odd bit of atmosphere and the occasional memorable scary segment here and there) — but honestly, the movie has little to offer than that.

Unless you count the sight of a young Carol Lynley in her undies “nothing.” Or the scene-stealing Oliver Reed (faking a Yankee accent as best he can) as a yokel with an unhealthy hankerin’ for his distant cousin! And what of the iron-clad irony of watching the top-billed American actor Gig Young joking that he’s going to leave his new wife for dead in a ditch (Young did in fact kill his last wife shortly after they married before turning the gun on himself in 1978)? “Nothing?” Surely not!

But seriously, folks, the movie doesn’t offer much more than that (not for me, at least). The plot (which can be about as loose as the Derleth/Lovecraft adaptation) has a newlywed American couple (Young and Lynley) visiting the small East Coast island where the bride was born. For some reason, the thought of returning to her birthplace scares our poor heroine, and as soon as the rich poseurs arrive, it’s obvious why: the whole island is about as inbred as can be. Everyone has the same last name and is completely without a purpose in life (or in the story in some cases). Worse still, the old mill that the honeymooners have recently inherited (their reason for visiting Inbred Island) is haunted by a wobbly Point-Of-View photographer who is fond of scratching people to death. Oh, the horror… or lack thereof.

It! (1966) – Directed by Herbert J. Leder; Not rated / 96 minutes. Funny how The Shuttered Room ends with a burning building and It! begins with one (which was probably the reason they’re in the order they are in on the disc). From the opening credits (in which the title card screams “No, we couldn’t think of a better title! Got a problem with that?”) to the final bash-your-head-against-the-wall frame, It! comes across like a poorly-assembled mash-up of Psycho and the age-old legend of The Golem, but without any of the charm either of those two stories possessed.

Roddy McDowell leaves no scenery unchewed as the kleptomaniac assistant curator of a London museum who keeps his mummified mother in a rocking chair and brings her offerings of rare priceless antiquities to silence the nagging in his head. One day, his life changes for the better (?) when he finds a gigantic golem-like statue in the remains of a museum storehouse and quickly pieces together that the mysterious object actually is a golem, and that, by simply finding a sacred scroll (conveniently located in the golem’s foot), our “hero” can accomplish such feats as killing museum superiors, tearing down bridges, and even smashing open jewelry cases.

If you get the impression that Roddy’s character doesn’t really make full use of his potential, wait until you get about halfway into the movie, where it becomes more than apparent that writer/director/producer Leder (the man behind the equally laughable The Frozen Dead, ladies and gentlemen!) wasn’t making full use of his potential either and should have never quit his job as fry cook at the diner underneath his apartment. It! starts out decently enough (aside from the blatant Norman Bates rip-off) but then, towards the conclusion of the film, things start happening between scenes that are only explained through exposition, and the ending is so contrived, poorly edited, and hilariously awful, that you'd swear half of Leder’s script blew away in a strong wind. It! is nothing short of Insane! Recommended only after having a blunt and a beer. Co-starring Jill Haworth, Paul Maxwell, and future Zombie star Ian McCulloch (in his film debut).

Both features are presented in their original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratios and are given anamorphic enhancement for this release. While both movies have been digitally mastered and look wonderful, they still have a fair amount of nicks (which most people probably won’t notice unless they deliberately look for them). All said and done, I’d say that It! probably sports the better-looking transfer of the two. The only soundtrack for either film is presented in glorious English Mono, which is adequate and will give that center front speaker a run for its money. Subtitles are available for both movies in English and French.

Like the previous Warner Home Video Double Features, this pair of pictures does not house any special features of any sort. Hopefully, should Warner opt to continue releasing DVDs like this one (and you should, by all means!), they will start tacking on the occasional trailer or something (food for thought, Warner… food for thought). However, the absence of any extras shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying these two campy fright flicks.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.