Tuesday, October 09, 2012


1966 ***

It's Exclamation Point Movie time!

Roddy McDowall plays Arthur Pimm, an unassuming assistant curator at a museum of antiquities in London. A warehouse fire destroys all the museum's stashed art treasures save one: a centuries-old statue of a snobby-looking prune man. After a couple of people die mysteriously around the statue, it develops a bit of an eerie rep and Pimm starts to look into it.

The Evening Press really needs to fire their layout guy.

Pimm discovers what they have is the golem of Jewish folklore: an artificial being given life by Old Testament magic. He soon learns the secrets of mastering the dread automaton and embarks on the sloppiest, most under-achieving campaign of terror I've seen yet.

Pimm is a hapless outsider surrounded by "better" men than him, and even those who like him manage to say "Oh it's you, Pimm" with a touch of insult. I always like Roddy McDowall, and I liked Pimm too, especially when it's casually shown that he lives with his mummified mother. But I started to share the other characters' annoyance; Pimm's plans are awful and his execution is worse.

He tries to impress a girl during lunch by pointing to the nearby Thames bridge and telling her he could destroy it. That night he does it, after shuttling the golem to the area and then having an awkward conversation with a cop as he sits waiting in the van like a soccer mom. Later, the girl barely recalls him having said that thing during lunch.

When Pimm decides the golem is corrupting him and must be destroyed, he takes it to a dinky shed to burn it, kind of forgetting that he found it unscratched in the wreckage of a much larger fire. The golem somehow returns to the museum unseen, and the next day Pimm finds out he was spotted leaving with the monster...which is pretty much proof positive that he has less criminal acumen than a statue.

This was paired up on the same disc with The Shuttered Room, and like that movie it's highly mockable but also a lot of fun. Roddy McDowall does play Pimm with a bit of depth and mystery, so you can respect his outsider status even if he is a bit of a goofball.

Iron Golem from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, 1977 -- Fuck Yeah!

And I've always been a fan of the golem myth and this is a good take on it. There's a particularly nice bit of creepiness when a rabbi reads the inscription on the statue and it contains specific, dated messages to its future masters. It's good enough not to spoil.

The Wiki page for It! points out that "the film was made in the style of the Hammer Studios films both in sound and cinematography." What it doesn't mention is how it shares a bit of that unsatisying buildup/payoff ratio that so distinguish Hammer films. But I still feel okay about recommending it; it's got Roddy and a cool creepy statue, and (perhaps because it isn't a real Hammer), it might let you down but it won't piss you off.

Big thanks to Cat for the "!" recommendation; both of these flicks were the right kind of good time.


Catfreeek said...

Thanks Octo I'm glad you enjoyed them. Your reviews were spot on in both cases.

AC said...

drat that evening press layout guy!

Octopunk said...

No duh! He so clearly could've put "killer" on the same line as "a." Or why left justify the whole thing? Center, fool!

I also liked that all the papers are discussing the decision the government made about the development.

DCD said...

Those headlines are hilarious. Excellent review - I do like Roddy McDowell.

Trevor said...

Speaking of "It", I saw Stephen King's It when I was in 9th grade. I still had a nightmare with that damn evil clown, Pennywise, last week. That's one that sticks with you!

50PageMcGee said...

weak ploy to thicken up the paper to make it seem more substantial?

i find myself irritated by the title of this movie. "it!" and "them!" are lazy titles that could have been slapped onto really anything. and both movies, incidentally sound like kind of lazy flicks that could have been called anything.

50PageMcGee said...

stephen king's "it" gets a pass because it's really good, and also because there's no exclamation mark there to suggest that it was something quoted, awkwardly from a bystander.

who shouts "them!" when they're scared? and who quotes it, like it's a genius thing to call them? that's like immortalizing rodney king's "we can all get along here," to the LA rioters.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I remember that awesome looking Golem from Catfreeek's review. I think he needs to go on the Horrorthon banner. From what I gathered he gets a lot of screen time?

JPX said...

I love Roddy McDowall – there’s just something about him that’s infinitely likable. True, he plays the same character no matter what he’s in, including Planet of the Apes, but there is something so silky and smooth about his voice. This film looks right up your alley, Octo. I’m pleased that you cover the late 60s/early 70s films. There’s something about the look of those films that’s off-putting to me and I have trouble getting through them. This one sounds like fun, though. What a strange way to wreak havoc upon the world; a slow moving, giant statue.