1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Monday, March 14, 2011


Even though, It! is listed in some places as a sci-fi, there is really no sci-fi in it. Perhaps the science of archeology is the rationale, but there is little of this. Instead, this low-budget British film is a horror or monster story. Copyright 1966, It! showed in America in '67. Herbert J. Leder is the one-man-band of writer, producer, director. Roddy McDowell stars as the imbalanced assistant curator. The other 'star' is the invincible rustic statue: The Golem. This fact is tactfully avoided in the posters.

Quick Plot Synopsis
After a fire at a warehouse that contained a museum's storage, a big ugly statue is found unscathed. The statue kills the curator (for no apparent reason). Assistant curator, Arthur Pimm, (played by McDowell) hopes to be promoted. Pimm lives alone with the mummified corpse of his mother. He talks to it as if she was alive. Pimm keen on the pretty blonde Ellen, but she's indifferent to him. Pimm does not get promotion.The statue kills a disrespectful electrician. Pimm figures out that the statue is doing it. An American museum man arrives, telling legend of Golems. Jewish guardians, controlled by whoever put a special little scroll under its tongue. Pimm takes rubbing of inscription on statue to an old jewish librarian. He reads that it can be controlled by the scroll, but cannot be destroyed. Pimm finds the scroll in the toe of the statue. Pimm's new boss is an annoying pedant who fires him. Pimm impulsively tells statue to kill his new boss. It does. The police are starting to suspect Pimm. Pimm is keen on the buxom Ellen, but she's keen on the American. Pimm boasts to Ellen about his power. He has the statue wreck a bridge to prove it. Police suspicions grow.He tries to burn the statue to be rid of it, but it is fire proof and returns to its pedestal. Off camera, Pimm kidnaps Ellen from her bed and steals a hearse. He drives the statue, Ellen and his dead mother to rural cloister. The caretaker woman can tell things are bad, but Pimm forces her compliance. Pimm has the statue guard the gate, but has no other real plan. The army tries bazookas and artillery, but the statue cannot be blasted. The only course of action left is to use a tactical nuke. Meanwhile, Pimm has grown angry at Ellen when she calls him mad. He orders the statue to get rid of Ellen. While carrying her across the lawn, he drops her. With only a minute before bomb time, the American sees Ellen run free. He grabs a handy motorcycle and races in. He grabs up Ellen and rushes back to the sandbag barrier just in time. Cue stock footage of a nuclear test. The old brick building is just flaming rubble. But, the statue walks along undamaged. It walks to the sea, wades in, and disappears. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
Even though It! is not really sci-fi, it is a fairly briskly told tale. A statue as monster different enough. Roddy McDowell puts in a colorful performance.

Cold War Angle
Unstoppable destructive power tends to corrupt. This is the cautionary moral.

Psycho Brother -- Arthur Pimm seems patterned after Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Both are peculiar nervous types who live alone with the dead bodies of their mothers seated in rocking chairs. Both take a juvenile liking to a pretty blonde. Pimm, as a sort of British brother to Bates, puts a strange spin into the story. His imbalance makes misuse of the Golem's power far more likely and takes less rational forms.

Juvenile Anti-Hero -- The Pimm character is written with some sympathy, almost as an anti-hero, designed for young male audiences to identify with. He's a capable enough young man at this job, but frustrated in his career, having to endure oppressive elders. He has 'bipolar' relationship with his mother. He is keen on a pretty young woman, but she's not interested in him. Thus far, Pimm is an Everyman for teen guys. Into those inexperienced emotional hands is given great power. Understandably (but not commendably) he uses that power for selfish gain -- the promotion, to impress the girl, to silence an enemy. Also typical of youth was to never once consider the larger stage he was acting upon. He kidnaps the pretty girl (another juvenile male fantasy solution to their dilemma), but had no larger plan than that. Eventually, the world comes crashing back in on him.

Plot Gap or Commentary? -- Near the end, Pimm is holed up in the cloister with his pretty captive. He has the indestructible statue guard the gate. The British army try blasting it with a bazooka. (strange, that usually works) Then with an artillery piece. When the nuke is about to fall, Perkins races up to the house on a motorcycle to rescue Ellen. Couldn't the army have done that all along? It was just one lumbering statue. Was the writer this sloppy? Perhaps not. A hint to a possible reason comes when the inspector says that the army is going to drop a nuke on it. The earlier failures were blows to their pride. That's the key. Stopping the unstoppable (by military means) became an obsession. Herein lurks another Cold War commentary. This also fits the ambiguous ending. When the statue stomps off into the sea, its immediate controller (Pimm) might have been neutralized, but the lingering threat of that unstoppable power remains.

Bottom line? It! is not really sci-fi. It is a low-budget horror/monster film crafted to resemble the more famous Hammer films. Much of the action is told via dialogue rather than shown (a feature of a low-budget). Despite these shortcomings, as a story, it has some redeeming qualities.

1 comment:

Montag said...

The reason why disembodied heads always are keen on developing their telekinetic abilities is that fact that they are freed from their "lower" passions and drives.

Sounds sort of like Plato or some Stoic philosophy. Of course, being officially celibate is no guarantee of chastity. Perplexing stuff.