Directed by Herbert J. Leder
Starring Roddy McDowall, Jill Haworth, Paul Maxwell, Aubrey Richards, Ernest Clark, Oliver Johnston, Noel Trevarthen, Ian McCulloch.
Another title from my childhood that I first saw on TV one afternoon. I already knew who Roddy McDowall was because of The Planet of the Apes movies and TV series, as well as a few other films and TV shows he was known for. This was a viewing that came early in my years of a horror film fan, but way before I was remembering titles and such. But when I started getting some film books and saw the title creature, I knew I had seen that before, and then set out finding a copy. Funny thing was that this one seemed to take forever before it came out on DVD! I don’t believe it ever got a VHS release, or if it did, I could never find a copy. Instead, I had to do with a TV print that someone had recorded from late night TV. But at that point, I was just thrilled to be able to revisit it. Of course, now it had been put out on DVD, on a double feature disc with The Shuttered Room (1967), another title that took forever to get a release.
A fire in a museum’s warehouse completely guts the building, destroying everything in there, except a statue. Made of clay or stone, this sort of human figure, a tall one, stands there with its arms out. The director of the museum and his assistant are there to inspect the damage and come across this statue. The assistant goes to get flashlight but then hears a sudden scream, rushing back to see his boss lying dead by the statue.
McDowall stars as Arthur Pimm, the assistant director of that museum, who seems to enjoy his work and seems like a normal, well-adjusted person. Of course, once he gets home, immediately striking up a conversation with his mother about his day, almost giggling when he says he brought home a huge jeweled neckless for her to wear. When he goes to put it on her, we see that she is a long-dead corpse. So yeah, normal, well-adjusted person. Pimm discovers that this statue is actually a golem from ancient history, created in the 1500’s. Once he learns how to control it, he loses the last grasp of reality and goes completely mad with delusions of grandeur.
Written and directed by Herbert Leder, who only directed six films in his career, which he wrote most of those as well. His first screenplay was for the classic sci-fi film with the flying killer brains, Fiend Without a Face (1958). A year before It!, he gave us film that was another childhood favorite of mine, The Frozen Dead (1966). Maybe it is because I saw both The Frozen Dead and It! during my informative years that I remember both of them so fondly. Sure, neither one of these are great films, but I still find them very enjoyable. With It!, there isn’t that much of a story and some things in there just are damn silly, like when they drop a “small” nuclear bomb on a building in an attempt to destroy the golem, right in the English countryside, like there wouldn’t be any lasting damage!?!?! Since McDowall is onscreen throughout most of the running time, that is probably the main reason it is still so fun.
Then again Jill Haworth plays McDowall’s love interests, that is not reciprocated, and getting to see her in one of his dreams is almost worth the watch alone! You can also see a young Ian McCulloch, more than a decade before he sails out to the island of Matool in Fulci’s Zombie (1979).