Plot: Arthur (Roddy McDowall) works at a museum and loves his work, but his life is a little off balance. He lives with his mother, who is long dead and now just a withered skeleton, though death hasn’t hampered their relationship. He treats her as if she was alive and holds entire conversations with her, even arguments and wild delusions, despite the dusty bones involved. Meanwhile, he finds himself frustrated with his love life and while he has shown interest in Ellen (Jill Haworth), she has rebuffed his moves at each turn. As much as he wants to push the issue, she happens to be the daughter of his boss, so he has to restrain his creepiness. When the museum welcomes a strange new arrival, a large statue with little information attached, Arthur takes an interest when people begin to die in the statue’s presence. As Arthur uncovers the dark truth of the statue’s power, will he go too far in pursuit of his selfish goals and if so, can anyone hope to stop him?
Entertainment Value: This one has a number of interesting elements in play, with Roddy McDowall as our lead, a dead mother kept around for company, and a mystical golem in the hands of a maniac. The narrative is close to the classic Der Golem, so there’s no real surprises in the story department, but the skeletal matriarch and McDowall’s eerie performance help in that regard. The movie isn’t beloved, even within genre fans, as the narrative isn’t remarkable and the tone doesn’t drum up much in the way of scares or atmosphere. It has horror vibes to be sure, but doesn’t seem to want to commit and as such, comes off at times like more of a drama, with infrequent dips into the eerier side of things. But while It isn’t a classic, the movie has enough weirdness and fun scenes to make it worth a look. McDowall dials up his performance a little and the more oddball elements add to the fun, with the strange conversations with a skeleton and the b movie look of the golem itself. The tone is a little too serious however, while also not deadpan or sincere enough to veer into ridiculousness, so It lands in an odd zone between b movie and more serious thriller. In any event, if you appreciate eccentric horror movies and b movie style vibes, roll the dice on this one.
His presence is one of the main reasons to check out It, as Roddy McDowall amps up the melodrama to bring Arthur’s madness to life. His performance has some camp touches and does go over the top at times, which adds a lot of entertainment and that is much needed here. I love his conversations with the remains of Arthur’s mother, as he is so serious and puts a lot into the scenes, which makes them fun to watch and of course, quite off the wall. I just wish more was done with the skeletal matriarch thread, as it is one of the more curious elements of It, but isn’t given nearly enough time to unfold into some real craziness. While he is one of the movie’s best assets, he also holds back the fun at times and never really embraces the lunacy, so he is dialed up, but still feels restrained in such ridiculous situations. Perhaps an epic, scene chewing performance that really made Arthur seem unhinged could have made a difference, if just to add more fun and camp value. The cast also includes Jill Haworth, Oliver Johnston, Ian McCulloch, Paul Maxwell, and Ernest Clark.