I’ve never been a big fan of Oliver Reed. I liked his performances in Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and as the aging warrior Proximo in Gladiator (his last film), but in too many of his films he plays the stereotyped tough guy -to the extreme. However, his performances rarely seem to stand out. I’ve never seen much range in the actor, who had no formal acting background or training on stage, and as the roughneck Ethan in The Shuttered Room (1967), he is largely unintelligible. However, Reed was a screen presence and was rarely boring (after all, he starred in the first film to drop an F-bomb). I liken his physical aura a bit to Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who is a great actor, but seems to have had juicy scripts and collaboration with fine directors.
I’ve reached a bit of a horror film impasse. After 40 years of watching horror-sci fi-fantasy films I’ve seen just about every mainstream “classic” available, and now rely on film literature, blogs, podcasts and websites searching for something new. I still have a long way to go with Japanese and Spanish horror films. Occasionally, I’ll find something different on a DVD anthology. Such is the case with The Shuttered Room, appearing as a double bill with the Roddy McDowall golem film IT! (1967).
The Shuttered Room is a pleasant surprise, with creepy long pans, perspective photography, an unusual progressive jazz score and off-beat casting with Gig Young and Carol Lynley (as husband and wife!), Flora Robson as a witch-like aunt, and Oliver Reed as Oliver Reed. The setting is a superstitious island fishing community off the coast of New England. The village draws comparison to the pagan community of Summerisle, off the coast of Scotland, in Robin Hardy’s superior The Wicker Man (1973). In The Shuttered Room, Carol Lynley returns with her husband to her home to discover her past. Lynley was an extraordinarily beautiful actress at her physical pinnacle in this film. She played well opposite older men such as Darren McGavin in The Night Stalker (1972). I also like veteran actress Flora Robson as witchy aunt Agatha, who played one of the Stygian witches in Clash of the Titans (1981). Robson plays the mysterious matriarch role to the hilt.
The film is strengthened by restrained direction and effective use of visually interesting outdoor settings, including a humdinger of a lighthouse, windswept beaches and coastal environs, craggy habitats and an old grain mill harboring a secret. A one-eyed puritan hiding behind a welder’s mask will delight almost any horror fan.
The Shuttered Room was advertised as being based on a H.P. Lovecraft tale. The story was actually penned by Lovecraft affiliate August Derleths. Don’t expect space creatures, ancient ones or monsters from the deep in the film adaptation. Overall, worth seeking out. I picked up The Shuttered Room/IT! DVD for $5 at Best Buy.
Check out this cool Japanese poster: