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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Shuttered Room/It!
The Shuttered Room/It!
Warner Bros. // Unrated // December 9, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted December 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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A U D I O
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The Movie:

A recent trend in the home video market seems to be the "sweeping up" of older catalog titles by the major studios for release as budget double - , triple -, and now quadruple - features. They're nice for the casual consumer, as the price is usually relatively low, and for the more hardcore DVD collector, as several titles usually fit in one space-saving case.

Arguably, Warner Brothers is the studio most responsible for this trend. Over the past decade of DVD, they've routinely gathered up classic films in their extensive library for release as double bills. December 2008 sees the welcomed general release of a couple horror-themed double features from the studio vaults. The pairing of It! and The Shuttered Room is one of these releases. So, without further ado . . .

From Gothic to Golem - A Terror Twofer!

The Shuttered Room (1967) **1/2

Inspired by a story courtesy of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, The Shuttered Room is an acceptable gothic romp that starts off this horror double feature. In it, Sarah (the beautiful Carol Lynley) returns to her family estate on a remote island after inheriting it on her 21st birthday. She's been gone for about 15 years - sent to New York City upon the deaths of her parents. She's fairly well-off, having just married the much older Mike (Gig Young), a magazine editor who's clearly got money. Everyone is weird on the island, and they all suggest Mike and Sarah should leave. But, Mike and Sarah ignore these warning, intending to do a lot of work on the decrepit old estate and use it as a summer home, despite being harassed by a gang of local hooligans led by Ethan (Oliver Reed). Unbeknownst to our intrepid couple, someone - or something - lives in the titular shuttered room of this rundown house, and this inhabitant likes to kill.

The Shuttered Room is fairly entertaining for a horror flick out of the 1960s. Director David Greene had a nice eye, with numerous scenes framed in interesting ways. The location footage was pretty, and it gave the film a rural and foreboding atmosphere. Supposedly set in New England, The Shuttered Room was actually shot in England, but this cheat didn't bother me. The acting is all right, with Carol Lynley very good as the "baby doll"-ish lead (appropriate within the context of the movie itself). Gig Young seems miscast, however, as the doting husband. He's just too old. In real life, almost 30 years separate Young from Lynley. This is hardly scandalous, of course, but the couple looks more like father and daughter rather than husband and wife. Gig Young's casting is further problematic considering his character's physical acumen. In one scene, Young's character beats up five young men with karate moves. This scene looks more than a little preposterous. And speaking of preposterous, the screenplay sets up a schizophrenic relationship between Mike and Sarah, and the townspeople. The gang led by Ethan attacks them several times, and even attempts to rape Sarah at one point, but when they're not doing this, Mike and Sarah are giving them rides and following them through the woods for directions, as if they're old friends. It's very strange.

Ultimately, The Shuttered Room utilizes its setting well, and the general storyline is interesting. However, its effectiveness is distilled by some questionable casting choices and a screenplay that undermines the intelligence of its lead characters.

It! (1966) ***1/2

Rounding out the double bill is a second English production from the '60s: the ultra-silly It! The main character of It! is Arthur Pimm, a put-upon assistant curator obsessed with his dead mother. Pimm seems to be a predecessor to characters like Willard; he's emotionally fragile, psychologically disturbed, and in love with a girl way out of his league. In It!'s case, that girl is Ellen (Jill Haworth), the daughter of the curator for the museum Arthur works in. Procuring a statue from a warehouse fire, Pimm soon discovers that it is a golem, a living statue. Pimm gains power over the statue, and like Willard and his infamous rats, he uses his newfound power for his own gain. Several murders and the destruction of a bridge over the river Thames ensue.

It! is silly from start to finish, but the movie has that certain old-school Saturday afternoon charm that will win over old monster fans. Roddy McDowall, the genre veteran who would later appear in Planet of the Apes and Fright Night, helps the proceedings along with a terrific melodramatic performance as the feeble Arthur Pimm. The final showdown between Pimm and his golem makes absolutely no logical sense at all, but it brings in the military and a nuclear weapon, so who cares?

In sum, two old horror films - one playing it straight and one playing for laughs - from the 1960s are on this double feature. They're worth seeing despite their faults. Recommended.

The DVD

Video:

Both movies in this double feature are presented in anamorphic widescreen. Warner Brothers, in its cover art, claims that the two movies are preserved in "the aspect ratio of their original theatrical exhibitions." Given its age, The Shuttered Room looked fairly good. Its image was sharp and detailed, though dirt and other blemishes were periodically noticeable. The same may be said about It!, though it appeared a bit cleaner than The Shuttered Room.

Sound:

The Shuttered Room and It! are made available with serviceable though limited Dolby Digital 1.0 audio tracks. Out of the two, It! fares a bit better: dialogue was always clear and the score was well-mixed. The Shuttered Room could have used more oomph. I had the volume set about twice as loud as normal, but the dialogue was always clear. The jazz score seemed too intrusive and inappropriate to the goings-on, but on a technical level, it was well-presented.

Subtitles are available on both features in English (for the hearing impaired) and French.

Extras:

The Shuttered Room is 100 minutes long; It! runs 96 minutes. They're both available on one single-sided disc - so it should come as no surprise that no extras are present here.

Final Thoughts:

No one is going to confuse It! or The Shuttered Room with the horror classics of the 1960s. Still, the two films are worth seeing, despite their faults. It'd be nice if the disc came with extras, but the movies themselves are enough to warrant a recommendation.

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