By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Attic holds a secret.
Louise (Carrie Snodgress) is a middle-aged librarian who loses her job when she sets the place on fire, which was deemed an accident, but similar to the one set at her father’s (Ray Milland) department store years earlier that forced him to jump out of a second story window and has left him bound to a wheelchair. She now takes care of him in their home, but finds his tyrannical nature to be overbearing. She fantasizes daily about Robert, a man she was set to marry until he disappeared on their wedding day and has never been seen since. To help aid her in her loneliness her friend Emily (Ruth Cox) buys her a pet chimpanzee, which she names Dickie, but her father does not like the animal and the monkey soon disappears just like Robert did 19 years earlier and Louise begins to wonder if there might be a connection.
Ponderously slow film that has very little of a plot. It seems like the ending twist was the starting point and then the rest of the script was created around it, but the story gets stretched thin and not enough going on to keep it interesting. The dream sequences where Louise fantasizes about killing her father has a campy tone making them more funny than scary and the whole thing lacks even mild shocks until the very end, which may be too late for some. It didn’t help matters that writer/director George Edwards was reportedly detached emotionally from the project and would at times walk-off the set forcing cinematographer Gary Graver to take over and in fact it was his close personal friendship that he attained with Snodgress while working on this that lead to her allowing him to use her home for his own horror movie that he directed 3 years later called Trick or Treat.
This was meant as a sequel to The Killing Kind, which was also directed by Edwards and came out 7 years earlier. The producers of that film though were not thrilled with this script and therefore refused to finance it and it took Edwards several years to find new investors. Once he did they demanded several changes including having the two characters, which had been played by Peter Brocco and Luana Anders in the first one, recast to Milland and Snodgress, who they felt were more famous and could help attract a wider audience. They also insisted that the setting be switched from Los Angeles to Wichita, Kansas a move that was hard on Edwards as he had a fear of flying forcing him to take a train to get there, but he became ill while onboard stranding him halfway and requiring him to take a cab ride the rest of the way, which cost $1,500, or $6,132 in today’s dollars.
The performance by Snodgress is the only thing that’s compelling as she reaches back to her Diary of a Mad Housewife character who’s constantly being ignored and oppressed by the man in her life. In that one it was her husband while here it was the father and her array of tormented emotions is effective, but I couldn’t understand why this otherwise attractive woman couldn’t find another eligible suitor. Certainly there was other men around and 19 years is a long time and since she was reasonably pretty and didn’t mind casual sex as she hooks-up at one point for a brief encounter with a sailor, so why no other boyfriends? If she was made to look ugly, or suffered from a deformity that caused her to remain isolated and a detraction to other men, that would’ve made it more understandable.
The twist at the end in which it’s revealed that the father can walk is not as surprising as it could’ve been since the viewer is already shown in a scene earlier of him getting out of his chair when he kills the monkey, and for the simple sake of surprise that scene should’ve been cut. The fact that he didn’t need to be confined to a wheelchair and had a lot of money then puts into question why did he play the ruse to begin with? He didn’t seem to like his daughter, so why play crippled just to keep her around? With his wealth he could’ve easily found another woman that he’d like better, so why not take that route? For that matter why did he kill Louise’s suitor so many years before, which is another big reveal we learn about when she finds the dead body in the attic. If it was because the father had a twisted sexual thing for his daughter and therefore didn’t want any other men in her life then that needed to get alluded too, which the film doesn’t do, which ultimately makes the whole scenario quite empty-headed and pointless.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: October 19, 1980
Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes
Director: George Edwards
Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation