It! (1966)

If nothing else, It! At least has possibly the shortest title in the history of films. Certainly in the history of British horror films, anyway. But the question is, is It! Any good? Or more to the point, is It! (sh)It!? Or is It! (br)I(llian)t!? Oh, the fun I'm going to have with this review…

What It! is, is completely barking mad. But you wouldn't really know this from the first half of the film, which concerns a shockingly young Roddy McDowell and his bizarre life. By day his character Arthur Pym is a mild-mannered curator's assistant at a museum. In the evenings he looks after his mum, the mummified remains of whom he keeps tucked up in bed. Pym steals jewellery from the museum to keep mummy looking good, and says things to her like "You're just cranky… don't get jealous" when he announces he's fallen in love with the extremely attractive Jill Howarth. So far, so Norman Bates. And you'd be forgiven for thinking that's pretty much all you're going to get. How wrong you'd be…

For It! Is not some bizarre 60s psycho drama in the mould of Hammer's Paranoiac or Hysteria. For one thing, the museum takes delivery of an enormous sculpture, described as "as fine a piece of Mid European primitive I've ever seen" by Pym's boss. The sculpture is the only thing left following a fire at a warehouse, and Pym immediately takes a fancy to the thing. "What's to be afraid of?" he wonders to himself. "It's only a lump of stone…"

Pretty soon, Pym's boss is murdered (bloodlessly - anyone wanting buckets of claret from this film is in for a let-down), and - shock-horror - the sculpture appears to have moved a bit.

Whether or not the makers want you (the viewer) to originally think that Pym's doing the murders, and the idea that the sculpture might be alive is something purely inside the strange young man's head, is unclear. What is clear is that pretty much straight away they think "sod it" and don't follow that particular idea any further. Although he's not happy that he doesn't get the curator's job after the untimely death of his boss (and the £150 extra that goes with it).

The next to die is a workman, who after rather poetically opining "Looks like some kind of primitive god of wrath or somethin'… look at the 'ate in it's face…" makes the mistake of striking a match on it and immediately gets crushed to death. 2-0 to It!, and 1-0 to the anti smoking brigade.

Pym reckons that the statue is alive and doing the killings, and rather rashly decides to tell the police about his theory. The papers pick up on this, and print headlines like "Is the Golem a killer?" (which is pretty clever of them, considering the thing hasn't been identified by any experts yet).

An American expert called Perkins arrives after reading the newspaper stories, and immediately identifies the statue as a Golem after translating an ancient Hebrew engraving on it: "Power bringeth destruction - beware lest it be unleashed". Or he might have just read the headlines from the previous scene, which rather gave the game away.

He explains that a Golem has no will of its own ("like a Frankenstein?" asks McDowell, in a nod to the contemporaneous Hammer films, probably), which doesn't really explain why it's been randomly killing people. It is controlled by a piece of parchment called "the scroll of life", which its master places in its mouth.

Further clarification of the Golem's powers are given by a Jewish professor, who worryingly explains that the engraving also says "Neither by fire, water, force, nor anything man created can I be destroyed". He also describes the Golem as "the most powerful force in the world today," and more powerful (even) than the H-bomb…

None of this is particularly good news, but as yet the Golem hasn't actually been activated properly. Unfortunately, two incidents in Pym's life are about to bring things to a head. Firstly, his paramour Ellen (Haworth), who sadly seems unaware that she's supposed to be going out with Pym (he hasn't told her) is hitting it off rather too well with their square jawed American visitor. Secondly, Pym's new boss is a right bastard. "So you're the big bugaboo," he says to the impassive Golem. "You don't look so villainous to me…"

Pym soon finds the scroll and starts sending the Golem out to do his dirty work, which includes killing his new boss, and knocking down a bridge (which he reckons will win Ellen's heart - no, I didn't understand that either). He also has a dream about a naked Ellen (yum) which rather disconcertingly turns into his dessicated mother (yuck). Told that if he uses the Golem for selfish reasons, it will "run amok", he decides to do the decent thing, but it's not that easy to get rid of a Golem once you've started it off and eventually Pym goes nuts, kidnaps Ellen and embarks on a bizarre scheme.

The film goes off on a right one towards the end, but all the way through it's never less than thoroughly entertaining. The main reason for this is McDowell himself, who shows what a sadly wasted talent he really was when consigned to performing behind a monkey mask for most of the 70s. His reaction to Ellen's news that she's going to America to marry Perkins is classic: "But… she's English!", and his wonderful paranoid killing spree is a joy to behold (The way he covers his eyes and orders the death of his nasty boss is priceless).

The film also benefits from some suitably wacky 60s tongue-in-cheekness. Headlines on newspapers include "Golem indestructible - artillery like peashooter", and as things get more and more insane, we're even treated to what's described as a "small" atomic bomb being let off in the Home Counties.

You could do worse that to search It! out. It!'s a real treat, so It! is.


Last updated: February 24, 2010

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It! 1966

It! 1966

It! 1966

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