UK movie (1974). Stephen Weeks Co. Pr Stephen Weeks. Dir Weeks. Screenplay Philip Norman, Rosemary Sutcliff, Weeks. Starring Anthony Bate (Dr Frederick Borden), Larry Dann (Gregory Talbot), Marianne Faithfull (Sophy Crickworth), Penelope Keith (Miss Rennie), Leigh Lawson (Robert Crickworth), Vivian Mackerell (Duller), Murray Melvin (McFayden), Barbara Shelley (Matron). 89 mins. Colour.
England, the early 1930s. Three men come together for a shooting holiday organized by one of them, McFayden, in a remote mansion he has just inherited. McFayden and Duller are bullying snobs, and not very intelligent; working-class Talbot, the butt of their japes, is much brighter, and it is he who from the very outset is made terrifyingly aware that the house is filled with Wrongness (see Haunted Dwellings), his movements being dogged uncannily by an old blue-dressed Doll. The doll pulls him (in one especially striking sequence it literally drags him) into a sequence of Grand-Guignol events that occurred in and around the house some 50 years ago (see Timeslip). He discovers, piecemeal, a horrific tale of past incest and mass murder. The Story told/re-enacted, the doll kills Talbot; and at movie's end is preparing to do likewise to McFayden.
This is the supernatural Horror Movie remade for the genteel, and moments of stunning effectiveness alternate with long periods of stilted, stagy selfconsciousness; the plot has too many holes to list (surprising, with Sutcliff among the writing credits). Yet when this movie is good, it is very good. It has no connection with Ghost Story (1981). [JG]