It! (aka Curse of the Golem)

Roddy McDowall

As the US movie title implies, It! (AKA Curse of the Golem) concerns a Golem. The concept of the Golem has been part of the Jewish (and wider eastern European) story-telling tradition for centuries. The original golem story concerns Judah Loew ben Bezalel, a 16th century Rabbi of Prague, who was said to have known the secret of creation. He took a lump of clay and created a man-servant which followed its master's every bidding, but, because of its limited intelligence, the golem could not be controlled. And yet it grew more powerful every day. Obviously, it had to be destroyed.

In the early 20th century, the publication of both a novel and a dramatic poem in Yiddish led to several successful theatre adaptations of the legend. I should add that I looked this up because the movie doesn't tell you anything about the background of the golem, except to say that the right master can control it. That right master is, of course, our evil lead, Arthur Primm (McDowall), an ambitious but somewhat disturbed museum curator with a thing about his mother and a passion for the boss's daughter (Haworth).

When a golem is delivered to the museum, Primm's boss is mysteriously killed and young Arthur realises that the golem is to blame. Discovering the secret of how to control the monster for his own ends, he uses it at first to steal antiquities to take home to his dead mother, whom he keeps in the living room, very much like that nice young Norman Bates in Psycho. When a handsome American (Maxwell) is brought in to replace his boss, a job which Arthur clearly expected to get himself, his mind turns to murder.

From here, the movie, which started pretty shoddily, goes downhill. The golem brings down a bridge across the Thames, killing hundreds, then breaks free of his master to go on his own rampage, eventually requiring the Army to intervene. But the thing just won't die.

McDowall plays the whole thing as if he was actually in a film of the quality of Psycho, rather than a cheap sub-Hammer British horror with some very unspecial effects. He's far too good to be in dross like this. He actually manages to win viewer sympathy for a man who might be an incestuous necrophiliac and who definitely causes the death of hundreds, if not thousands. Meanwhile, the monster is clearly a guy in a rubber suit moving slowly. Very slowly. The henchman getting pursued by the runaway steam-roller in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery slowly. With the rapidity of a glacier, is what I'm saying.

No-one, apart from McDowall, appears to have had any acting training prior to starring in this movie and, in fact, Maxwell and Haworth make a particularly unconvincing couple. Writer-director Howard J Leder directed 5 films in his brief career and he wrote all of them, so you can't fault the man's commitment to his own unique vision. It's hard to find anything else to say about HJL - as I like to think of him - that's positive, except that I will make it a point to go out and research him, because I am intrigued beyond words by a man for whom It was but a follow-up to his best-known movie, Frozen Dead (1966), in which mad scientist Dana Andrews tries to revive cryogenically frozen Nazis.

Buy it

This movie is not available at time of writing. Search Send It [UK] or Amazon [USA/CAN] to see if this has changed.

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Director:
Herbert J. Leder
Screenwriter:
Herbert J. Leder
Starring:
Roddy MacDowall, Jill Haworth, Ernest Clark, Paul Maxwell
Release details:
Warner-Pathé, UK/USA 1966, 1h 36m
Genre:
Horror
Our rating:
1 out of 10
User rating:

Rating: 9.36 [17 votes]

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