Friday, October 12, 2007

TODAY'S PICK FOR HALLOWEENIE MOVIE IS SIMPLY MARVELOUS! That's right. It's the same old story with horror fans: in the dim, dim mists of your childhood you watched a movie which made a tremendous impression on you. The film has hidden in a corner of your mind as brief flashes of storyline which burned their way into your subconscious attic. However, you can't remember what it was called or even when you saw it! We can't exactly describe WHY they haunt us. For some reason, they struck a chord in a young mind and had enough impact to linger for years. Well here's one of mine. . .
I saw "SOMEONE AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS" when I was quite young. I don't know exactly when. It was definitely during the seventies. The film was made in 1973 for a British television anthology "movie of the week-type" series called Thriller; the show was created by Brian "The Avengers" Clemens. It all took place in a marvelously creepy, dark Victorian house and starred a very young Donna Mills (the token American in the otherwise British cast -- and this was YEARS before her 80's racoon-eye makeup) and Judy Carne (the "Sock It To Me" girl from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in) as two college students who rent a room in the marvelous old spooky rooming house. There's a marvelous housekeeper (think Judith Anderson in "Rebecca") and one room at the top of the stairs which houses the oldest resident -- who is never seen or heard. These moods and memories stayed with me in the backwaters of my brain until one day around 1983 I noticed a TV Guide listing for "Someone at the Top of the Stairs" that some basic cable channel was airing. RESULT! you might think. Well, there was one little snag. It was airing at 4 o'clock in the morning. So, I set my trusty timer on the top-loader VCR and went to bed. The next day I pushed play and I had taped the movie alright -- but THE LAST HALF ONLY!!! In a common (but dastardly) practice of basic cable in the early 80's the start time listed in the TV Guide was merely an "approximation" -- it had started at least a half hour BEFORE it was supposed to. So, I only had HALF of this long lost movie I had wanted desperately to see. Fast forward to a couple years ago when the entire first season of THRILLER was released on DVD in this country; now I have a marvelous pristine copy to watch whenever I want. And today I want. "SOMEONE AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS" is simply marvelous. College students Donna Mills and Judy Carne rent a room in the spooky old house for next to nothing. They immediately find a locket in a drawer and "HELP ME HELP ME" scrawled on the inside of a closet door. The other tenants seem a little odd but behave marvelously towards the girls. Donna Mills gives a kitten to the little boy down the hall; his parents think it's simply a marvelous thing to do and thank her profusely. The next morning, while Donna is taking out the trash, she finds the dead kitten in a trash can. She confronts the parents who explain that the cat fell from a window and they hid it from the little boy so as not to upset him. Donna doesn't REALLY buy this explanation (and we the audience CERTAINLY don't). There is also a retired colonel who seems to be a "panties sniffer" as he is seen rifling through the girls' underwear drawer when they're not at home and several articles of underwear turn up missing. There is also a fellow who seems to constantly carrying a LARGE trunk down to the cellar -- just the right size for a body. The film is full of marvelously creepy stuff like this and the atmosphere of the house is so dead still and eerie that the viewer is guaranteed a marvelous time! Donna Mills and Judy Carne do a particularly marvelous job in the acting department; performing with total conviction. And rest assured, there really IS something supernatural going on in the house; no cop-out ending for this one. No one is just imagining or dreaming this one. I love watching this marvelous movie whenever I want a taste of the creeping chills -- and this one delivers marvelously! I cannot think of a more marvelous movie to watch while the chilly October winds whirl the leaves around the outside of YOUR house. ONE FINAL NOTE: You may have noticed my rather marvelous tendency to overuse the adjective "marvelous" in the above post. This is quite deliberate as the word "marvelous" is used to an unsettling degree by the creepy denizens of the old house Donna Mills and Judy Carne are living in. This, combined with their use of a hand gesture (think "this is the church and this is the steeple") adds even more oddball atmosphere to this eerie little movie. You really should check this one out.

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