No, not the one about the killer clown. The Golem makes an appearance in London, in 1967’s It! RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES reports.
TITLE: It! (aka Curse Of The Golem, aka Anger Of The Golem)
RELEASED: July 1967
STARRING: Roddy McDowall (Arthur Pimm), Jill Haworth (Ellen Grove), Paul Maxwell (Jim Perkins), Aubrey Roberts (Prof. Weal), Ernest Clark (Harold Grove), Oliver Johnston (Curator Trimingham)
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Herbert J. Leder
A fire breaks out at a museum warehouse. Sifting through the remains, the museum director and his assistant, Arthur Pimm, find the only remaining artefact is a stone statue. When Pimm goes to get a torch, he returns to find the director’s dead body lying next to it.
Fearing unwanted bad publicity from the incident, the museum management decide to sell the artefact to New York Museum representative Jim Perkins, but when Pimm learns of the legend of the Golem and the power he might obtain with its assistance, he’s reluctant to let it go…
So far, so straightforward. However, we’re in the hands of writer/director Herbert J. Leder, who previously gave us 1966’s quite barmy The Frozen Dead (which joined It! on a US double-bill), so it’s not going to be that simple. Where to begin? Right…
Jim tells Pimm of the legend of the Golem, and of how a sacred scroll is needed to bring it to life. Whoever does this will have control over the Golem.
Pimm has unrequited love for the deceased museum director’s daughter, Ellen, but she’s getting serious with Jim.
Through the Golem, Pimm sees a way to gain power and impress the hell out of Ellen, attempting to convince Jim that it’s a fake to put him off taking it back to the states.
Oh, and Pimm’s a strange fellow, who in the best Norman Bates tradition keeps his mummified mother at home and converses with her as though everything is completely normal…
Evidently, Pimm’s not the sort of man you’d want in control of a potentially dangerous walking statue, but having found the required scroll on the Golem’s person (and found a local rabbi to translate), he places it under the creature’s tongue in the required manner and it comes to life (none of which explains how the Golem was able to kill before actually being revived, but never mind).
Despite his excesses, it seems Leder has improved since his last effort. Okay, he still has a tendency to pack more into the script than is realistically manageable on the budget: a scene where Pimm commands the Golem to destroy a London landmark (in the somewhat misguided hope of impressing Ellen) is reduced to the fella unconvincingly lifting some fake girders, followed by a pretty ropey matte effect. But for all that, Leder just about keeps the film on the rails and moving along briskly enough.
Then, Leder finds himself 15 minutes from the end of the movie and appears to have some kind of meltdown. If you’d been watching this on TV back in the day, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally switched channels to a different film with the same cast.
With no attempt at scene setting (and giving the impression that the money ran out before some scenes could be shot), we’re informed that Pym has broken out of prison with the Golem’s assistance, picked up his mother’s body from the undertaker, stolen a hearse, taken Ellen hostage, and headed off to a previously unmentioned branch of the museum in the country.
Without giving too much of the quite bizarre final reel away, we’re expected to believe that the Golem must be destroyed by a small nuclear charge, and that any observers a mile away will be quite safe from any radiation or fallout by hiding behind a few sandbags.
This begs the question: Is there such a thing as a “small” nuclear charge? The stock footage utilised for the climax suggests not, but then Leder never was one to let logic get in the way.
That the film manages to make it through to the end in one piece is pretty much down to McDowall’s efforts. This is very much his film, and he upstages the actual Golem (played by Allan Sellers) as his increasingly deranged Pimm sets about his (quite small-scale) plans for domination.
You have to feel some sympathy for Jill Haworth. An actress who was much better than her later screen career might suggest, she tries valiantly against the odds to keep her dignity and a straight face.
At least It! is notable for giving the Golem its first outing in an English-language production, beating The Limehouse Golem by a good 50 years. It’s also worth pointing out that I sat through It! for the third time in order to write this review, suggesting that either:
a) It! must have something going for it.
b) I’m clearly in need of help.
You’ll have to decide for yourself. If I wrote another thousand words, I’m still not sure I could do It! justice.
TRIVIA POINTS: The exterior shots of the museum were shot at the Imperial War Museum.
McDowall mentions in the script that he has watched a German film from 1924 about a Golem. He may actually mean 1920’s The Golem: How He Came Into The World, the last of a trilogy of German Golem films made by actor Paul Wegener, and the only film of that trilogy which survives today.
It! is the only listed screen credit of Alan Sellers (also named in some sources as Alan Seller). If anyone knows anything about him or what became of him, we would love to hear from you.