Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 22nd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: UK, June 27rd, 1967
Alternate Title: Blood Island
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Director: David Greene
Writers: D.B. Ledrov, Nathaniel Tanchuck
Cinematograper: Kenneth Hodges
Cast: Gig Young, Carol Lynley, Oliver Reed, Flora Robson, William Devlin, Bernard Kay, Judith Arthy, Robert Cawdron, Celia Hewitt, Ingrid Bower, Anita Anderson, Charles Lloyd Pack, Peter Porteous, Cliff Diggings
Synopsis: A young woman named Susan returns to the village located on a remote island where she was born. Seventeen years earlier she was sent away by her family to live in New York for her own safety from the curse that surrounds her family. The locales don’t take kindly to outsiders especially those interested in the old Whateley Mill which has been left to Susan who inherited the estate upon her twenty-first birthday. Bad things start happening shortly after Susan and her husband’s arrival at the Whateley Mill. Will they the superstitious locales chase them away from the Whateley Mill or will they discover the truth within its walls?
The cinema adaptations of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft can be traced back as far as Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Haunted Palace which was based on the H.P. Lovecraft novella “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Over the next seven years four more feature film adaptations including Die, Monster, Die! (1965) based on the short story “The Colour Out of Space”, “The Shuttered Room” (1967) based on the short story of the same name, Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) based on the short story “The Dreams in the Witch House” and The Dunwich Horror (1970) based on the short story of the same name. The 1970’s and 1980’s was a relatively quiet time for works of H.P. Lovecraft with the only major adaptations being “Cool Air” and “Pickman’s Model” which were adapted into episodes for the television series Night Gallery.
It wasn’t until 1985 and the release of the film Re-Animator (based on the short story “Herbert West, Re-Animator”) and a year later the release of From Beyond (based on a short story of the same name) that adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings really hit their stride. Even though most feature films that followed Re-Animator and From Beyond failed to capture the essence of H.P. Lovecraft or they were only loosely based on his work making them only faint reminders of the brilliant source material from which they were adapted. There have been several short films that have done an admirable job adapting H.P. Lovecraft with most of these finding their way to DVD via Lurker Films.
The Shuttered Room is based on a short story of the same which was completed from by using rough draft/notes of H.P. Lovecraft’s that were completed by his friend and author August Derleth. The short story while containing many Lovecraft elements that are undeniably H.P. Lovecraft’s the over feel of the short story has a pastiche feel to like most stories based on the Cthulhu mythos. The plot for the film version keeps most of the elements and characters in tack with only a few minor changes that don’t adversely affect the flow of the story.
The Shuttered Room was directed by David Greene a first time filmmaker whose credits up to this point in his career consisted of directing for television. Overall David Greene’s direction is very effective especially the way he has the camera menacingly stock its victims’. The films pacing is nearly flawless all leading up to an ending that is truly Lovecraftian. The films atmosphere is greatly enhanced by Basil Kirchin’s Baroque score.
One of the weaknesses of most Lovecraft adaptations is that the acting is often amateurish and/or wooden. One The Shuttered Room’s strongest assets are its solid cast which features a towering performance from actor Oliver Reed as Ethan Whateley. Oliver Reed is like a ticking time bomb in this film and not knowing where he might go next with his character creates a lot of tension. In the dual role of Susan Kelton/ Sarah Whateley who is played by Carol Lynley who acting credits include The Night Stalker, The Poseidon Adventure, Return to Peyton Place and Jean Harlow in the 1965 bio picture “Harlow”. Overall Lynley does a good job as a woman in distress and she is even more impressive in her second role as Sarah Whateley the deranged sister of Susan. In role of Susan’s husband is Gig Young an actor who had a long and distinguished career. Gig Young fills in his role nicely with a performance that effortlessly balances of that of Carol Lynley’s. Gig Young’s character Mike Kelton gets into many scuffles with the locales and he unleashes his superior karate skills on them hillbillies. The rest of the cast are all very good and convincing in their various roles.
One thing that immediately comes to mind while watching the films is the age difference between Susan and Mike Kelton. While filming The Shuttered Room Gig Young was twenty nine years older than his co-star Carol Lynley. The film takes full advantage of the Hardingham watermill and the area around it which is used for the majority of films outside of some scenes shot on sets that were constructed. The main difference between the UK release of “The Shuttered Room” and the U.S. release titled “Blood Island” is the opening pro-log sequences in the UK version. Ultimately The Shuttered Room remains one of the most faithful H.P. Lovecraft adaptations to date.
Note: The Shuttered Room is currently not available on any home video format. A heavily edited shorter version titled “Blood Island” was the last time this film was released on home video.