Year 1967
Studio Warner Brothers (WB)
Producer Phillip Hazelton
Director David Greene
Writer

Alex Jacobs

Nathaniel Tanchuck

Music Basil Kirchin
Cast

Oliver Reed

Gig Young

Carol Lynley

Length 82 mins

     
The Shuttered Room

‘‘ Sleep one night in the house with the shuttered room and you may never want to sleep again... There are some doors that should never be opened. ’’

The Shuttered Room is supposedly based on the short story by Lovecraft's zealous disciple August Derleth. Derleth, a solid writer of pulp fiction, is better remembered as the co-founder of the Wisconsin-based publishing firm Arkham House. But Derleth was first and foremost a writer, and used Arkham House as a vehicle for his own stories—including those he claimed to be "posthumous collaborations" with Lovecraft. These tales were based on "fragments" found among Lovecraft's writings, bearing titles like "The Shadow Out of Space," "Innsmouth Clay," "The Lamp of Alhazred," "The Watchers Out of Time," and the famous "The Lurker at the Threshold." They were almost entirely Derleth's inventions, tales in which Lovecraft's bleak cosmic vision got transformed into a classic battle between Good and Evil, a concept irrelavent to HPL.

Derleth's 1959 short story "The Shuttered Room" belongs to this group of "posthumous collaborations" and is a sequel of sorts to not one, but two Lovecraft tales, attempting to pick up where both "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" left off. But no fragment of HPL's can be blamed for the film The Shuttered Room and neither can August Derleth, because what made it to the screen hardly resembles the Lovecraftian pastiche he penned.

The film starts off promising enough, as we see a '67 T-Bird speeding down a lonely road past a sign reading: FERRY TO DUNWICH ISLAND—1 MILE. Unfortunately, this Dunwich has nothing to do with HPL's most popular story. It has much more in common with the "horny hillbilly" movies made popular a decade before by Russ Meyer.

The perfectly coifed and ever-smirking Gig Young is behind the wheel, while his lovely trophy wife, Carol Lynley, occupies the bucket seat next to him. Almost immediately they are accosted by a pick-up filled with a pack of howling Dunwichians, a truck driven by Ethan Whateley played by one of the greatest screen bad-boys of all time, Oliver Reed (The Devils, Tommy, The Three Muskateers).

It seems that Gig's wife, Suzanne, is a Dunwich Whateley who was raised in New York and is now returning home on the occasion of her 21st birthday to claim an old sawmill she has inherited. This immediately raises the hairy eyebrows of a distant relative, Zebulon Whateley, because one of his foundry workers lost an eye in the cursed Whateley Mill. "There's no one but demons live there," the one-eyed worker tells Gig who, being from New York City, naturally wants to turn the cursed and demon-haunted place into a summer house.

Meanwhile, the locals are getting up close and a little too personal with Suzanne. "A race by themselves," Lovecraft wrote in "The Dunwich Horror" and Derleth borrowed, "with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding."

At the old mill, Gig smirks at the decrepit building but the long shot of the 18th-century structure is one of the creepier ones of the film. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and the decaying structure on the river evokes Lovecraft in every splintered board and broken window. The star of the story, the shuttered room itself, is immediately apparent as a bizarre shack ominously overhanging the building, like the eldritch past heavily weighing on the present, a picture both Lovecraft and his disciple Derleth would have dearly loved.

Reed is quick to take the couple to see Suzanne's aging aunt Agatha Whateley (played by Flora Robson, best know for her role as Queen Elizabeth in the Errol Flynn classic The Sea Hawk). Agatha lives in a lighthouse and warns them of "the Whateley curse." She's sure doom will come to Suzanne if the young woman spends even one night in the Whateley Mill. Gig, smirking as usual, thanks the old woman for her "advice" and takes his wife back to their future vacation hide-away.

Unfortunately the mood quickly ossifies into the oh-so-standard hand-held and wide-angle POV shots of someone or something watching the couple. The movie is liberally padded with such exciting scenes as: Oliver Reed endlessly running around the island; Gig tooling around in the T-Bird; Suzanne dusting; Suzanne getting undressed; Suzanne being watched; the Whateley "kissing cousins" kissing their cousins; Suzanne rape-chased by Oliver and the thugs; Suzanne brilliantly eluding them by running onto the dead end of a pier; Suzanne being rescued by Gig's Kung-Fu mastery (he is, after all, a New York magazine editor); some . . . well, you get the idea.

The Shuttered Room finally slow-walks to its climax in—the shuttered room! There we learn that the source of all the clichÖ POV's is none other than Suzanne's mad and raving sister, who has been kept alive by her auntie. The aunt, in her infinite wisdom, figures out a way to free Suzanne from the curse. Her solution? Conflagration—building on a trend disturbingly common to Lovecraftian cinema.

The Whateley Mill consumed by flames is probably the most emotional scene in the entire picture. Not because of anything the filmmakers were trying to accomplish, but because we've been robbed of an excellent location that could have been used for a real Lovecraft adaptation.

Yet another ending in flames and all we are left with is a burned-out husk! Sort of like someone who, possessed by powers outside of all normal time and space, decided to sit through the entire running time of The Shuttered Room.