Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Awful About Allan (1970)

Reviewed By: Billy

“Aaron Spelling Productions, Inc.”

These words might scare some of you off, but we at Tower Farm welcome them like a mug of warm milk before bedtime. Without Spelling, there’s a good chance my brother JM and I would be very different men today; we still refer to “Beverly Hills, 90210” on an almost daily basis, as we grew up camped out on the sofa every week waiting for Brandon, Brenda, and the gang to gather at the Peach Pit and become gambling addicts (or whatever tragedy was befalling them that week). And, on a personal note, watching Donna Martin almost ruin her chance at graduation because she got wasted off a sip of champagne is the reason I’m afraid of alcohol to this day. So thanks Aaron…without you’d I’d be a lush!

Anyway, putting Aaron Spelling in the producer’s chair of a horror movie starring Anthony Perkins, directed by Curtis Harrington, and written by Henry Farrell is kind of like taking that mug of warm milk and handing me a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies to go along with it…and then telling me I’ve won the lottery. Let’s start with Perkins; I love him, but not because of Psycho. Instead, I’m partial to his over-the-top masterpiece Mahogany, where he can’t get it up for Diana Ross and ends up crashing them both off a highway overpass. Harrington, meanwhile, is one of my favorite directors, turning out 70s sleaze like What’s The Matter With Helen? and The Killing Kind with just the right balance of glamour and grime. And if not for Farrell, the world would be deprived of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte…and drag queens ‘round the world would have absolutely no dialogue with which to entertain their crowds.

So clearly this is a dream team if ever there was one, and the fact that How Awful About Allan is a made-for-TV horror movie from the 70s only adds to its perfection. The movies of the week from this era are all classics – having produced everything from Linda Blair’s juvie hell to Karen Black’s date with a maniacal six-inch doll – and this one is another gem. The story of a man so overcome with guilt he goes blind (yes…apparently guilt, like masturbation, can randomly cause blindness), the creepy moments here are abundant; we get strange voices, shadowy figures, blurred camera shots, and worst of all, these outfits:

Anyway…Anthony Perkins plays our Allan, whose house catches fire before the opening credits, leaving his father dead and sister disfigured. Allan is so racked with guilt about the whole thing that he ends up blind and in a hospital for several months…only to come back and live with his now-scarred sister in the same house. Clearly the doctors who released him into this environment are just praying for Allan to crack up again…and, lucky for us, he does.

The big problem is that Allen’s sister has taken in a boarder at the house, who Allan becomes convinced is out to kill him. Our first introduction to the boarder comes via one of the aforementioned blurred Allan-POV shots, which means all we get is a silhouette and a voice that sounds like a 12-year-old boy with laryngitis. Personally, thus far, I’m with Allan on this one. I mean, if you saw this figure walking around your house and talking like Frankie Muniz after a carton of cigarettes, wouldn’t you get nervous?

Anyway, soon Allan starts taking a trip to Sweet Charlotte-sville…obsessively talking into a tape recorder and cutting his hands with butcher knives, with only his next-door neighbor Olive to confide his fears to. As Allan, Anthony Perkins is remarkably subdued (next to his work in Mahogany, he’s practically sleepwalking here). Joan Hackett plays Olive as an offbeat spinster and is a perfect match for Perkins; this is the second Hackett movie I’ve seen (after the wonderful Perkins-scripted The Last Of Sheila) and she’s a lot of fun to watch. Julie Harris is alternately sad and sinister as Allan’s sister…though she does get the unfortunate assignment of walking through the entire movie with a big band-aid plastered on the side of her face.
The script, meanwhile, is really a perfect mash-up of everything else Henry Farrell wrote; it’s got crazy siblings, dark old houses, unnerving flashbacks, and LOTS of name whispering (by the end of the movie, the name “Allan” will sound a lot like nails raking down a chalkboard). Coming after such crazy broads as Jane, Charlotte, and Helen, Allan does kind of seem like a wet noodle; it would have been nice to see Anthony puff a cigarette, pop his eyes, and bark “You didn’t eat your din-din!” at least once. Oh, well…he does, at least, throw a book at Joan Hackett at one point.

And if you’ve ever seen anything written by Henry Farrell (or based on something he wrote), then the ending here should come as no surprise; I’ll just say that maybe Allan wasn’t so crazy and maybe someone was trying to make him think he was crazy all along. And maybe that someone wants revenge for the Allan’s past “crime.”

And maybe this movie is pretty much Psycho II.

Anyway, once again Aaron Spelling has turned out a quality piece of TV, and Anthony, Curtis, and Henry don’t let their one collective fan down. True, it doesn’t quite have the impact of Luke Perry’s father getting blown up in a car or Jennie Garth joining a cult, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Your enjoyment of this movie will depend a great deal on your tolerance for 70s television camerawork and nauseating orange pajamas…but if you can stomach those (hint: antacid before viewing), Allan proves a worthy addition to the Baby Jane family.



  1. Thank you for finding a movie that mixes horror and 90210. Wait... That movie was called WITCHBOARD 2, wasn't it?

    Anyway, I really love that Aaron Spelling was able to team up with Anthony Perkins. You may love him for MOHOGANY, but I will always admire him for EDGE OF SANITY. Well, at least for the EDGE OF SANITY VHS box cover. I am not sure I ever saw the movie. But, I will never forget that awesome box.


  2. Billy! You fuck! Just droppin' by to say thanks for checkin' out my Rejuvenator review. I'm glad you dug it, and I'm glad it got you interested in checking it out. If you ever get around to see it, you should do a review. Or at least let me know what you think of it. Definitely an acquired taste, but, really, so much schlock horror is, especially 1980's Video Boom schlock horror. I think it's still worth a watch, though, if only for that super-sweet monster meltdown scene at the end, and because it's actually got the balls to try and tell a serious, sober-faced, somber-minded story. Whereas most of those Video Boom rental fodder cheapies just kinda lobbed blood, boobs, and bad jokes at you non-stop (not that there's anything wrong with that), a la' The Video Dead and Death Row Diner, Rejuvenator actually tries to be a "real" movie, which is refreshing (although sometimes I think it takes itself a little too seriously, especially when what we're dealing with here is, let's face it, complete ridiculousness... I mean, be honest, brain-eating monsters?). Like I said, give it a look. It's worth that much, at least.
    By the way, awesome to read your How Awful About Allan review. I was actually planning to watch this movie (and maybe review it) sometime in the near future, so it's a cool little coincidence to see you got a review of it up. I had no idea Aaron Spelling was involved with this flick. Now I gotta check it out! Lol.