Saturday, April 12, 2014

How Awful About Allan (1970)

          Ten years after the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), actor Anthony Perkins was still trying to avoid typecasting—even though he occasionally backslid to the realm of psychological horror. In this competent but underdeveloped made-for-TV thriller, Perkins plays a man who returns home after spending eight months in an asylum. Prior to his institutionalization, Allan (Perkins) started a fire that killed his parents and permanently scarred his sister, Katherine (Julie Harris). The trauma also left Allan partially blind, though doctors insist his condition is psychosomatic. Written by Henry Farrell, who adapted his novel of the same name, How Awful About Allan feels a bit like a play, since nearly the whole thing takes place in the large house Allan shares with his sister. Allan, who may or may not have fully recovered his mental health, keeps “seeing” a mystery figure roaming around the house, although Katherine insists she and Allan are alone. Meanwhile, Allan tries to recover normalcy by interacting with doctors and with a family friend, Olive (Joan Hackett). The central question, therefore, is whether Allan has discovered the activities of a home invader with malicious intent, or whether Allan has simply gone crazy.
          Director Curtis Harrington, who helmed a fair number of spooky projects during a long career that included everything from documentary work to episodic television, does what he can to jack up the mood and style of How Awful About Allan, but his hands are tied by the internal nature of Farrell’s story. Since the real drama takes place inside Allan’s head, very little action occurs, so the movie includes many repetitive scenes of Perkins walking around the house and calling out to people who don’t answer. Quick flashbacks to the traumatic fire and a mildly violent finale add some oomph, though for many viewers this will represent a case of too little, too late. Still, Perkins is interesting to watch in nearly any circumstance, with his intense expressions and lanky physique cutting a memorable figure—especially when he zeroes in on his Norman Bates sweet spot. It’s also worth noting that How Awful About Allan was produced by small-screen schlockmeister Aaron Spelling, whose other horror-themed projects for television were, generally speaking, less subtle than this one. So, even if How Awful About Allan is fairly limp by normal standards, it’s the equivalent of a prestige project by Spelling standards.

How Awful About Allan: FUNKY

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