9/1/08

A Different Kind of Parent Trap


I want to say right off that the Bug loves the British. These are the folks who gave the world Monty Python, the Rolling Stones, John Oliver, and Jack the Ripper. Sure the last one might not be a proud accomplishment, but seriously folks where would horror movies be without real life bat shit crazy psychos, and Jack set the bar pretty high back in the 19th century. Less than a hundred years later the British gave us another crazy, but unfortunately he doesn't meet those same high standard.

Twisted Nerve (1968) starring Haley Mills, Hywel Bennett, and Billie Whitelaw. Directed by Roy Boulting.

As the movie opens we meet Martin, he's visiting his brother who has Down Syndrome and playing a bit of ball with him. He seems a perfectly normal guy, but what kind of movie would this be at all if things were as they seem. After he leaves he goes to a department store where he spots Susan (Hayley Mills of Disney's Pollyanna fame), and as she buys a toy he shoplifts one. The store detectives catch them and Martin pretends to be slow saying his name is Georgie and acting like he doesn't understand. Susan takes pity on him and pays for the toy herself.

Martin then goes on home where we meet his gold digger mother and his rich banker stepfather. Somehow they know about the shoplifting, which seems odd as they don't seem to know he acted like he was someone else. His mother is overbearing and seems intent to keep him a child. His stepfather has other plans for Martin and has set up a job for him as a sheep farmer in Australia. I'm not sure how Martin can turn down a sweet sweet job like that, but he does so his step dad throws him out on his ear with 50 pounds to make his way in the world. Martin leaves the next day and bribes a desk clerk to send a letter to his folks to say he's in France.

Seems Martin already has the wheels turning and is getting a plan together. He then follows Susan to work at the library and throws on his Simple George act. (Too bad Bennett hadn't seen Tropic Thunder or his performance might have been more informed.) She's kind to him which only encourages his obsession with her. Soon enough he shows up on his doorstep looking to become a lodger. Susan live in a house with her mom (Billy Whitelaw who went on to appear in The Omen) and two P.G's, or paid guests, Shashie who is studying to be a doctor and Gerry a drunk who seems to have some kind of job selling movies (he comments at one point that to sell a movie you need S&V, Sex and Violence, and its too bad that this movie lacks in both regards,) and also has an affair going on with Susan's mom. They take Georgie in and give him Susan's old room which is still decorated with her little girl things, and he becomes a model lodger. He does the dishes and mows the lawn shirtless showing off his skinny Brit physique. Susan's mom goes so far as to say that Georgie will be"No trouble. No trouble at all." This is one of those things like "I'll go see what that noise was." and "I think he's dead." that you should never ever utter in a horror flick.

Well Martin/Georgie is no trouble at the boardinghouse, but he sneaks out at night and takes a pair of shears. He lays in wait for his stepfather in the family garage and gives him the business end of the shears; then he sneaks back to the house and creeps into Susan's mom's room where he sleeps with her after having a bad dream. The police get on the scene the next day and investigate the stepfathers demise, but their police work seems shoddy at best. Susan and Georgie go for a swim in a lake, and while drying off Georgie exposes himself to her, and I bet Burl Ives never did that....least I really really hope he didn't. He also try's to kiss her and she rebuffs him. This is the first inkling to Susan that something is amiss with Georgie.

She soon comes across other clues as she is cleaning her room where she comes across a book calls Psychosis Sexuallis and another with the name Martin Durnley. She mentions the name to her mother and it rings a bell with their maid who read about the stepfather's death in the papers. Susan starts to piece the puzzle together and goes to visit Martin's mom. She get some clues there after learning about Martin's other brother. Now you might be like, how the hell is that a clue. Well, Susan goes and consults with Shashie at medical school. As luck would have it Sashie is in the middle of a lecture about how siblings of people with mental retardation often come out with their own mental problems. Needless to say that even at the time this was a controversial opinion, and the movie actually opens up with a disclaimer about the "facts" portrayed in the film.

Georgie/Martin has been busy at home all this while. He seems very tense about Susan not being home, and when Susan's mom comes out to the shed to talk to him (and make a pass at him.... yes, because people always make passes at slow childlike men who've taken to calling you Mommy.) he snaps and kills her with and ax. By the time Susan comes home he traps her in her room and has a plan for them to get married. Susan confronts him with the facts she knows as the movie finally comes to a head.

This flick is hard to find. I actually came across a very grainy video tape copy that was subtitled in a language I couldn't identify. I'm not really sure if its worth the effort. The story is pretty good overall although it beats you over the head with its armchair psychology and genetic nonsense. Hayley Mills is enjoyable in the role and in her little miniskirts looks like a British version of Heroes babe Hayden Panettiere. Speaking of looking like people Hwyel Bennett disturbed me the whole time as it kept striking me that he looked like Harold from Harold & Maude. It's also notable that the whistling song that Daryll Hannah's character in Kill Bill was introduced by is the theme from this flick and you get to hear it in several versions including a swinging sixties version the kids cant help but dance to. In the overall, for being tagged as Britain's first splatter film, only two bodies go splat and the faux Hitchcockian tension they try to build never really sells it. Martin doesn't live up to Jack the Ripper's proud English tradition, and compared to films being made stateside at the time (H.G. Lewis had already released his masterpieces Bloodfeast, 2000 Maniacs, and Wizard of Gore, and Psycho was 8 years earlier.) its very tame. Enter at your own peril Moonies, or just check out the trailer it basically covers the whole film.

Bug Rating



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