Air Date: Sept. 22, 1970 (ABC)
Production Companies: Aaron Spelling Productions
Running Time: 90 min.
Available on: Alpha Video (DVD)
Written by: Henry Farrell
Directed by: Curtis Harrington
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Julie Harris, Joan Hackett
Anthony Perkins is in reverse-Psycho mode in How Awful About Allan, a 1970 TV-movie perfectly representing the surfeit of small screen psychological thrillers of the era. He’s the victim in this one, still perhaps a little cuckoo, but really the victim of malicious intent rather than the perpetrator. I have a great fondness for all these productions, but this one, unfortunately, isn’t one of the best.
The scenario is familiar: character played by marquee star returns home from psychological institution to face personal fears as mystery person tries to terrorize him. The “art form” evolves from the hagsploitation films of the 1960’s, where the marquee star was an aging female such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds. Equal opportunity; this time the victim is male.
Director Curtis Harrington is familiar with the subgenre; he helmed Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and What’s the Matter with Helen? Writer Henry Farrell is, as well; he wrote What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Harrington has the added credentials of directing other movie-of-the-week thrillers, The Cat Creature, Killer Bees, The Dead Don’t Die, and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.
Allan (Perkins) suffers from partial hysterical blindness. His doctor says that a full recovery depends on resolving his feelings of guilt over a house fire in which his father died. He moves back home with his sister, Katherine (Julie Harris), and a locked room full of secrets, plus a mysterious boarder. Why does he hear his name whispered late at night? Is someone trying to kill him?
IMDb says that How Awful About Allan runs 90 minutes. I watched the DVD released by Alpha Video, which ran only 75 minutes. I wonder if it’s a version edited from the original running time. That could explain the lack of enthusiasm generated from watching it. As it is, it’s neither thrilling nor scary. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it’s just “meh,” certainly squandering the talents of Mr. Perkins.
Note: To learn more about the films of Anthony Perkins, I highly recommend More Than a Psycho: The Complete Films of Anthony Perkins by Dawn Dabell and Jonathan Dabell.