Friday, February 27, 2015


One of the summer guests staying at Flavia's California ranch is Jessica, Flavia's young niece, who is a bit on the ethereal side; she insists that she can find water in the ground, as well as buried lost items, with her dowsing rod. Not all the other guests (who include Gordon, a handsome archeologist who remembers Jessica as a child, his artist buddy Hank, and Hank's girlfriend/model Linda) believe her, but when she finds Linda's lost watch buried in a squirrel hutch at the base of a tree, they wonder. Gordon gives her an elaborate crucifix he found nearby while digging and she promises to wear it always. Handyman Boyd and his doltish assistant Mike find a brass box that was buried in 1579 near the tree. Gordon plans to open it the next morning, but Boyd and Mike, assuming it contains treasure, break it open that night and find the head of devil worshipper Gideon Drew, buried 400 years ago but still alive. He was put to death, beheaded, and put under a curse that his head would remain living until it was reunited with its body. Though the head can't speak, it puts Mike under its hypnotic command and has him kill Boyd, then keeps putting others under its power and uses them to search for his body, which is buried nearby.

Interesting idea but executed blandly, shot like a particularly drab TV show. The characters are fleshed out slightly better than in most B-horror films; when Linda is taken over by Gideon's head, she turns cold toward Hank, leading him destroy her portrait and to turn to Jessica as his next model, and we actually care a bit about that situation. The shots of the head, either in a box, on rocks, or being held, are effectively creepy. The acting is adequate: William Reynolds makes a solid, handsome hero as Gordon; Carolyn Kearney is OK as the mildly strange Jessica, though when she falls under the head's influence, her personality shift is especially good; Andra Martin is fine as Linda; Robin Hughes (the writer O'Bannion in AUNTIE MAME) doesn’t have much to do as the head except for one nice moment in a flashback scene at Gideon's execution.  Mystery Science Theater 3000 roasted this movie—I haven't seen their version though I'm sure it’s funny—but generally it's not as bad a film as they usually take on. [TCM]

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