Monday, June 13, 2011

The Attic (1980)

This is Deadly Daddies Week! All this week we'll look at some of the nastiest, meanest and downright scariest fathers to cross the silver screen.

The Attic (1980) 
seen online via YouTube

It's always a sad thing when once-great actors from a bygone era are forced to settle for making cheesy B-movies in the twilight of their careers. Look at Ray Milland: forever immortalized as the star of the Best Picture-winning The Lost Weekend, not to mention other flicks like Dial M for Murder, The Uninvited and Beau Geste. Maybe he wasn't as huge as Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart, but he worked consistently throughout Hollywood's Golden Age. Then he switched to television for a long time - no shame in that - but the movie roles he got were no longer quite as prestigious as anything made by Alfred Hitchcock or Billy Wilder, to put it mildly.

In The Attic, he plays a wheelchair-bound old man under the care of his daughter, who has been more than a little bit fruit loops since her fiancee mysteriously disappeared on their wedding day. He completely disapproves of her, of course, but the lengths of his issues with her go pretty far. This movie wanted to be a suspense/horror movie in the worst way but fails completely, on account of its unintentional hilarity (don't be fooled by my drama label), and it's kinda sad after awhile to see Milland struggle through it all. When you have to share screen time with a monkey in a diaper (not kidding), unless your name's Clint Eastwood, you know your career has fallen on hard times.

And it's not even like I have any great love for Milland - I just hate to see Golden Age movie stars finish their careers in undistinguished roles. Classic Hollywood films - of which I'm defining as anything from the silent era to roughly the mid-60s - were so dramatically different from those of the modern era, which I define as beginning with Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate. Language, themes, settings, everything from the Golden Age was restricted not only by technology but by censorship from within Hollywood and without, and yet that era produced so many wonderful movies that we all still cherish. 

So to see actors from that era make the transition to the modern age is sometimes bittersweet for me because a part of me wants to keep them in the past, if that makes any sense. Of course, some of them were able to adjust to modern movies excellently: Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross and William Holden in Network, for example. The Attic, alas, does not reach such heights, but oh, brother, is it funny. From the Debbie Boone-like songs on the soundtrack to the fantasy sequences in which Carrie Snodgress imagines all the ways in which she can kill Milland (the giant killer ape is the best!), this is worth watching for the cheese factor alone. Milland earns his Deadly Daddy status before it's all over, but his fate is sadly anticlimactic.

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