Sunday, February 06, 2005

Miscellaneous: Mystery Solved

It should be obvious to any regular reader of this site that I spent far too much time watching movies as a child. While my friends were setting up clubhouses in the collection of cast-off trash containers underneath the Amtrak trestle – an area known to us good Catholic schoolkids as “the bins” – I would be at home watching whatever films were served up by New York’s independent TV stations. I still believe that was the correct decision. Certainly the more hygienic one.

Plenty of those offerings have stayed with me. Repeated afternoon viewings of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE made me who I am. Others I have completely forgotten.

But one ended up somewhere in between, in my own personal cinematic limbo.

I must have been around seven when I saw it. I don’t remember it as being particularly good. What’s noteworthy is that I remembered it at all.

It was a horror movie. (Big surprise.) It was about a woman, possibly a redhead, who moved into an old house, possibly in Ireland or England, along with her husband, definitely a lout. In said house was a ghost known as Patrick. We never see him; he’d make his presence known by poltergeisting the furniture around. Patrick became the woman’s protector against her husband’s schemes. The film ends with Patrick setting the house on fire while the husband is inside, killing them both. The woman stands outside, screaming the ghost’s name as the place burns.

It wasn’t that scary, or that well-made. It was just a movie I watched one afternoon by myself, and for some reason the details stayed with me.

Except for the title. I had no idea what the damn thing was called.

Over the years the film would pop into my head, and I’d waste a few minutes trying to track the title down. I consulted books on horror movies, combed the Internet Movie Database, ran searches on the web. All to no avail.

Then last week it occurred to me. I was just on a game show with a passel of film fanatics. Maybe one of them would know. So I sent them all the information I had at my disposal, exactly as recounted above.

Less than 24 hours later I had my answer, courtesy of Tony Kay. Who hasn’t even seen the movie, but recalled it from a book about horror films that he’d read years ago. It’s THE HOUSE IN MARSH ROAD, from 1960. Directed by Montgomery Tully, who specialized in low-budget English thrillers. The IMDb entry features only one (1) user comment and links to only one (1) external review, so there’s no cult following. Probably because the film has never been widely available on video. It’s also in black and white, so I made up the redhead part.

It feels a little strange, having a question that has dogged me on and off for three decades finally answered. But at least now, should THE HOUSE IN MARSH ROAD ever surface on TV, I’ll make it a point to sit down and watch it again. And no doubt wonder what I’d made a fuss about.

Miscellaneous: Link

In honor of the Super Bowl and its cleaned-up halftime show, here’s a link to my all-time favorite McSweeney’s piece describing a spectacle I'd give anything to see.