How Awful About Allan

Director: Curtis Harrington

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

How Awful About AllanIn the 1960s & early 1970s, telefilms were often very fine little movies & had not yet fallen into the recurring look & sound & casting that would eventually become the dead give-away of TV pablum. How Awful About Allan (1970) is a very little film, but for cast, script, & even for the score, it could easily have been a cinematic release.

The screenplay is by Henry Farrell from his 1963 novel of the same title. Farrell also wrote the novel on which the classic Bette Davis & Joan Crawford Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) was based, & a few other psychological thrillers verging into horror.

Anthony Perkins was still in his acting prime, somewhat typecast after Psycho (1960) in psychological thrillers like Pretty Poison (1968), Someone Behind the Door (1971), Remember My Name (1978), as well as How Awful About Allan.

Allan saw his father burning alive in an accidental fire, & stood frozen on the spot unable to help. His sister Katharine (Julie Harris) on the other hand ran boldly into the fire & was afterward badly scarred. Guilt induces hysterical blindness, & Allan is put in a mental ward for the next eight months.

How Awful About AllanReleased with only partial vision restored, he returns home where Katharine cares for & worries over him. She wears a facial prosthetic hardly less grim than scar tissue. Allan slowly accepts additional help from Olive (Joan Hackett), previously his girlfriend though he now feels unworthy of her & remains emotionally distant.

Allan's growing paranoia & unpredictable behavior causes him to obsess about the mysterious lodger, to hear voices calling to him in the night, to become increasingly convinced of a conspiracy to kill him or drive him mad.

The film is primarily a suspenseful double character study of Allan & Katharine. Perkins' tense, nervous performance, seemingly on the edge of insanity, is what makes the film. But Julie Harris's subtler performance is in the long run nearly as good. The twistedness of the psychology of both brother & sister is maintained right to the last moment of enclosing darkness.

The year before the television premier of How Awful About Allan the novel had already been produced as a German telefilm Horror (1969), starring Vadim Glowna as Allan renamed Alex, & Gerda Katharina Kramer as Katrin. I would love to see this version if anyone can provide it. Someone should attempt to issue both of them on one DVD.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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