Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


James Brolin and Margot Kidder

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979). Director: Stuart Rosenberg.

After a real-life multiple murder case in a house in Amityville, Long Island, the new owners, George and Kathleen Lutz, claimed that the place was haunted, that they had horrendous experiences, and had to flee to a motel in the middle of the night, never to return. Writer Jay Anson cobbled together a book telling of their "true" experiences, and enough gullible people bought it to make it of interest to Hollywood. Even American-International was surprised when Amityville turned into a monster hit; it's spawned two theatrical sequels, a remake, and a host of direct-to-video movies. In the meantime, only the intellectually challenged believe this is anything other than fiction. Even the stars of the movie thought the Lutzes' story was, well, not quite believable. The lawyer for the real-life murderer later sued the Lutzes for a cut and claimed they all dreamed the whole thing up while drinking wine.

In the film, the Lutzes move into the house although they know of its bloody history. A priest (Rod Steiger) who comes to bless the house is assailed by flies and nearly gets in a car accident, then becomes blinded by an accident in his church [apparently the "evil" in the house has a long reach]. Other odd things happen, such as the doors of the house being blasted off in the night, and they discover a walled-up chamber in the basement which is supposed to lead to Hell. [No one can say the Lutzes weren't ambitious in their fantasizing!] The implication is that the house's evil force is taking over the mind of George Lutz (James Brolin)  as it supposedly did the man who murdered all those people in the house [apparently his defense lawyer didn't bring that up at trial.] Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder) looks up a photo of the murderer and he resembles her husband, even though George is approaching middle-age and the killer (Ronald Defeo) was only 23 at the time of the murders. It all meanders along not very suspensefully until a conclusion that has a couple of minor harrowing moments. The Amityville Horror is basically an inept bit of horror fiction with passable performances and a score by Lalo Schifrin that rips off Psycho at key "shock" moments. It's also quite tedious. The best scene of the movie has a bunch of priests being bitchy with each other when Steiger talks about the evil in the house and his superior (Murray Hamilton) basically tells him he's nuts.

Verdict: A stinker for the sub-literate. *.

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