Thursday, August 19, 2010
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976). Director: Dan Curtis.
A married couple with a young son rent a mansion for the summer for a ridiculously low price, with the "catch" that they have to prepare meals for the reclusive matriarch of the house, who stays alone in her room in the attic. The occupants of the house -- who are going on vacation -- also include Roz Allardyce [an effective Eileen Heckart] and her brother Arnold [Burgess Meredith, who is also effective, although for some reason he plays the role as a total gay stereotype]. Karen Black and Oliver Reed, both giving good performances, are the married couple, and Lee H. Montgomery also does a fine job as their son, David. As their Aunt Elizabeth, Bette Davis is at first as "grand lady-ish" and affected as she usually was in her older days, but eventually settles in to give one of her better latter-day performances. And we mustn't forget Anthony James, who makes an impression as the sinister nightmare chauffeur without ever saying a word. [James has over 75 credits in movies and television.] Burnt Offerings is an entertaining horror flick, even if it's not always convincing as to the [confusing] supernatural aspects of the storyline. Nonsense the movie may be, yes, but it still builds up to tragic consequences and the ending packs a small wallop. You might say that Burnt Offerings does for the haunted house story what Rosemary's Baby did for witches. William F. Nolan and Curtis scripted from Robert Marasco's novel.
Verdict: Disquieting -- and depressing -- in its own mostly quiet way. ***.