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

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Shirley MacLaine as a troubled sister

THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972). Director: Waris Hussein.

Upper east side divorcee Norah Benson (Shirley MacLaine) has increasingly clung to her brother Joel (Perry King) since her husband left, but lately the free-spirited Joel has been acting strange and threatening. [Of course, Norah brushes his hair as if he were an eight-year-old.] Joel becomes a suspect in a horrible murder, the latest in a series of decapitations of women supposedly committed by Joel's friend, Tonio Perez. The trouble is, Tonio is dead. Is Joel the killer, or is he literally or figuratively possessed by Tonio? And will Norah learn the truth before Joel can turn on her and her family? The Possession of Joel Delaney has an intriguing storyline, but while there are a few creepy scenes, it's all handled much too matter-of-factly and there's only real suspense near the climax, which actually consists of utterly repellant scenes of Norah's two young children being terrorized. MacLaine gives a good performance for the most part, but she doesn't seem sure how to handle the grislier "horror" portions of the script involving assorted severed heads. Perry King, who was "introduced" in this movie although he'd had small roles in previous films, is quite good, as are the children. Although Norah reacts to the denizens of Spanish Harlem just as a wealthy snob like her would, the picture does present somewhat stereotypical portraits of Puerto Ricans.The ending leaves room for a sequel which fortunately never materialized.

Verdict: Not awful but misses the mark. **.

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