How Awful About Allan Reviews
'How Awful About Allan' is a pretty decent moody, intense, creepy psychological thriller with two of my favourite thespians in that department--Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris. It's a tad claustrophobic and difficult to get into at the start, because of this aforementioned intensity, but if you stick with it, it's quite intrinsically rewarding and definitely not a late-night waste of 90 minutes.
When Perkins' 'Allan' picks up a picture and says, 'Mother,' I couldn't help but smile. What an interesting and ill-fated actor.
Allan (Anthony Perkins, for once not playing some variation of "Psycho's" Norman Bates) is a young man persistently living in the shadow of his stern academic father. After failing to save his dad in a house fire which also scars his sister (Julie Harris), Allan is committed to a mental institution for months suffering from guilt and hysterical blindness.
But it's not hysterical blindness. If anything, I'd call it "runny-watercolor-vision." And Perkins doesn't even act blind throughout most of the movie.
These major flaws, plus an inert, rather inept plot, make "Awful" a trying sit. Not even producer Aaron Spelling's usual bag of TV-enhancing tricks could save it.
This vigorous Curtis Harrington chiller draws inspiration from PSYCHO, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, and HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE in equal measure. The result is simply too derivative to be considered a classic, but its blend of campy thrills and surreal shocks help to make it a great deal of fun. The teleplay by Henry Farrell (author of the BABY JANE novel and co-screenwriter of CHARLOTTE) hinges upon a "surprise" denouement that most modern viewers will be able to figure out quite some time before it arrives. Nonetheless, Farrell's storyline offers just enough plot contortions and juicy dialogue to keep things at an entertaining level.
The film is primarily a vehicle for the wonderfully quirky talents of Anthony Perkins, who certainly succeeds in making Allan a memorable addition to his gallery of edgy and disturbed heroes. Although it's chiefly Anthony's show, that of course doesn't prevent the remarkable Julie Harris from delivering an admirable supporting turn as the put-upon Katherine, who struggles to maintain her cool in the face of Allan's increasingly neurotic behavior. Perkins supplies most of the hysterics, but the finale gives Miss Harris an opportunity to raise a little hell herself and she does so with tremendous relish; it's a brief moment that you won't easily forget. Joan Hackett, a fine actress who never quite achieved the level of popularity that she should have, makes a welcome appearance as their concerned neighbor. The picture also benefits considerably from the skillful direction of Curtis Harrington. Much of the story's action takes place within the confines of the Colleigh house, but Harrington utilizes the virtually single setting to excellent effect, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that smothers the audience with dread.
"Olive. I can't see. I can't see. I'm blind."
"How Awful About Allan" is a well-staged and perfectly paced modern-day gothic thriller. With a great cast--among which we see Anthony Perkins giving what might have been the best performance of his career--who were working with an intelligent and well-written script, and a director who knows how to deploy his entire arsenal of set design, cinematography, lighting, sound effects, and music to envoke a sense of mystery and dread.
Despite its humble (and sometimes obvious) television origins, this is a film worth seeking out by anyone who is a fan of gothic tales. ("How Awful About Allan" stands as one of the great achievements of the late Aaron Spelling.)
How Awful About Allan
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Julie Harris, and Joan Hackett
Director: Curtis Harrington