It’s no secret that my goal in life is to watch every movie Roddy McDowall ever made. But did you also know that my other goal in life is to watch every giant killer statue movie ever made? Well, it is. And I made this life-altering decision about two minutes after I watched the 1966 Brit flick It! – which not only stars Roddy McDowall but also features a giant killer statue. Talk about everything clicking into place!
You want to see the Rodster overacting like he’s never overacted before? Watch It! You want to see giant killer statues punching holes in London landmarks? Again, watch It! In fact, we could all save a lot of time if you just switched off your computer right now and went and watched It! – but I understand you come here for in-depth critical analysis and film theory, so let’s plough on.
Roddy plays Arthur Pimm, a curator’s assistant who lives at home with his elderly mother. And, when I say “elderly,” I mean old... Cobwebby old. Yes, Mrs Pimm is actually a rotting corpse sitting in a rocking chair in her son’s bedroom. (I know... where have I seen this idea before, right? It’s on the tip of my tongue...) Anyway, Pimm talks to her, dresses her, and carries her around the house, but mostly she just sits there rocking quietly in her chair. Quite how she manages to rock is never actually explained. She is, after all, dead. But rock she does, and very spooky it is too, thankyouverymuch.
One evening sometime in Scene 2, Pimm is called out to the museum’s storage warehouse, the scene of a devastating fire that’s destroyed almost everything the museum owns. Oh, except for a large, scowling stone figure, which may – or may not – be a giant killer statue. I’m giving nothing away. Pimm gives it the benefit of the doubt but, when his boss gets an unseen whack to the back of the head whilst standing near the statue, things aren’t really going in its favour. Particularly when the curator dies as a result.
Was it the statue that delivered the fatal blow? All we know is that, where once its arms were in an extended position, one of them now seems to be pointing downward, and Roddy does to great lengths to illustrate this using an umbrella and a range of puzzled facial expressions. I tell you: you don’t know what acting is until you’ve seen someone using a brolly to mime the motions of a giant killer statue.
Let’s cut to the chase, anyway, because It! doesn’t keep you guessing for long. It’s a Frankenstein story at heart and the statue is actually a golem, which is to say it’s an ancient, folkloric monster of unlimited strength, compelled to do the bidding of its master. In the right hands, it could be the most lethal WMD the world has ever seen. In Mr Pimm’s hands, it helps steal a few bracelets and smack anyone round the head who stands between him and the job of head curator.
Around about this point, I’d love to provide you with a screen grab of the golem but, since I watched It! on TV, I can’t do my usual high-tech wizardry – and there don’t even seem to be any good pictures online, either. But I will say it’s quite an effective-looking monster and I’m sure would’ve caused me a nightmare or two when I was younger. Oh, hang on, here’s a likeness from an old print ad... Prepare to shudder!
Golems aside, I had to marvel at Pimm’s other secret weapon: his marvellous filing cabinet. Whenever he needs anything (or, alternatively, needs to hide anything) it’s straight into the top drawer and the problem’s solved. It’s so good, in fact, and so devastatingly handy, I actually began to wonder if that filing cabinet was really the “It!” of the title. Again, a screen grab would be wonderful here, but you’ll just have to make do with this randomly-sourced image... Prepare to marvel!
Sheesh! Look at that thing go! Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film for you but I can’t not mention that the last twenty minutes of It! are so insane, they make the build-up look like a serious documentary about dangerous stonemasonry. There’s motorbike stunts, old ladies being torched, and the dropping of a nuclear bomb somewhere in the Home Counties. Those sweet, sweet 1960s!
Wheel out your Wondrous Filing Cabinet of Wonder and file under “It!’s awesome!”