How Awful About Allan (Curtis Harrington, 1970, USA)

Noteworthy for being part of Anthony Perkins' return to US screens (albeit this time on the small screen), How Awful About Allan finds the actor embodying his Norman Bates persona once again. This time Perkins is playing Allan, an unsettled young man who caused a house fire that killed his famous professor's father and disfigured his sister Katherine (Julie Harris). Allan becomes partially blind from this and, following a stay at a mental hospital, returns to the care of Julie. Allan soon becomes suspicious that the new boarder in the house, Harold Dennis, is, in reality, his sister's old boyfriend Eric who has decided to haunt him with voices to drive him crazy. As it turns out, Allan is onto something.

How Awful About Allan is directed by Curtis Harrington, known for several cult films but most famously for the Dennis Hopper-starring Night Tide (1961), an independent poetic horror-fantasy from the early 1960s that is often grouped into the same category of American arthouse cinema as Carnival of Souls. The film was produced by powerhouse producer Aaron Spelling as a movie of the week for ABC. Star Anthony Perkins had been mostly working in Europe following his overnight sensation performance as Norman Bates in Psycho, returning to America only for 1968's cult classic Pretty Poison.


How Awful About Allan has some interesting ideas despite being limited by the TV format. Harrington brings a camp sensibility to the proceedings which places the film in Baby Jane territory. Ultimately the film fails to ratchet up the tension to a degree necessary to sustain interest, but the film is worth seeking out for Perkins fans who are looking to see the actor reenact the glory of his Psycho role (which he would later go on do in the film's several sequels throughout the 1980s).



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