Sunday, June 26, 2011

#324. The Changeling (1980)


Directed By: Peter Medak

Starring: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas




Tag line: "..an experience beyond total fear"

Trivia:  The movie is based on events which supposedly took place at a house in Denver, Colorado, in the 1960s






There are certain characteristics all haunted house movies share, regardless of when or where they were made: strange noises, self-propelled doors, central mysteries the main character must piece together, etc., etc. What separates the classics (The Haunting) from the ridiculous (The House Where Evil Dwells) is the “extra something” they bring to the table, an intangible element that makes them unique, and while I wouldn't quite call 1980's The Changeling a "classic", it has a lot more going for it than the routine monotony. 

Following the tragic death of his wife (Jean Marsh) and daughter (Michelle Martin), classical pianist John Russell (George C. Scott) relocates from New York to Seattle, where he's accepted a teaching job with a local University. Once there, he settles into an old house secured for him by the local Historical Society. But this house has a history of its own, one John is made all too aware of when the spirit of a young boy (Voldi Way) attempts to contact him. With the help of a medium (Helen Burns) and a volunteer from the Historical Society named Claire (Trish Van Devere), John learns the young boy's name was Joseph, and he was killed in the attic by his father nearly 70 years ago. Having experienced loss himself, John wants to help Joesph rest in peace, even if it means taking on Joe Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas), a powerful politician and the key element in a chilling mystery. 

As I stated above, all good haunted house films offer their viewers something beyond the normal parlor tricks, and in the case of The Changeling, that “something” is George C. Scott.  As played by Scott, John Russell is a strong man, one who remains calm and collected even when dealing with the supernatural. Shortly after moving into the house, Russell hears noises coming from the upstairs, and decides to investigate. Making his way to the bathroom, he finds the water's been left on, and is slowly filling the bathtub. He leans over and shuts it off, but when he looks into the tub, John sees the apparition of a small boy, completely submerged in the water, staring up at him. Startled and confused, he backs away from the tub, yet his eyes remain affixed to the boy. He doesn't run, or scream in terror, because that's not how this character would react. Within John Russell lies the pain of a man who's lost so much, and the strength of one who has no intention of running any longer. 

Of course, there's more to The Changeling than this; along with a creepy scene involving a bouncing ball, the movie also has one of the most fascinating séances I've ever seen committed to film. Moments like these, combined with Scott's steadfast performance, elevate The Changeling high above the standard fare.









11 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey dr. i am listening to your partner billchete right now on the radio!! its a rad horror show with people calling in!! why did mr billchete not announce this??

very anxious in two days to here the new pod!! has it been recorded yet??

thx
dr. wrigsley

Anonymous said...

A message to I presume is Doctor Shock from the podcast. I see no reference on the blog except in comments. I am taking it upon myself to assume this Dave character is the horror critic, I hope.

I have heard all over the internet how good this movie was and now that you have seen it and reviewed it and liked it I will definitely dole out the dough.

Horror fan maximus

Dave Becker said...

@dr. wrigsley: Thanks for stopping by!

Glad you're listening to Billchete's radio show! I only wish I could hear it (from what I understand, there's no internet simulcast). I know he wanted to discuss it on the podcast, but I believe he had some agreement with the station not to do so until it launched. It's an awesome opportunity for him, and I'm sure he'll make the best of it.

As for the podcast, it has been recorded, and will be posting in 2 days time! I think fans of Planet Macabre will definitely be excited...this new show is going to be something special.

Thanks for the update, and keep listening to Billchete on the radio!

Dave Becker said...

@maximus: Yes, you've found me!

When the blog first launched, I had no idea I was going to be a regular co-host of a podcast, which is why I don't have any mention of my Dr. Shock moniker. However, I really should put something out there now (at the very least, in the "about me" section). I could lie, and tell you I haven't done so because I have so little time, but the fact of the matter is it keeps slipping my mind! No excuses...it needs to be out there, and I thank you for once again reminding me to do so. Before the launch of Horror Jungle, I'll be sure to have something posted...somewhere!

As for THE CHANGELING, it has all the usual elements found in the standard haunted house tale, and more besides (along with George C. Scott, who I praise above, there's a truly fascinating central mystery to it all, one that keeps your attention in between the chilling moments).

As for Scott, some have stated that they think his performance is too laid back, as if he's not really trying. I couldn't disagree more. Yes, it's true he doesn't pull at his hair or scream in terror at the sight of a ghost, but his character would never do that anyway. If anything, having lost his family in such a sudden and tragic way, I took it that he was a man who NEEDED to believe in the afterlife, and even though it terrifies him, he finds some comfort in it as well.

Anyway, thanks for lighting the proverbial fire under me, and for stopping by the blog. I certainly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

This movie is something that appeals to me and I will search it out next time I am at the store. Great review DrShock.

Chaz
Orlando, FL
Home of Walt Disney World

Anonymous said...

Im ready and geared upp for the new cast what a wonderful move ditching that sad sack of a man gregimortis. I had been writing in for months wondering how that blatint suckup got a job on pm [prudo]

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for the comments!

@Chaz: I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with THE CHANGELING; it's a very engaging film. Glad you liked the review, and I thank you for saying so.

@prudo: Only a couple days away from the launch of Horror Jungle! We recoded the show several nights ago, and I think you'll be pleased with the fine mix of hosts assembled for the show. Thanks for stopping by, and for hanging in there with us during the recent turmoil.

Anonymous said...

How Do Doctor this is Amerilda from Gatorland, outside of Jacksonville, wanted to comment, and say that I adore you and BillChete, the dvd picks, are always, something I haven't heard of, and that is saying much, since I own close to 500 hundred, horror dvds. For the debut of HJ, I betya you two, come up with something great, thats all for now, I will be listening!

Dave Becker said...

Amerilda: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the kind words.

I'm pleased you enjoy the DVD picks, and I hope I can continue to live up to your expectations on Horror Jungle.

And I'll be sure to pass your comments on to Billchete as well. Thanks for listening, and have a good one!

Anonymous said...

Less then a day left yes!!!!

Doc i just put my vote in for Nosforatu and only 1%.

I would love to hear a show like the bonus on that.

We have to git all the classic hounds to vote.

Bob

Dave Becker said...

Bob: Thanks for stopping by.

Yeah, it looks like you and I may be the only 2 votes NOSFERATU has gotten so far! You're right...we gotta beef that number up a bit! I'll be sure to plug it a little on the next episode.

Less than a day! Like you, I can't wait!

Thanks for the comment, and for listening.