Month of Horror Prevues: TWISTED NERVE
“Ladies and gentlemen, because of the controversy already aroused, the producers of this film wish to re-emphasize what is already stated in the film, that there is no established scientific connection between Mongolism and psychotic or criminal behavior.”
Here’s a late 60’s gem that I first became aware of thanks to Quentin Tarantino who showed the film at one of his Austin Film Festivals years ago. The memorable main theme which is a deranged sounding whistling was composed by legendary Hitchcock protege Bernard Herrmann and would later show up in QT’s smash Grindhouse epic KILL BILL as a nice little homage. The quote above was added onto the beginning of the film due to its content which seemed to suggest that mongloidism may be related to psychopathic tendencies. This of course is not medically accurate so they placed the disclaimer right up front to show they were aware of this fact.
If you’ve seen this movie already you be might asking: is it really a “horror” film? Well I’d put it more in the psychological thriller category but we’re not going to get that picky for this October only prevue series. You may see some wacky thrillers of this kind thrown in here and there along with the straight up Horror titles.
Actress Hayley Mills who had starred in Disney movies like Polyanna and The Parent Trap in her younger years plays a college girl named Susan. One day she is approached by Georgie (Hwyel Bennett) a mentally retarded man-child that takes a fancy to her. What she doesn’t realize is that this poor sap isn’t what he appears to be. His real name is Martin and he isn’t “special”, in fact hes more of an obsessive psychopath. After getting kicked out of his own home by his vindictive parents, he decides to go all the way with his Georgie charade and weasel his way into Susan’s life by moving into her mother’s boarding home.
Twisted Nerve was directed by Roy Boulting (Hayley Mills’ husband from 1971-1977) and was yet another take on Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal proto slasher PSYCHO but with some of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom added into the mix. It’s a very slow burn and relies more on character interaction and suggestive moments rather than the typical ‘hack em up’ style horror gags. In fact there’s almost no blood shown in the film at all. I think that just makes it even more intelligent, captivating and suspenseful. You really want to see how Martin uses his Georgie persona and other diabolical methods to get closer to Susan who has no idea what he really is. The great whistling theme, which comes from Martin himself as he walks along, is another nice touch as it just adds to the creepiness of the situation.
This movie isn’t on Region 1 Blu Ray yet (I had to specially order a DVD-R a few years ago) but it’s one I’d love to see get the full hi-def restoration treatment from a label like Shout Factory or Grindhouse Releasing!