Husbands And Wives – Poltergeist III – tape 1775

After a brief snatch of The Onedin Line from UK Gold, the recording switches to Sky Movies, and Husbands and Wives, another Woody Allen film. Not one of his early, funny ones.

It’s basically a whiny story about rich New Yorkers who can’t keep relationships going. It’s got Judy Davis in it, which is a good thing, and Sidney Pollack too. But it’s rather humourless. Except when Allen is talking about the one great love of his life. “I’m ashamed to say this, but Harriet Harman remains the great love of my life.”

Naturally, Allen falls in love with a much younger woman, Juliette Lewis – a student of his, no less. He just can’t help himself.

Liam Neeson and Mia Farrow round out the cast, and the relationships bounce around as couples split, hook up with others, reconcile and generally act in annoying ways.

After this, something better? Hard to say. It’s Poltergeist III, another film series with diminishing returns.

Let’s grasp the positives, though. It stars Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen, two actors it’s always nice to see. They play Heather O’Rourke’s aunt and uncle, who live in a skyscraper in Chicago, and with whom young O’Rourke is staying for ill-defined reasons.

Clearly, Carol-Anne’s not finished with the hauntings of the previous two films – lucky for us other wise there’d be no movie. The film starts with her looking at an old window cleaner who suddenly looks like the scary preacher from the second film.

Spooky Window Cleaner

She also sees his face in the car window, and in a two-way mirror

Carol-Anne’s music teacher is exactly the kind of dreadful ‘trendy’ teacher who thinks you can make classical music more relatable by referring to Chopin as ‘Freddy Chopin’.

Her school seems to be a school for ‘special’ children, and there’s a psychologist who thinks that Carol-Anne’s experiences are all in her mind, and that everything that happened in the previous films are mass hysteria, possibly indiced by some kind of power Carol Anne has.

Luckily, an old friend senses her plight. It’s Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina, the psychic who helped the family in the first film.

Zelda Rubinstein

Skerritt is in charge of the skyscraper, so he’s busy with all the teething problems a big building has, like the temperature being far too cold, mirrors starting to crack all the way up the building, and spirits from a dark dimension inhabiting every refelctive surface.

Nancy Allen has an art show scheduled, so Skerrit and Allen are busy in the evening. Carol-Anne is being babysat by cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), but she’d rather go to her friend’s party elsewhere in the building. Carol-Anne tells her she should go, which is unfortunate because while she’s alone she’s menaced again by Kane, the preacher, and lots of flashing lights and dry ice. Plus an old version of herself in the mirror.

Old Carol Anne

This movie’s big thing is mirrors – there’s umpteen shots of corridors with people only in the mirrors, and clearly a lot of shots with doubled sets and stand-ins. I like this kind of traditional effect.

After she lets her friends into the hotel’s swimming pool – which you might think would lead to a big set-piece but doesn’t, she sees Carol Anne in the security monitor and goes to find her with her boyfriend, before they are all sucked into a puddle in the car park. No, it’s better than it sounds.

Sucking Puddle

The boyfriend returns when the swimming pool is suddenly frozen, and he’s thrown from the ice. But Donna and Carol-Anne are still there

Rubinstein turns up, spouts her usual stuff about poor lost souls, but then abruptly drops dead for no very good reason, but this leads to one of the film’s best moments, as her desiccated corpse suddenly erupts with hands, as Donna pulls herself out of it screaming.

Donna's Return

There’s a sequence in a frozen parking garage, with ice-encrusted cars roaring like lions, that’s all very impressively staged, but we don’t know what the stakes are. Since these scenes appear and disappear randomly, it’s unclear whether any of it is actually dangerous. This is a problem I have with a lot of ghost stories. The ghosts have so many tricks and effects that you don’t have any clear idea what could or should happen.

After the weakest possible ‘It’s all over thank goodness’ fake ending, Skerritt and Allen find it’s down to them to face Kane and his menacing dry ice.

It’s a pity the end result is so humdrum. I think the fault lies with the writing – all the characters have almost no life so it’s hard to care about them. Compare this with the original, which had tons of character. Individual scenes in this can be impressive – the scene where Skerritt and Allen are locked in a freezer, and it starts filling with water but from the side wall in a weird gravity switch is excellent – but without people you really want to root for it all feels a bit flat.

Rather shockingly, 12 year old Heather O’Rourke died soon after this film was made, of an undiagnosed heart defect. This follows the death of Julian Beck, the original Kane in the second film before the film opened, and the horribly tragic death of Dominique Dunne, who played Carol-Anne’s sister in the first film and was murdered by her boyfriend shortly after that film opened. If any film series can lay claim to a curse, it’s definitely this one.

After the film, recording continues with an ITN news summary, leading with the investigation as to how jailed serial killer Fred West was able to hang himself, and was not judged a suicide risk. This is followed by an episode of Police Story called The Hunters. The tape ends during this programme.

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5 comments

  1. So a house got sucked into another and a boy almost killed by his dental braces because of mass hysteria? What maroon. And what a dreary movie. (And iif you saw it not after Heather O’Rourke passed away like I did, depressing to watch.)

  2. Heather O’Rourke actually died while this was in production, hence the choppy feel to the story and those doubles (some more obvious than others). I think they did the best they could under those circumstances, but while it has some nice effects, it was hobbled by circumstances beyond their control.

    Directed by the same man who gave the world regular “Saturday late night horror film on BBC 1” cult classic Death Line, too.

    1. Death Line, the movie where a shambling monstrous figure murders people on the London Underground, while chanting (barely comprehensibly) ‘Mind The Gap’. Or was it ‘Mind The Doors’? It’s been a long time since I watched that one.

      1. It was “Mind the doors!” What a fantastically grotty film that is, and Donald Pleasence and Norman Rossington are terrific in it, easily as good as Cushing and Lee in Horror Express if you’re talking classic Brit horror double acts of the 1970s (OK, not a large category, but still).

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