Thursday, January 5, 2012

10. THE COUCH (1962)

Years before I first saw PSYCHO, I saw this follow-up psychological thriller from the pen of Robert Bloch (based on a story by Blake Edwards and the director, Owen Crump) on television and was quite taken with it. Now available as a Warner Archives title, THE COUCH still holds up tremendously well --  better than most of Bloch's subsequent screen work, frankly -- and I reckon a lion's share of the credit should go to the mystery man who directed it, who demonstrates a better grasp of the actual flavor of Bloch's writing than even Hitchcock. (Of course, in making PSYCHO, Hitchcock had been supremely unconcerned with being true to anyone's writing style.) Owen Crump, who was pushing 60 when he made this film, had spent his career writing (and sometimes directing) documentary shorts, including three titles for the BELL SCIENCE series featuring Dr. Frank Baxter. He had directed one other obscure film before this, THE RIVER CHANGES (1956), which starred no one notable, but he stepped into this assignment wholly qualified and ready to deliver. Though he lived another 36 years, Crump never directed another feature but I can't see a single detail in this assured piece of work that I would change. Bloch's intricate script doesn't drop a stitch. Grant Williams (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), Shirley Knight (PETULIA, THE OUTER LIMITS "The Man Who Was Never Born") and Onslow Stevens (HOUSE OF DRACULA) star, and there's also wonderful supporting roles for Anne Helm (at her slinkiest) and those denizens of Mayberry, Hal Smith and Hope Summers.

I can't write about the film in detail here, because I've promised a full review to SIGHT & SOUND for their next issue, but know this title comes highly recommended.

Viewed on Warner Archive DVD-R.

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