Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Dark Echo (1977) George Robotham

The lone directorial opus of long time stuntman and uncredited walk on player George Robotham, also his only foray into writing and production, Dark Echo is one of those films generally interesting less for what it does but how it does it. The plot is simple but alluring stuff, a picturesque lakeside town is menaced by a bedraggled ghoul, the rather awesomely named Captain Gohr (that's Captain Manfred Gohr!) who has returned after a hundred years to kill the descendants of those who blamed him for a tragic boat wreck. After several deaths, a suave psychic is brought in to investigate, and investigate he does. This is almost all that happens. Where much European horror of the time would have ladled on gore and nudity into a leery gaze at the fractured and secretive realm of small town living, perhaps taking pot shots at war, religion, capitalism or the nuclear family, this opts for an approach rather like that of a 50's monster film. Mature, imaginatively open people pursue a mysterious beast that is known to the audience from the outset, there's a progression of scares into a big shock that establishes the climax, young hedonists are around to drum up the teens who neck at the drive in crowd but ultimately prove their real worth. The monster signifies itself alone (there's a message about vanity but it's hardly sophisticated or insightful), the dangers are simple and direct, no status quo is overthrown. Even the aspects that do seem up to date (nudity from the aforementioned hedonistic youths, the stand out gore gag) don't stick out but appear simply as part of a refined template. It even stays true to the notable flaw of older films with an ending that is somewhat pat and predictable after what has come before, although the revelation of Gohr as a rather good menacingly decrepit and ghastly being impresses more than expected. 

The main difference is that the svelte, usually under 80 minute run times of older fare were no longer so popular, so Dark Echo gives us plenty of filler, what might have been passably exciting at 75 minutes is more of a charming amble at 91. There's a distinct travelogue vibe as our hero is first seen skiing, then is roused from his poolside relaxation, gets to hang out at a local bar where he teaches the keep how to mix a martini, sees local spots of interest and generally lightly takes in the colour without getting too stressed out about the mounting body count. Some may be put off by all this but it actually makes for a rather nice atmosphere, what with a castle, church and its yard with curious triangle headed graves, an ossuary and generally pleasing architecture and furnishings. Plus the cast is generally attractive and charismatic (especially Karin Dor) and there's a pretty spiffing elderly witch with a pet raven. It overall comes across as a curious, eager but inexperienced and stumbling thing, succeeding more often than not but less through skill than commitment. If this were gorier it could have been pretty great instead of an obscurity that only had like, three home video releases before resurfacing in the internet era, but it does alright for what it is. Not something to pursue unless you have to then, but for those who do it ain't too shabby. 

No comments:

Post a Comment