Our Mother's House (1967)


(director: Jack Clayton; screenwriters: Jeremy Brooks/Haya Harareet/from the novel Our Mother’s House by Julian Gloag; cinematographer: Larry Pizer; editor: Tom Priestley; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Charlie Hook), Margaret Brooks (Elsa), Pamela Franklin (Diana), Louis Sheldon Williams (Hubert), John Gugolka (Dunstan), Mark Lester (Jiminy), Sarah Nicholls (Gerty), Gustav Henry (Willy), Parnum Wallace (Louis), Yootha Joyce (Mrs. Quayle), Claire Davidson (Miss Bailey), Anthony Nicholls (Mr. Halbert), Annette Carell (Mother), Gerald Sim (Bank Clerk), Edina Ronay (Doreen), Diana Ashley (Girl Friend), Garfield Morgan (Mr. Moley), Faith Kent (Woman Client), John Arnatt (Man Client), Jack Silk (Motor Cyclist); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Clayton; MGM; 1967-UK)
“Clayton and Bogarde felt the end result was a failure, and I concur.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jack Clayton (“Room at the Top”/”The Great Gatsby”/”The Pumpkin Eater”) directs this eerie and suspenseful tale that’s based on a novel by Julian Gloag. It’s cowritten by Jeremy Brooks and Haya Harareet, who was Charlton Heston’s leading lady in Ben-Hur (59) and is the wife of Clayton. This is no kiddie-pic, though the kids are the stars.

The seven Hook children: the oldest is the 13-year-old Elsa (Margaret Brooks), the second oldest is Diana (Pamela Franklin), the oldest boy is Hubert (Louis Sheldon), Dunstan (John Gugolka), Jiminy (Mark Lester), Gerty (Sarah Nicholls) and Willy (Gustav Henry) are aghast to discover their sickly bedridden devoutly religious single-mom Violet, whose fundamental principles do not allow her to seek medical help, has died and decide to tell no one so they won’t be sent to an orphanage. The children bury mum in the garden of their large Victorian London home and in her honor hold spooky seances which they call Mothertime as they commune with their mother’s soul. The smart-aleck kiddies tell prying neighbors that the doctor has sent their mum to the seaside to convalesce. The kids keep house, attend school and forge mom’s name on her annuity checks to pay the bills, as they try to act normal as if things haven’t changed. But things get testy when their long-lost shifty opportunistic grifter Cockney dad, Charlie Hook (Dirk Bogarde), a seemingly lovable rogue, suddenly shows up just in time, as their suspicious school teacher, looking for a runaway boy, questions them in their house. But dad satisfies teach’s curiosity and she departs. The good-for-nothing moves in and begins to waste their savings on beer and women and finally, when he attempts to destroy their shrine, the kiddies unite against him in their anger. He fights back telling the kids their mum is a tart and the kiddies bastards, but he goes too far when caught red-handed trying to sell the house for his own profit. It then takes the form of a ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ film, as the kiddies, no angels, retaliate in unison and in their unswerving innocence the grubby Charlie proves to be no match for their angry response to his intrusion.

Clayton and Bogarde felt the end result was a failure, and I concur. Though the macabre material is intriguing, it never is convincing.