We'll be looking at some older films here because Pamela hasn't made one since 1976 when Jodhi May was just one year old. Her last recorded acting work on wikipedia was a theatre appearance in 1983 and it's difficult to think of anyone else from the entertainment world who's stayed out of the spotlight for so long ( though she did do some audio commentary for the DVD release of "The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie") .
Pamela was born in Japan in 1950 and lived all over the place in her early years. She went to ballet school at 8 and made her film debut in 1961. She got married to fellow actor Harvey Jason ( who is still working ) in 1971 and they are still together with two children.
1. The Innocents ( 1961)
Pamela's first film was this commercially unsuccessful but highly-rated ( by Scorcese for one ) British chiller based on the Henry James ghost story The Turning Of The Screw.
The ten-year old Pamela plays Flora, one of two young wards living on the country estate of a selfish uninterested uncle ( Michael Redgrave ) who unloads all responsibility for them onto his servants. At the start of the film he appoints an inexperienced new governess Miss Givens ( Deborah Kerr ) following the death of her predecessor. Flora and her brother Miles ( Martin Stephens ) disturb her with their odd, furtive behaviour and she soon comes to believe that supernatural forces are at work.
It's a very good-looking film, deliberately made in black and white for heightened atmosphere and to differentiate it from Hammer's recent output. Freddie Francis's cinematography deploys deep focus as a narrative aid particularly when the malevolent ghosts appear to Miss Givens. Fifty years on it's not particularly scary and at times seems a bit stagey particularly in the frequent scenes where she discloses her apprehensions to the housekeeper ( Megs Jenkins ) . However the intimate scenes with Stephens are still quite startling despite their Freudian undertones being rather more obvious now than when it was made and the bleak ending is preceded by a jaw-dropping act of animal cruelty.
There are no weak links in the cast with Kerr excellent as the excitable young governess keeping a lid on an obvious sexuality for the sake of the children. Peter Wyngarde doesn't have to work very hard for second billing as the evil spectre Quint and Jenkins and Redgrave give good support.
Pamela is assured and natural ( director Jack Clayton didn't disclose the full script to the children to help achieve this ) as Flora although her voice is so high-pitched when animated that it's hard to catch all her dialogue. Hers is also the lessser role of the two so she's overshadowed by the slightly older Stephens who abandoned acting ( for architecture ) even earlier, a great loss on this showing.
Such a debut had mixed blessings for Pamela. It got her film career off to a great start but perhaps also helped tie her down to the horror genre from which she never quite escaped.
2. The Lion (1962)
Pamela's second film the following year saw her colour debut and how with this sumptuously -filmed African adventure.
Despite first appearances this is not really a family film but an adult-themed adventure-cum-romance. Robert Hayward ( William Holden ) an American lawyer comes to Kenya on a summons from his ex-wife Christine ( Capucine ) . She is concerned about the increasingly feral tendencies of their daughter Tina ( Pamela ) who spends most of her time with a tame lion ( Samba ) on the game reserve of mum's new lover Bullitt ( Trevor Howard ).
Despite the big name cast this film has fallen into obscurity perhaps eclipsed by the success of Born Free ( where the lion has much more screen time ) a few years later and avoided for the very un-pc suggestion later in the film that Tina is being corrupted by exposure to the natives. The scenery and animal photography is first rate and while the back projection work is very obvious in some scenes ; in others the close-up work with the lion is still impressive. Although Samba's own screen time is restricted there are perhaps too many other animal encounters at the expense of character development ; the relationship between Hayward and Tina is very thinly drawn and the Africans are cardboard stereotypes.
On the plus side, Holden and Howard, neither of them particularly sympathetic actors, are both excellent as the two alpha males butting heads. Only Capucine lets the side down, the French model looking implausible in the setting and permanently stuck in first gear as an actress.
Pamela, looking extremely boyish with a short haircut ( which has fooled one dim youtube commenter ) is superb both in her performance and bravery. There's no double mentioned in the credits and we're way before the CGI era here so we must assume she really did get that close to a full grown lion. She's cute where necessary but also convincing at conveying the darker side of Tina's unusual adolescence - the scene where she seems to threaten to set the lion on Holden is quite unnerving.
On balance it's not a bad film but not quite a lost classic.
3. The Third Secret (1964)
It's often hard to discern why certain films fall into obscurity. Pamela's third , a psychological whodunnit, has a lot going for it - an interesting premise, a name director ( Charles Crichton ) and a strong cast - but is pretty much forgotten nonetheless.
The film opens with a dying psychiatrist Dr Whitset ( Peter Copley ) being discovered by his housekeeper and croaking a few, necessarily enigmatic, words before expiring. His young daughter Katherine ( Pamela ) visits one of his former patients, TV face Adam Stedman ( Stephen Boyd ) insisting that her father was murdered by one of his patients and that Stedman should investigate them. The patients in question are an unhappy art dealer ( Richard Attenborough ), a lonely spinster ( Diane Cilento ) and a prominent judge ( Jack Hawkins ). Stedman's investigation entails confronting his own demons as well as potential murderers.
Despite being in black and white and deep focus this film has a modern feel. Stedman the jaundiced political commentator seems like a contemporary creation and the undertones of forbidden attraction between he and Katherine don't actually need her suspicious uncle to illuminate them.
I shouldn't over-praise the film. The elliptical exchanges between Katherine and Stedman are a bit over-cooked and the fate of Cilento's character is a pretty implausible plot device. The big revelation at the end is well-telegraphed although might have been more surprising at the time the film was made when this sort of psychological drama was less common.
Nor does the film benefit from the performance of the leading man. Boyd was a noted scenery-chewer and there's plenty of evidence of that here and when he's calm he's a bit creepy rather than sympathetic. His indeterminate accent is also distracting . On the other hand the three "suspects" all play their scenes well and there's some quality support in the minor roles with Nigel Davenport as a cynical TV producer and Judi Dench as Attenborough's assistant.
This is the best of Pamela's child roles allowing her to display a very impressive range for a 13 year old. Her final scene is quite moving despite what we've come to know of her character.
N.B. Catholics please note that the title of the film has nothing to do with the notorious Third Secret of Fatima
4. A Tiger Walks (1964)
Pamela's second encounter with a big cat in as many years came in this long-forgotten Disney family adventure. She plays Julie , the daughter of a county sheriff Williams ( Brian Keith ) who has to deal with a major incident when a circus wagon blows a tyre while passing through his small town, Scotia. A tiger being tormented by its drunken keeper ( Theodore Marcuse) breaks out, kills him ( offscreen ) and escapes into the countryside. Williams's attempts to control the situation are hampered by Julie's sympathy with the tiger and her success in raising a campaign to prevent it being killed.
Pamela's presence apart, and it's another assured performance from her, there's little to recommend this to a modern audience. Today's Playstation kids would turn off in droves if confronted by a film so talky and lacking in action. For large parts of the film the tiger is nowhere to be seen. And for adults it's simply dreary with its contrived plot and cliched observations about the media and politics. It's also difficult to watch because a lot of the "action" takes place in a dense fog ( which seems like a device to pad a thin story out to movie length ).
Keith does his best John Wayne impersonation as the sheriff and Psycho's Vera Miles as his wife and Edward Andrews as the opportunistic Governor are good in support. The only other thing worth noting is that it was the last film of the Indian actor Sabu ( not particularly good here as a circus hand ) before his untimely death.
5. Flipper's New Adventure ( 1964)
This was the last of Pamela's family movies as a child and without looking too hard you can see her maturing.
This was a quick sequel to the original Flipper the year before and is actually the better film. Luke Halpin returned in the main ( human ) role of Sandy Ricks and Joe Higgins as his neighbour-turned-guardian but otherwise it was a completely different cast. Brian Kelly replaced Chuck Connors as Sandy's dad Porter despite being a decade younger and looking nothing like him. Porter has a much smaller role in this film so perhaps Connors turned it down.
An unspecified time has passed since the events of the first film. Sandy's mum has died and his father is away re-training as a park ranger so Sandy is looked after by a neighbour. Flipper, the dolphin he saved, is still hanging around but news arrives that the area is to be redeveloped; Sandy has to re-locate and Porter has arranged for Flipper to move to Miami Seaquarium ( plugged throughout the movie ) . Sandy decides to sail away with Flipper in tow and survive on a desert island. There he is joined by a stranded mother ( Helen Cherry) and her two daughters Gwen ( Francesca Annis ) and Penny ( Pamela ) who have been evicted from their yacht by a trio of ex-convicts.
As a children's adventure film this holds up surprisingly well for its age. It's well-paced, not too mawkish, occasionally exciting and unlike in the first film the adults aren't allowed to get in the way too much. The plot gets progressively more ludicrous , the pirates convey as much menace as Captain Pugwash and the survival techniques on show are pretty laughable but no pre-teen would object to any of that.
Halpin makes a great Boy's Own hero with an energetic performance in a role that has him in the water half the time. Pamela sparks off him well as a spunky tomboy and at one point we seem to heading into Blue Lagoon territory ( Halpin was three years older ) but not quite. The 19-year old Annis looks fantastic but has a thankless role - what yachting teenager would think a dolphin was a sea monster ? Cherry is dreadful as the mother; you can hardly believe she had a 50 year career as an actress on this showing. Of course they all have to bow the knee to the real star of the film, Mitzie as Flipper and whoever trained him/her to do the impressive stunts
Halpin and Kelly went on to a three year stint in a TV series spun off the films and the former appeared in the 1996 remake with Elijah Wood in his old role. Pamela now left animals behind until her last film.
6. The Nanny (1965)
The 14-year old Pamela returned to what you could loosely describe as "horror" in this little melodrama from Hammer. By this time Hammer had acquired enough clout to bring over Hollywood icon Bette Davis to play the titular character and thus is better remembered than many other films of this ilk.
The plot concerns a little boy Joey ( William Dix ) returning home from a spell in a special boarding school after the death of his little sister. The household comprises his distracted diplomat father Bill ( James Villiers ) , fragile mother Virginia ( Wendy Craig ) and the childrens' nanny ( Davis ) who previously nurtured Virginia and her sister Pen ( Jill Bennett ). Joey thinks that Nanny is out to kill him but of course no one believes him.
It's still an entertaining piece of hokum with one or two scary moments but I don't think it would give anyone sleepless nights now. The plot is rather contrived with a lot hinging on Pen's heart condition and a classic example of the Talking Killer Fallacy. It also veers in some odd directions with Pamela's character clearly intended to introduce some essence of Swinging London and a bit of kitchen sink drama is awkwardly crowbarred in as the film approaches the climax. It's also a bit slow in making Joey's character sympathetic; for the first half hour you could cheerfully despatch him yourself.
The black and white photography is a plus making the 57-year old Davis look all the more scary with heavy emphasis on those famous eyes and her acting is still first rate. Craig ( looking very nice indeed ) and Bennett are well cast as sisters , Dix ( who never went on to much afterwards ) gives a good naturalistic performance and Angharad Aubrey ( in her one and only film ) is heartbreakingly sweet as the doomed sister.
Pamela's character is another curiosity of the plot. As the precocious teenager next door she becomes Joey's confidante, the one person ready to believe him but two thirds of the way in that role is suddenly usurped by Bennett and Pamela immediately disappears from the story. Nevertheless she makes the most of her opportunities.
7. Our Mother's House ( 1967)
This absorbing but strangely forgotten family melodrama ( with some plot similarities to The Third Secret ) is where Pamela really started to grow up.
She plays one of seven children left bereft by the expiration of their invalid mother , ( Annette Carrell who doesn't get to utter a line ) probably through delayed exhaustion given how close in age six of the kids are. Led by eldest daughter Elsa ( Margaret Brookes ) they decide to fend for themselves in the house and bury Mom in the garden. They are getting by fine on a mixture of hysteria and ingenuity until the eldest boy Hugh ( Louis Sheldon Williams ) decides to defy Elsa and inform absent father Charlie ( Dirk Bogarde ) of their situation. Most of the children are happy to accept Cockney rogue Charlie but Elsa's reservations prove to be well-founded.
This is a rather good film which never quite goes the way you expect with some deliberate red herrings dropped in here and there. Despite the ages of the cast it's definitely not one for the kids - the queasy scene where the adorable youngest child Willy ( Gustav Henry ) starts leafing through one of Charlie's Playboy magazines is enough to settle that point. The plot does strain credibility a bit but never so much that you start to laugh at it. Instead it's quite moving at times especially the final scene which manages to be both infuriatingly inconclusive and incredibly poignant at the same time. The atmospheric score and the excellent cinematography making full use of all the house's dark corners help too.
Much of the credit is also due to the cast. Bogarde is excellent as the shifty, exploitative villain of the piece and Yootha Joyce is also very good as the former housekeeper who begins to exploit him - did she ever play a sympathetic part I wonder ? Both deserve credit for agreeing to take on the risk of being upstaged by the young ensemble. The other adult parts are very minor including a relatively hirsute Garfield "Haskins" Morgan as an estate agent.
Besides Pamela the familiar faces amongst the kids include Mark Lester , who went on to the title role in Oliver but not adult stardom, as the sweetly naive Jiminee with a convenient talent for forgery ( the film's weakest point ). There's also a nine-year- old Phoebe ( then known as Sarah ) Nicholls ( Brideshead Revisited's Cordelia ) who's awesome as the put-upon youngest sister.
This is one of Pamela's best performances. She's playing a character below her real age ( and she looks older than Brooks ) stuffed full of pubescent hormones and conflicting impulses and likely to erupt at any moment. Hers is by far the most demanding of the children's roles and she rises to the challenge.
8. The Night Of The Following Day ( 1968 )
Pamela had now turned 18 and as with Jenny Agutter her clothes started falling off regularly as they briefly do here.
The carrot for Pamela in this one was the chance to work alongside Marlon Brando. She plays the un-named daughter of a wealthy man, Dupont ,who is kidnapped by a criminal gang in France and held for ransom in a holiday cottage. The gang consist of muscleman Bud ( Marlon Brando), his ageing friend Wally ( Jess Hahn ) desperate for a last big payoff, his junkie girlfriend Vi ( Rita Moreno) and outside help Leer ( Richard Boone) who inevitably turns out to be a loose cannon. Things start going wrong from the start when Vi attracts the attention of a local policeman (Gerard Buhr) and Leer reveals an unprofessional interest in the hostage.
This isn't one of Brando's more celebrated films and you can see why. With little back story to the characters it's hard to care what happens to them and despite the French setting much of the film resembles an average episode of The Sweeney with Regan et al's scenes removed. It's not bad just rather dull. The climax is reasonably exciting ( and may have influenced Get Carter ) and provides a brief look at Pamela's teenaged nipples but you still feel undernourished by the end of it. The ambiguous final scene seems more of a ploy to appease the censor than an artistic decision.
The performances are competent rather than inspired. Brando made this film out of contractual obligation and though he's still in good shape physically at this point, his performance seems a bit desultory. Certainly it's as hard to believe in his and Vi's relationship as it is to accept that a professional gang would employ such a flaky person as Vi in the first place.
Pamela does alright but after the first half hour she's hardly in it and when she is has little dialogue so it's hard to believe she looks back on it as a career highlight.
9. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Pamela's best role came in this, one of the seminal films of the sixties still fondly remembered for delivering an Oscar to its star Maggie Smith as the titular schoolteacher. Pamela plays her loyal pupil and is absolutely pivotal to the plot so I must watch for spoilers.
It's based on a novel by Muriel Spark and for years I had the wrong impression of it. I caught a snatch of the 1970s ITV adaptation starring the repellent Geraldine McEwan which my mother and sister watched religiously. I immediately dismissed it as typical Sunday evening fare, a twee rites of passage story for girls on a par with Anne of Green Gables. ITV must have bowdlerised it considerably because you could hardly get a much darker storyline. Far from being the beneficient mentor she imagines herself to be, Jean Brodie is an evil , manipulative woman inculcating her charges with fascist values and willing to sacrifice their reputations and even their lives to feed her self-delusion. She knows her way around the governance structure to thwart her suspicious headmistress ( Celia Johnson ) and strings along two lovers among the male staff, the wealthy but unworldly Mr Lowther ( Gordon Jackson ) and the randy art teacher Mr Lloyd ( Robert Stephens ) who is obsessed with her.
Although there's an obvious late 60s look to the film it hasn't dated at all. Independent education, political indoctrination and sexual exploitation remain hot topics and the film both enthrals and appals. Occasionally it veers towards melodrama - the subplot about the class mouse ( Jane Carr ) going off to fight in the Spanish Civil War is a bit of a stretch - but that's a minor quibble.
Smith's Oscar was well-deserved for an utterly captivating performance that captures both Brodie's appalling narcissism and her pathetic vulnerability when things start to go awry. The rest of the cast play their part too. Johnson helps make her confrontations with Smith electrifying , Jackson is excellent as the dull and decent Lowther and the girls are all convincing. Only Stephens ( Smith's husband at the time ) seems a bit over-wrought at times .
Pamela is superb as the initially prim prefect Sandie who eventually gets fed up of being taken for granted. She attracted some controversy for her nude scene ( though she was 18 and her snatch is hidden ) and the schoolgirl sex storyline it heralds but took it in her stride. The film ends with a scene of her striding out into the new decade which was to bring her mixed blessings.
And what of Jean ? The film leaves her fate uncertain but some would say she re-surfaced ten years later, again played by someone called Maggie and even more appalling. But Pamela had left us by then.
10. Sinful Davey ( 1969 )
Pamela got the lead female role in this historical romp. It was directed by John Huston but isn't regarded as one of his better films and it took me quite a while to find it.
The film was loosely based on The Life of David Haggart , the hastily-written memoir of an early nineteenth century Scottish criminal shortly before he was hanged for murder amongst other crimes. James Webb's adaptation softens the story considerably ; Davey doesn't kill anyone and gets a happy ending and the emphasis is on comedy rather than crime with Davey usually ending up empty-handed. It was actually filmed in Ireland. Ronald Fraser as Davey's henchman McNab is the only genuine Scot in the leading cast . The others have to do Scottish accents as best they can ; Robert Morley as the Duke of Argyll doesn't make the attempt at all.
Sinful Davey is a good-looking film which makes full use of the splendid Irish scenery and everyone seems to have had a good time making it but it doesn't quite work. The late John Hurt had many great qualities but charm wasn't among them and he's seriously miscast here. You wouldn't feel the slightest regret if his execution went ahead as planned.The comic episodes are fairly witless and never more than mildly amusing.
Pamela plays Annie , Davey's childhood friend ( although Hurt was a decade older ) and an innocent who follows him around trying to save his soul. Pamela plays her with great charm and a competent accent ( though of course she'd had some practice in her previous film ) but can't really make their relationship convincing.
11. And Soon The Darkness (1970)
Pamela had the starring role in this influential British chiller which I first saw some time in the 80s. I found it an annoying film with too much to-ing and fro-ing along one small stretch of French road although I admit my view may have been influenced by the film's failure to deliver the "kit off" action it seemed to promise. So I was looking forward to giving it another chance.
Jane ( Pamela ) and Kathy ( Michelle Dotrice ) are British nurses on a cycling holiday in rural France but they are not well-matched. Jane is energetic and wants to see all the sights while Kathy wants to do more sunbathing and chatting up the local lads such as the moody French bloke ( Sandor Eles ) with shades and moped who seems to be following them. The girls stop at a wooded spot by the road but after an argument Jane rides off alone. She stops at a rundown cafe to wait for her friend but she fails to show up.
The screenplay was written by telly greats Brian Clemens ( The Avengers and much else ) and Terry Nation ( Dr Who ) and the film directed by Robert Fuest , best known for The Abominable Dr Phibes. And on second viewing it's pretty good. Despite its obviously modest budget it looks good. You can't really go wrong with two attractive girls in tight blouses and hotpants but the big sky scenery is well -captured and a big part of the film. The title is somewhat ironic since nearly all the action takes place in the brightest possible conditions, a pertinent reminder that broad daylight may not be enough protection when you're in a strange environment and can't easily communicate.
It's not really a horror film with its low body count and lack of gore and I still think there's a bit too much meandering along the road and people peeping through branches but it does retain the suspense to an exciting climax. The script is occasionally clunky. I love Clare Kelly's line "You must be surprised to find an old British buzzard like me here" when it's pretty obvious that Jane needs an English-speaking character to explain the area's sinister secret to her.
Although not a great commercial success it has been influential ; you can draw a straight line from here to Wolf Creek, Spoorloos and Hostel and there was an American re-make ( which I haven't seen yet ) in 2010.
The performances are generally sound. For anyone who remembers the 70s there is of course a major problem with Dotrice i.e. dissociating her, particularly the voice , from the loyal but permanently exasperated wife of social leper Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. She's worked pretty steadily since but this film is the only other thing I can recollect and shows she had more talent than is likely to be remembered. Eles is alright but John Nettleton as the policeman makes an attempt at a French accent which could well have been the inspiration for Crabtree in Allo Allo.
As for Pamela she's terrific. She's never looked better particularly in the scenes where she has a tan ( which should be all of them but isn't ) and her acting is first rate too.
12. Necromancy aka The Witching (1972)
This is the first ( and slightly the better ) of two terrible films Pamela made with director Robert Gordon and is most significant for the fact that she met her husband-to-be Harvey Jason on-set. That's him in the still above. Incidentally a number of the young witches in the film were actually bridesmaids at their wedding.
Pamela plays Lori a young woman who has miscarried and who is moving with her husband Frank ( Michael Ontkean ) to the small town of Lilith where he has received a surprise lucrative job offer. Even on the journey she has disturbng visions and flashbacks and after meeting her husband's employer Cato ( Orson Welles ) she realises that she has been lured there for occult purposes.
The film is nothing more than a cheap , shoddy attempt to ride on the back of recent horror successes such as The Devil Rides Out, Rosemary's Baby and The Wicker Man. Compared to any of them it curls up and dies. There's no suspense - you know exactly what's afoot from the first scene, no humour and no intelligence in the script , just a regular resort to nudity ( including Pamela but mercifully not Welles ) to keep you awake. There's a badly-staged car accident with lighting continuity errors and an over intrusive soundtrack ( which sounds very eighties - this film has been re-edited a number of times ) which regularly obscures the dialogue ( not necessarily a bad thing ).
Pamela is the only actor to emerge with any credit, giving a committed performance despite some terrible lines and an inexplicable volte-face by her character at the film's climax. She also looks fantastic whether naked or otherwise.
Welles is just unspeakable. He barely moves, filling the screen with his black-clad blubber and grunting his lines out like a surly ticket collector; it's down there with Brando in Superman as one of the laziest film performances of the decade. Ontkean is bland as the husband and the townsfolk are all pretty wooden including Jason who plays the doctor - on this showing it should have been him who retired from acting.
13. Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973)
14. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Pamela's last two films saw her return to the horror genre.
Here she plays Florence Tanner a young medium recruited by an obsessed millionaire Dr Deutsch ( Roland Culver ) as part of a team to investigate the phenomenon of haunting at a mansion previously home to a notorious bluebeard, Belasco. The other members are Barrett ( Clive Revill) , a sceptical physicist and Fischer ( Roddy McDowall ), also a medium and the survivor from a previous attempt to unlock the house's secrets 20 years earlier. Also along for the ride is Barrett's wife Ann ( Gayle Hunnicutt ) .
This British film is decent rather than essential. It relies on set piece shocks ( some of which have been cut on the DVD; one character's death scene has been rendered nonsensical ) rather than a convincing narrative and the script seems under-cooked. Fischer's motivations for example remain opaque for the duration of the film and the distinction between him as a physical medium and Florence a mental medium is mentioned but goes unexplained. Also unexplained is Fischer's seeming insomnia as he responds quickly and fully clothed to the other characters' night time ordeals. It's also puzzling why there are regular captions giving the date and time ; Deutsch has given the team a week but otherwise they are unnecessary for any understanding of the action and one appears mid-scene as if the film editor missed their cue. And the ending is a serious let-down.
The big plus , bias notwithstanding, is Pamela's performance as the compassionate , highly strung and vulnerable medium who is also on occasion, possessed. She is top billed and deservedly so. She also takes quite a physical battering, knocked out ,scratched, roughly screwed and thrown around before her final scene. She gets naked again but it's brief and not well-lit. She acts Hunnicutt off the screen. McDowall is as reliable as ever in this sort of thing but Revill is a bit one-dimensional.
If Pamela had to retire it's a shame this wasn't her final act but there's one sad chapter to go.
15. The Food of the Gods (1976)
And so we come to the melancholy task of looking at Pamela's last film. I remember seeing the trailer for this as an 11-year old in the ABC cinema, Rochdale ( probably before Jaws ) and being enthralled. When I watched it on TV in the eighties it was inevitably disappointing.
Very loosely based on an idea by HG Wells, it actually falls into the niche of 70s eco-horror (along with Doomwatch, No Blade of Grass, The Changes ) and bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic 1973 Dr Who episode The Green Death. Though rather earlier, The Birds is another obvious influence. Morgan ( Marjoe Gortner ) is an American footballer on an island - based hunting vacation with his friend Brian ( Jon Cypher ) amd another man who is killed by over-sized wasps. Going for help Morgan has to fight off a giant rooster at the farm of Mrs Skinner ( Ida Lupino ) and his subsequent visit to her house lays bare the entire premise of the film after just 10 minutes.
You've probably guessed we're not talking Citizen Kane here. The film reunited Pamela with Necromancy director Robert Gordon and he also produced the film and wrote the screenplay. It's in the latter category that he fails most egregiously. The script is absolutely terrible with continuity errors ( Pamela's character somehow ends up in a giant rat's burrow with her hat and coat on despite a previous scene showing her indoors by the fire ) and logical flaws to which the dialogue actually draws your attention. Morgan has risible monologues about nature fighting back at both ends of the film and his and Brian's reflection on their friend's death is excrutiatingly bad.
The special effects are variable, sometimes moderately impressive, at other times contemptible. The wasps aren't very convincing and the rooster scene is laughable .The rats are OK ( their first attack is genuinely scary and the best bit of the film ) but when their leader , an obviously tame albino , appears the film starts to resemble a rather warped episode of Tales From The Riverbank. The other plus points are the wonderful Vancouver scenery and the fact that the weather is awful throughout the film as if the heavens are weeping for the end of Pamela's career. Or maybe just drivel deserves drizzle.
The casting doesn't help matters. Gortner, who looks like contemporaneous tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis, came to prominence with the Oscar-winning documentary Marjoe, an exposure of his own fraudulent practices as a revivalist preacher and somehow managed to use it as a springboard for an acting career. You're most likely to have seen him as the psychotic reservist ( Bruce Dern must have been unavailable ) in the disappointing Earthquake , a one-dimensional role in which he was quite effective. Here, his inadequacies as an actor are all too obvious. He only has one expression, a teeth-baring grimace suggestive of tetanus or heavy cocaine use and his delivery is amateurish. Cypher is nearly as bad but his drug of choice appears to be Mogadon and Ralph Meeker's cartoon villain is rendered even more laughable by an Elmer Fudd- speech defect.
So what of Pamela ? Well she plays Lorna a bacteriologist who accompanies Meeker to the island for no readily apparent reason. She does her best despite some jaw-breaking lines and having to fake ( not very convincingly I must say ) carnal interest in Gortner but it's a losing battle. It also has to be said that despite being only 26 at the time her girlish good looks were fading ( borne out by subsequent TV appearances ) and she appears a short, rather plain woman even when she finally gets to take her hat off .
It's very sad to see a promising career peter out in such trash ( there was a surely uncalled-for sequel in 1989 but neither cast nor crew from the original were involved ). She didn't disappear immediately being much in demand for guest star roles on TV and you can find her in The Gemini Man, Police Story, The Hardy Boys, Fantasy Island and a fair few others in the following 5 years but after an appearance in Vegas in 1981 she vanished , seemingly for good . As far as I'm aware she's not given any interviews on the subject so I'm left to speculate.
Obviously California is a nice place in which to bring up your children and perhaps no more needs to be said. But you can also remind yourself that we're dealing with someone who'd worked with Bette Davis, Marlon Brando and John Huston before she was 20. It's not too difficult to imagine how she felt about screaming at a back projection of rats clambering over a doll's house with a snake oil salesman as her co-star just a few years later. If that was her future in film her abdication isn't too surprising.