When Hollywood came to Hardingham: Norfolk shot horror screened fifty years on
PUBLISHED: 09:22 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:22 22 November 2017
Anglia TV/East Anglian Film Archive
A horror film which caused controversy during its filming in Norfolk is to return to Norwich for a screening to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its release.
“Sleep one night in the house with the shuttered room and you may never want to sleep again....”
These are the chilling words spoken in the trailer for the 1967 horror film, The Shuttered Room.
But the production, filmed in part on location in the Norfolk village of Hardingham, horrified local residents both on and off the silver screen.
Despite the thrill of the arrival of Hollywood stars Carol Lynley and Oliver Reed, the picture was subject to protest when it was revealed that director David Greene planned to burn down Hardingham’s historic mill, as the film’s dramatic finale.
Conservationists, MPs and even Spike Milligan campaigned to save the 18th century building but the shot went ahead as planned.
Richard Burke, a semi-retired businessman, has lived in The Mill House, Hardingham, with his partner for 15 years.
And the site of the former mill is a considerable talking point.
He said: “People turn up here because they have memories of the film being made. They knock on the door and ask to see if there are any remains of the mill.
“It was a thrill [for people] to see the American film stars.”
Mr Burke said the burning of the mill generated an “awful lot of opposition.
“But it was private land so the decision was up to the owner. Local folklore has it that he was paid £50 [for the mill].”
He added: “I had a letter from an American man about 10 years ago. He was a big fan of Carol Lynley.
“I said there was nothing left of the mill, and he asked me to send him one of the remaining bricks.
“I must have been feeling very generous because it was quite a lot of trouble, especially convincing customs it wasn’t meant as a dangerous weapon.
“I asked him to reimburse me for the postage, and I never heard from him again.
“There was also a local smallholder who died a few years ago who remembered the film being made.
“He always said his principal memory of it was walking along a back lane one afternoon and coming across Carol Lynley and Oliver Reed smooching in the back of a van.”
Hardingham mill was situated at a distance from the village, closer to Runhall. It was originally built in the early 19th century, and destroyed by a fire in 1835, but was rebuilt.
It was in use as a working mill for another century but fell into disrepair between before 1966, when it was bought by the film company responsible for The Shuttered Room.
Director David Green responded to the public outcry over the destruction of the mill in a letter to The Times, published in 1966.
He said the mill was “quite without architectural interest... and so dangerously dilapidated that the road past it was closed to traffic as unsafe”.
He claimed the interest of rural preservationists was roused by the mill’s “artificially beautified” appearance for the film.
To mark the 50th anniversary of its release The Shuttered Room will be screened at The Forum in Norwich by Hallowed Histories.
Their annual festival is dedicated to the region’s folklore and associated with the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA).
Dr Linda McCarthy, from Hallowed Histories, said it was unusual for a horror film to be shot in Norfolk, which stood in for New England in the film.
She said: “It has a unique visual style. It’s different from the typically Gothic, black-and-white atmosphere.”
And the festival co-coordinator Richard Sheppard added: “I think it’s special because it’s a genuine oddity. It’s got a great cast, and everything in it – from karate, to evil twins and family curses.
“It’s on its way to becoming a cult classic.”
The screening will also show behind-the-scenes footage of the lead actors relaxing in the grounds of Norwich Castle.
The EAFA recently unearthed tapes from the making of the film in the Anglia Television archive - including interviews with Carol Lynley and Oliver Reed.
Dr Tim Snelson, director of the EAFA and a professor of film at UEA said: “This was a time when the British film industry was so reliant on Hollywood money, that demands such as burning down a historic building were tolerated.
“Because this local controversy drew attention to that power relationship in such a dramatic fashion, Hardingham became the subject of worldwide news stories including a lengthy report in the Washington Post.”
The screening will be held at 7pm on Monday, November 27, and will be followed by a panel discussion with four film historians from the UEA.
Tickets for the free event can be booked on Eventbrite.
The stars of The Shuttered Room
The production of The Shuttered Room saw Hollywood stars and big British names arrive in Hardingham.
But who were they?
A British actor known for roles in Oliver (1968), Women in Love (1969) and The Three Musketeers (1973).
He died in 1999, during the filming of Gladiator, and was posthumously nominated for a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for the role.
The American actress and former child model is known for roles including: Return to Peyton Place, Under the Yum Yum Tree, Bunny Lake is Missing, The Pleasure Seekers, The Cardinal and The Poseidon Adventure.
An American TV, film and stage actor, Young won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the 1969 drama They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
He was found dead in 1978 with Kim Schmidt, his fifth wife, in what was thought to have been a murder-suicide.
The man behind the mystery
The Shuttered Room was based on a story by the American horror writer HP Lovecraft.
He became increasingly famous after his death in 1937 for his haunting works of Gothic fiction.
The Shuttered Room was published in 1958 in a posthumous collection of Lovecraft’s stories and notes.
The story was written from the author’s notes by August Derleth, an admirer of Lovecraft’s work, who edited the collection.
Set in the US state of Massachusetts, The Shuttered Room tells the story of a couple who are left an island property with a terrible secret past.
They travel to visit the abandoned house, which Hardingham Mill stood in for in the film, and was ultimately destroyed by fire in the closing scenes.
In the film, husband and wife Mike and Susannah Kelton are played by Gig Young and Carol Lynley, and Oliver Reed plays Susannah’s cousin Ethan.