Monday, 14 September 2015

October Moth (1960, John Kruse)

One of several features made in the early to mid 1960s by the British Independent Artists Ltd out of Beaconsfield Studios and released contemporaneously with the Edgar Wallace Mysteries B-film strand, October Moth stands as the sole film to have been written and directed by John Kruse, author and screenwriter of the classic Hell Drivers (1957).

Distributed by Rank Film Distributors and boasting a soundtrack composed by Humphrey Searle (The Abominable Snowman [1957], The Haunting [1963], Doctor Who: The Myth Makers [1965]), October Moth is a tight and taut little psychodrama that packs a lot of character orientated punch into its brief (like the lifecycle of the lepidopterous insect of the title) into its brief 54 minute span.

 Much of the movie is a theatrical (in the best possible Brechtian black box theatre sense of the word) two - hander between the characters of brother and sister Finlay (Lee Patterson, Time Lock [1957], Jack the Ripper [1959], The Three Worlds of Gulliver [1960]) and Molly (Lana Morris, Trouble in Store [1953], Radio Cab Murder [1954]) in their isolated farmhouse, in which their relationship appears top have spiraled into a solipsistic borderline - incestuous nightmare.  Patterson gives a very good tense and wiry performance as the jittery Finlay, slightly reminiscent of Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates in Hitchcock's masterful Psycho, made the very same year, as he brings back to this remote and isolated locale an injured woman he has rescued from a car crash - an accident apparently caused by the driver swerving to avoid the fire started by Finlay's upended moth jar, drawing his 'victim' towards him like a moth to a literal flame.

 'Ma's come back - Pa did it, not me.' says the deluded Finlay to his terrified sister. 'She looked at me.  She told me that she loved me.'  This Misery - esque tableau is played out whilst poor Molly grows more and more anxious about her clearly disturbed brother, as he becomes ever more deranged.  'I feel Pa's about,' he declaims, not satisfied with abducting an ersatz mother, 'I dream about him night after night.  Not his face - his face is blurred.  But his boots, and the swing of his hand and the stink of the beer on him!'

 Molly's attempted cries for help via local linesman for the county (and yes, now i have Glen Campbell stuck in my head...) Tom Driver add a frisson to the situation, as Finlay becomes increasingly aware of the trying-to-be-helpful Tom's presence upon the grounds, but equates him with the menacing presence of the Bogeyman-esque 'Pa'.  'You pretend he's alive for the same reason you pretend the woman in there is Mother,' yells Molly as she reaches the end of her tether, 'Because it's all unfinished!  Because he died before you were big enough to avenge her!'

 A great tense little suspenser that rip-roars along in under an hour, October Moth is a curio that i can heartily recommend to all aficionados of the obscure.  But as the inevitable occurs, and the sinister sibling saga ends in inevitable sacrifice of life, we are left with the desolation of Molly's words to Tom: 'When no-one needs you, you're nothing.'

 Sniff.  Nihil sum i s'pose.  Still, who needs family, eh?


  1. I was going to comment on this, but now I just want to give you a hug and say, "There, there."

  2. Ah, that probably came across as a wee bit more mopey than intended. I do need to start watching my wording, but that would get in the way of my spur of the mind method of typographical diarrhoea.:p

    It's a good film. I hope that comes across amidst the vomited verbiage.