Persecution (1974)

PERSECUTION (1974)
Article 3301 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-12-2010
Posting Date: 8-28-2010
Directed by Don Chaffey
Featuring Lana Turner, Trevor Howard, Ralph Bates
Country: UK
What it is: Psychological horror

A boy kills his mother’s cat out of jealousy, and she proceeds to punish him for the deed for the rest of his life. When the boy grows up, gets married and has a child of his own, his mother begins scheming on how to destroy the marriage. However, she herself has a few skeletons in the closet…

This bizarre foray into psychological horror is much maligned, no doubt due to the over-deliberate pacing and the fact that there’s a sense of absurdity underlying much of the action in the movie. Nevertheless, the movie has its supporters, and I count myself among them. I find something fascinating here about the ways in which the mother torments her child, and I’m entranced by the way that every atrocity that is committed in the household has a parallel atrocity at another part of the story. I’m not sure exactly what role the cat plays in the story, but I suspect that it serves the most evil person in the house; notice how the son can only embrace the cat when he himself turns the corner into madness. It’s a very sad story at times; watching the son burn his boyhood toys one by one, and then reliving his mother’s rejection of a Christmas present is hard to take. There’s certain moments that bother me; I’m not sure to what degree the death of the baby is an accident or intentional (due to the ambiguity of the role of the cat), and I think the final line of the movie overdoes things just a bit, but I generally found the movie interesting and satisfying.

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