Curtis Harrington is another name in a long a list of directors with links to Roger Corman. In 1961, Harrington made the low-budget, independent mermaid film Night Tide, and then was employed by Corman to direct the English-language inserts for Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) which was re-edited from a Russian science fiction film and Queen of Blood (1966) also re-edited. That experience led to Harrington’s first studio film, Games, released in 1967. Based on a story developed by Harrington and screenwriter George R. Kearney (Kojak), much of the plot was drawn from more highly regarded thrillers of the era, namely the French classic Les Diaboliques (1955) but Harrington’s artful direction, and the casting of Simone Signoret (Les Diaboliques, Army of Shadows) well worth a look.
Paul and Jennifer Ross (James Caan, The Godfather and Katherine Ross, The Graduate) are a young, rich, somewhat bored Manhattan couple. They throw lavish parties for New York intellectuals, and test the boundaries of conformity at every turn. There on the cutting edge…Enter door-to-door cosmetic saleslady Lisa Schindler (Signoret). The glamorous, middle-aged woman cons Jennifer into letting her into the house by claiming to be a friend of a friend. Jennifer is about to throw this con-artist to the curb, when the Lisa suddenly takes Ill. Despite Paul’s reservations, Jennifer decides to let Lisa stay with them for a few days while she recovers. The couple figures it might be fun to have a third person to play “games” with for a while. Somehow, it doesn’t occur to them they might be in over their heads…The older woman’s mind games are far more sophisticated than anything they’re used to, involving psychological manipulation, and yes, dueling pistols! Suddenly, it’s not a game anymore when things turn deadly.
Curtis Harrington would go on to direct What’s the Matter with Helen? for United Artists (also available from Scream Factory) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? for American International before he found himself directing independent films and various TV projects. Games is a highlight of his career. The concept of escalating mind games is compelling, though the script allows for limited exploration of those ideas. Despite that, Signoret, Caan, and Ross are a delight to watch–Signoret sets the trap with ease, Caan and Ross move right toward it! Both James Caan and Katherine Ross were virtual unknowns when Games was released, but watching their ease and charisma here, it’s obvious they were destined for stardom. If you haven’t seen Simone Signoret in Diaboliques, I highly recommend you do so. Appearing in small roles are Kent Smith (Cat People) as Jennifer’s lawyer, and Estelle Winwood, Camelot) as the wacky neighbor.
Framed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Scream Factory’s 1080p transfer has attached a disclaimer that it was manufactured from the best materials available. Nonetheless, it looks pretty darn good. There are some white specks that pop up occasionally, but colors are unexpectedly vibrant. The red of the blood really pops, greens are prominent, and faces appear realistic.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is free of any distracting distortion. Dialogue is clean and clear, and effects are distinguishable. Samuel Matlovsky’s score comes through nicely.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Still Gallery (HD, 1:06)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:21)
Movie title: Games (1967)
Director(s): Curtis Harrington
Actor(s): Simone Signoret , James Caan , Katharine Ross , Don Stroud , Kent Smith , Estelle Winwood
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Thriller