The 1979 film adaptation of Jay Anson’s potboiler novel tells the “true” life story of George and Kathy Lutz; a young married couple with three children from Kathy’s first marriage who buy a big house cheaply because it was the scene of a mass shooting committed by a young man on his entire family.
This horrific experience doesn’t affect the on-screen couple played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder decision set up home in this New York state residence. When strange occurrences start to happen; Rod Steiger’s Father Delany is plagued by a roomful of flies, toilets spewing black bile, objects moving around and a spirit that takes over George’s personality turning him to the murderous young man De Feo, this leads Kathy to dig out information on the house. Apparently the house is also built on an ancient Indian burial ground.
The film directed by journeyman Stuart Rosenberg known mostly for the prison drama classic Cool Hand Luke has some entertaining horror moments and special effects that would have been scary for its time. But it hasn’t aged well and now have the opposite effect ; the sight of a pig with glowing eyes will have a person laughing up a spleen as it did with me on several occasions.
The male actors can’t be faulted, James Brolin and particularly Rod Steiger (who seems to be acting for the back rows to use theatre parlance). When it comes to the other performances, Margot Kidder isn’t given much to do apart from play the devoted wife, scream well and look great with a flower in her hair which she does extremely well.
In 2016 I had the chance to speak with Ms Kidder for an interview that’s available on this website, here’s her thought on the movie “Amityville was a bigger budget, the director was Stuart Rosenberg and me knew it was funny, not true & nonsensical. But Rod Steiger and James Brolin took it very seriously there was no joking around with those two. So the director and I joked alot, they didn’t because it was a big studio production the studio was overlooking everything and had opinions about how it should be. I did it for money frankly, my agent and I had a policy; one for the heart and one for money. I would have done Superman for heart if it had turned out that way. But not The Amityville Horror that was one I whored myself out for”
What is The Amityville Horror’s place in cinema history? Apart falling on the coat tails of other theological horror such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen. The film from some time being the largest grossing independent film ever made lead to many sequels (including one in 3D during its boom in 1983) ,a 2005 reboot & television series and is still inspiring horror directors such as James Wan to this day.
This must own limited edition steelbook Blu Ray from Second Sight contains a wealth of brand new interviews produced by supplemental material master David Gregory with screenwriter Sandor Stern, composer Lalo Schifrin alongside actors James Brolin and Meeno Peluce who tells a funny story about his on-screen mom. There are a few hold over extras from the 2005 MGM special edition DVD such as the 20-minute “For God’s Sake, Get Out” documentary, the dry audio commentary and introduction by parapsychologist Hans Holzer.
The stand out extra is the 2013 feature length entertaining if flawed documentary “My Amityville Horror” which tells the story of Daniel Lutz the eldest child of the family and his experience in the infamous house. He’s a man who’s troubling childhood has left him with emotional scars discussing his family particularly his stepfather in not a great light accusing him of abuse & dabbling with black magic. This is rounded off by the theatrical trailer, TV and Radio spots are fun inclusions to the disc showing how films where promoted in a pre internet world with a cheesy voiceover.
Dir: Stuart Rosenberg
Scr: Sandor Stern (adapted from the book by Jay Anson)
Pro: Roland Saland, Elliot Geisinger
Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton
DOP: Fred Koenekamp
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Run time: 117 minutes