Movie: The Mad Room (1969)

1969’s The Mad Room is a suspense thriller with Shelley Winters in the largest of the supporting roles.  That alone may tell you everything you need to know about this film and decide whether or not it is right for you.

The actual star is Stella Stevens, as the secretary to Winters.  Winters had been married to some sort of military bigwig who, after his death, she now intends to memorialize in a museum she is having constructed on the grounds of her mansion.  Amidst the flurry of activity around this construction, Stevens is also engaged to wed the son of Winters (Skip Ward).  It shouldn’t be any surprise mom isn’t down with these impending nuptials.

Stevens is especially concerned a recent development in her personal life may jeopardize both her engagement and her career.  None of the other characters are aware she has a younger brother and sister, as they have been institutionalized since being accused of the death of their parents.  When they were pre-teens, Michael Burns and Barbara Sammeth reportedly committed this crime out of jealousy for the disproportionate treatment they gave to Stevens.  Burns is now old enough to be transferred to a facility for adults, and the doctors at the institute almost beg her to take in both siblings, which she does.

So now she has to make a cover story for when she returns to Winters’ house with them in tow.  She also hopes Winters will be more understanding than we all know she will be.  This is somebody who is so continually flustered, that at one point they yell at the building contractor, “And don’t expect me to feed you!”  This was so out of the blue that all the characters just stand for a second until the maid seems to ad lib a line.  I like to think Winters went off-script there and they kept it in the movie.

Anywho, Winters doesn’t fully understand her latest houseguests when they tell her they desperately need a “mad room”.  I never quite worked out what they need this room for or what they do there.  But Stevens arranges the study of Winters’s deceased husband to be used for this purpose.  It is no surprise when Winters does not react well when she discovers that particular room is being used. 

The sole moment I liked in this film is her reaction when Stevens finally reveals the truth about her siblings.  Winters’s behavior is among the most sane and reasonable of any characters I seen in any movie.  And movies never let such behavior go unpunished.

Here is where it becomes almost impossible to say more about the film without giving everything away.  Still, it is inevitable a film like this will have a twist and, with so few possibilities, it was obvious to me very early in my viewing exactly what that twist would be.  There are no real surprises to be found here.

Unfortunately, The Mad Room doesn’t offer much of anything else to recommend it.  It isn’t camp enough to enjoy in that regard, yet it is too daft to appreciate as a serious thriller.  Perhaps it is best avoided by anybody who is not a completist for this type of fare.

Dir: Bernard Girard

Starring Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters

Watched on Imprint blu-ray (all region)