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Bert I. Gordon was a science fiction and horror B-movie producer of the fifties and sixties. Some of his work included THE CYCLOPS, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, EARTH VS THE SPIDER, and ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, all favorites, among so many others. PICTURE MOMMY DEAD from 1966 was a television movie and I remember seeing it once long ago. This viewing was from a recording on Turner Classics from April.

The film opens on a three year old incident, a mansion with smoke pouring from a window, the master bedroom on fire. We see a woman lying on the floor in a white gown, Jessica Flagmore Shelley(Zsa Zsa Gabor). We hear a girl’s voice singing a song and small hands coming into the picture and taking a necklace from around the neck. The song went:

“The worms go in, the worms go out, in your stomach and out your mouth.”

Then it’s in the present and Edward Shelley(Don Ameche) arrives at what is euphemistically called a convent hospital to take his daughter out. He’s with his wife, Francine(Martha Hyer), former governess to Susan and now full time golddigger. Susan(Susan Gordon, Bert’s daughter) had been found wandering the ground that night in a daze, all memory of what happened gone. She has just turned eighteen and the nun doesn’t think it will be a good idea to take her back to the house. Edward say he has no choice.

They arrive at the mansion, all of them for the first time in three years, to be greeted by Anthony Flagmore, Jessica’s cousin, and are horrified to see the right side of his face scared badly, from when he’d tried to save Jessica in the midst of the fire. He announces to Susan that he’s recreated the master bedroom exactly as it was that night and seems to take great glee in telling it.

It’s obvious the girl is still not a stable person and when the lawyer comes for the reading of the will, finally, with Susan present, they get the particulars. The house was left to the government so the family wouldn’t be stuck with a huge tax bill, Edward got all the furnishings, antiques, and the paintings and a hundred thousand in cash. Susan has a trust fund of five hundred thousand to be held until she’s twenty-five. In the meantime, she can live off the interest. And the cousin, Anthony gets five hundred in cash.

As long as Susan wants to live in the house, the government won’t take possession. And dad is pushing for her to do so. He explains he’s selling off the furnishings, he’s made some bad investments, which draws a snort from the lawyer. ” Furs, fast cars, and high living! Some investments!” If Susan stays out of the asylum-er, convent hospital, the money will go to her at the appointed time. If she should go back or die in the interim, Edward will control it. And Anthony puts on a sly grin from his scarred face. “If he dies, I’m the only blood relative left.”

Susan begins to have hallucinations. Check the clip below. She sees her mother, blood running from a portrait she’d raked her fingers across, and more.

A nice little murder mystery/horror story with a lot of suspects. Was it an accident as authorities ruled? The theory was she’d knocked a burning candle over in her sleep. Was it the golddigger? The cousin? Susan as the opening suggests?

Not a bad little film, at least for me, being a Bert Gordon fan anyway.

For more overlooked movies, as always, check out Todd Mason over at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM.

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