TAM LIN (1970) (Blu-ray)
Director: Roddy McDowall
Olive Films

The sole directorial effort by British-born legendary Hollywood actor Roddy McDowall makes its Blu-ray (and DVD) debut, courtesy of Olive Films.

In London, a filthy rich middle-aged woman named Michaela Cazaret (Ava Gardner, ON THE BEACH) lives open house style with a group of carefree young men and women, as well as her personal assistant Elroy (Richard Wattis, TEN SECONDS TO HELL). One day, the whole lot of them take off (in several sports cars) to Scotland for the roomy confines of an estate in the country. Her favorite of the bunch of attractive youths she surrounds herself with is Tom Lynn (Ian McShane, THE LAST OF SHEILA) the handsome beau she’s currently bedding, and although he professes his love for her, she doesn’t respond until another woman catches his attention. That would be Janet Ainsley (Stephanie Beacham, DRACULA A.D. 1972), daughter of the local clergyman (Cyril Cusack, THE ITALIAN CONNECTION). Tom keeps straying from the group for secret meetings with Janet and falls for her (getting her pregnant), wanting to leave Mrs. Cazaret and company for good, at which point Elroy displays accounts to Tom of a number of young men in the Fairy Queen’s presence who died in violent ways through the years. Tom and Janet eventually run off together, with Mrs. Cazaret getting rid of all her houseguests (all but one) and recruiting a new flock of decadent thrill-seekers, some of which she uses to abduct Tom, who becomes her house prisoner once again. Her vengeful intent is the death of Tom, played out in game hunting fashion.

Shot on location in Scotland (and at Pinewood Studios) in 1969, TAM LIN prevented McDowall from reprising his role as Cornelius in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, yet the character’s role was rather minor and he would be replaced by David Watson (luckily for fans, McDowall would return to star in the final three “Apes” outings). No doubt the reason why the film has remained fairly obscure, it’s distribution problems stem from the collapse of its production company, Commonwealth United Entertainment (it actually fits right into their catalog of diverse Euro thrillers like Jess Franco’s VENUS AND FURS and Umberto Lenzi’s PARANOIA) and its eventual distribution by American International Pictures, who didn’t release it until later in 1972 as THE DEVIL’S WIDOW where it played mainly on the drive-in circuit (AIP also used erotic advertising artwork depicting the rather demonic feathered face mask Gardner wears briefly in one scene, and a poster tagline that read, “She drained them of their manhood...and then-of their LIVES!”).

Based on an old Scottish folk song, TAM LIN fits right in with the arty and edgy modern genre films being made at the time, stylishly directed by McDowall (occasionally using still photography to emphasize key points in the film) who starts things off very tranquil (with some truly scenic and beautiful cinematography) and climaxing in a most macabre and trippy way (a hallucinating Tom seeing himself as a bear, his arm transformed into a slippery serpent and his self set on fire while being chased through the swamps). The original screenplay by William Spier is also thought-provoking, with a running theme of the meaning of love throughout. Although not a fully fledged horror film, Mrs. Cazaret’s assumed use of witchcraft (she refers to her flock as her “creatures”) and the surreal style in which the film is executed lands it in that category and as McDowall was often associated with fantasy on screen, it’s ever so appropriate that his only directorial effort be a genre picture. Performances are very good on a whole (Hollywood legend Gardner suitably bewitching yet never chewing the scenery), with Beacham showing a considerable amount of promise for the 1970s scream queen she would soon become. There’s a great score by Stanley Myers (who would later score a number of Pete Walker horrors) and folk/pop tunes by The Pentangle which are sort of reminiscent of THE WICKER MAN soundtrack.

Aside from Beacham, TAM LIN also features a number of future Hammer Horror leading and supporting ladies, including Madeline Smith (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS), Jenny Hanley (SCARS OF DRACULA), Delia Lindsay (SCARS OF DRACULA) and Joanna Lumley (THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA). Also in the cast are Cyril’s daughter Sinéad Cusack (REVENGE), Pamela Farbrother (CRY OF THE BANSHEE), Julian Barnes (THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR) and Peter Hinwood (“Rocky” in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW).

First released on letterboxed VHS from Republic Home Video (with a 17-minute introduction with McDowall videotaped shortly before his 1998 passing), Olive Films now presents TAM LIN on Blu-ray (with a subsequent DVD release) in its full 106-minute version. The HD transfer has the film in 1080p and in the its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer is solid, with colors looking bold, detail very sharp, and the original source elements appearing to be in very good shape with only some fleeting dirt and debris. The English DTS-HD Master audio is also solid, with only occasional pop and hiss due to the original elements. There are no subtitle options or extras on the disc, and it’s interesting to note that the film has been re-rated PG-13 (from its original PG theatrical rating). (George R. Reis)