Thursday, September 11, 2014

Case Study No. 1567: Louise Elmore and Emily Perkins

THE attic (1980)
this is a movie i'm watching. i relate to this movie entirely too much.
Tags: Carrie Snodgress made for tv movie Ruth Cox Emily
Added: 5 years ago
From: Jedinerf
Views: 3,928

[female librarian Louise Elmore is having a picnic in the park with her young assistant Emily Perkins]
LOUISE: If you marry Dennis and live in California, then David could visit you on summer vacation.
EMILY: He'd love that ... oh, I know he would!
[she smiles, then looks off into the distance]
EMILY: Maybe someday ... Maybe next year.
LOUISE: If you don't do it soon, you never will.
[she gets a far-away look in her eyes]
LOUISE: I've been ... drowning most of my life. I keep asking myself, "How many times do I have to go under, before somebody will throw me a line?"
[she slowly shakes her head]
LOUISE: The truth is ... nobody ever throws you one.



The Attic is a 1980 American thriller film starring Carrie Snodgress and directed by George Edwards.

Louise (Carrie Snodgress), a librarian, devotes her life to caring for her controlling, wheelchair-ridden father, Wendel (Ray Milland) after her fiancee disappears the night before their wedding. She fantasizes about her father's death, and only finds joy with Emily (Ruth Cox)–a fellow librarian who is being trained as Louise's replacement (Louise is being fired for attempting to burn down the library)–and a pet monkey (who Louise names Dickie) that Emily buys for Louise. While wheeling her father up a hill at a local park one Sunday afternoon, Wendel's wheelchair tips over, and he falls out. Wendel reflexively picks himself up and it is revealed he was never disabled to begin with, and he lied to Louise all this time in order to enslave her to him. In a fit of rage, Louise pushes Wendel down the hill and he is killed when his head hits a rock. Louise then runs home to gather her few belongings, and some of her father's money hoping to run away. While searching her father's belongings, she comes across a key to the attic, which has long been boarded up. She enters the attic that night and discovers that Dickie and her fiancee, Robert, have both been killed by her father and placed in the attic.




Edwards, George (Director). The Attic. United States: Atlantic Releasing Corp., 1980.

Starring: Carrie Snodgrass (Louise Elmore, Librarian); Frances Bay (Emily, Assistant Librarian); Ray Milland (Wendell, Louise's father)

NOTE: The characters of Louise and her father are first introduced in the film The Killing Kind, listed on the Honorable Mentions page.

You know right off this is no comedy when you see the librarian's wrists are bandaged after a botched suicide attempt. Louise (Carrie Snodgrass) wears her hair up but no glasses, dressed in a Victorian blouse and a cardigan. Her young assistant and friend, Emily (Frances Bay), sports large reading glasses when needed, and wears her hair in a page boy. When Emily is asked if she likes working at a public library she replies, "It beats being a college librarian." We learn that Emily will be replacing Louise, who is leaving after 19 years. "I guess they do need new blood," she tells Emily, who responds, "Being a head librarian is not exactly my idea of a lifetime career choice." We suspect it wasn't Louise's lifetime career choice, either. Louise is clearly younger than her appearance allows, yet she acts old. She is dressed in shades of tan. If she wore makeup, she might even be pretty. All this tells us a lot about poor and desperate librarian Louise, including the implied fact that her leaving isn't by her own volition. The library is large and nice, with the requisite card catalog, and at the end of the workday Louise shelves a final book before leaving (a cinematic clichĂ©). She is in no hurry to get home to her crippled, manipulative father who demands her time and attention although she's around 40 years old. Louise is still lonely years after her fiancĂ© disappeared on their wedding day. She smokes and she likes margaritas -- too much, it appears, as alcohol is blamed for her destructive behavior at work. At a Mexican restaurant she explains to Emily, "I don't know what happened that day in the library. Suddenly I felt this anger creeping up from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, surrounded by all those books that I've fingered a hundred times before. They all seemed to have eyes, staring at me, watching me, following me all around. They started to come at me like huge, swooping hawks. The books were my enemy. 'Destroy them before they destroy you,' a voice whispered to me. It felt so wonderful seeing all those books going up in flames. I'd won the battle!" In a flashback scene we see her pile books on the library floor and set them ablaze. "I think that's how it happened. It's a little mixed up in my mind." But she says she'd do it all over again, so the nervous breakdown didn't teach her anything (and we're left to wonder why she was allowed to keep working at all). Minor spoilers ahead ... Louise acts out by picking up a young man at the movies and taking care of her physical needs, after which she dresses in blue and applies lipstick. This fix doesn't last, however. We can see by the juvenile toys and stuffed animals decorating her bedroom that she's really into monkeys (in actuality most are chimpanzees). Emily buys her a real chimp (the pet shop sign reads "Special Sale Monkey" – grrrr) which Louise keeps despite her father's demands that she get rid of it. When dining with her friend's mother and little brother, Louise confirms that she has worked as a librarian for 19 years. "It sounds so dreadfully long," Emily's domineering mother adds, then ironically, "I wish Emily would settle down to a job like that." Emily reminds Louise of herself when young, and she does not want her to end up with a dead-end life under the thumb of an abusive parent. Louise admits, "I wish I had had the good sense to try some other jobs when I was young. I mean, I may not have been a librarian." Emily's mother protests that it's a perfectly respectable job. "Respectable, yes," Louise answers, "and awfully boring." Emily's mother closes, "A job is what you make of it." Louise's goodbye party at the library introduces her very odd coworkers, one of whom tells her, "You're free as a bird." Louise can travel now (maybe after she stops crying). Wearing a silly party hat, Louise tearfully waves at the books. "Goodbye all you bastards. If I never see you again it'll be too soon." This is considered a "terror" film, but most of the terror is psychological. Louise can feel better about her own sorry life because she helps Emily avoid a similar fate. It's all too depressing, especially the chimp (named Dickey after Richard, her one-night-stand) that serves as a surrogate child in his cute little sailor suit. This film is rich in librarian public image themes, by the way, and Louise is generous, full of love to give, but too weak to save herself.



After 1970's Diary of a Mad Housewife, actress Carrie Snodgress found her career moving in frets and starts rather than barrelling ahead. By 1979, Snodgress was making do with gothic horrors like The Attic. In a variation on a theme previously explored in The Barretts of Wimpole Street and The Heiress, Snodgress plays a shy, withdrawn young woman who is totally dominated by her tyrannical father Ray Milland. At father's insistence, she remains sequestered in her attic room, denied contact with any men. When she finally breaks free, a spectacularly bloody denouement is the result.



Here for your enjoyment is a tribute to a wonderful film called The Attic (1980). Part thriller, part horror film, it starred Carrie Snodgress as mousey librarian Louise Elmore and Ray Milland as her abusive, widowed father, Wendell. Years ago, a fire in his department store caused Wendell to jump out of the 2nd floor window to save his life. He's been a cripple ever since that fall. And he has relied on Louise to take care of him these oh so many years since the accident!

Now, poor Louise is about to lose her librarian job at the Wichita Public Library, after 19 years, which also happens to be the length of time since her handsome fiance Robert disappeared on their wedding day. Between losing her lover, living with her creepy father and now losing her job, it's a wonder Louise can hold on to life at all. Can we really blame her when she repeatedly slashes her wrists open to try to escape from her world? Her father is so mean to her, that we cannot help but get excited whenever Louise lapses into one of her frequent fugues of patricidal fantasy!

Fortunately, one bright spot recently entered Louise's life in the form of a new, younger friend from the library named Emily. Emily, played by Ruth Cox, is an hysteric teen whose lives with an abusive mother, played to great effect by the inimitable Rosemary Murphy. The gals bond over their abusive parents. They sneak away, forever flirting on the verge of a lesbian lovefest that never quite gets fulfilled as they spend hours in the sunny Wichita city park, partaking of luncheon meat sandwiches together whilst commiserating over their beastly parents.

Once we get to know her, there is no way we can blame Louise for taking a little nip now and then. A bit of whiskey helps her get through the day, be it at the library, at lunch with dear Emily, or perhaps on a night out at the movies after she meets a sailor named Richard. After rebelliously leaving dear old dad at home, Louise heads out to the movies on her own. No sooner does she settle down for a spooky teen slasher flick, then the studly sailor Richard shows up and comes on to her. In no time at all, they are back at his hotel! Louise is shy, nervous and delusional - in the heat of the moment, we uncomfortably gaze on the two of them like voyeurs, while Louise believes that she is making love to her dear, long lost Robert.

She experiences a similar fugue when a young hottie drops by to mow her lawn!

Louise sure could use a break. And she's about to get one! After Louise confides her love of monkeys to Emily during a visit to the local pet shop, Emily surprises her with a gift - a baby chimpanzee! Louise nicknames the chimp Dickie. She takes him home and creates little man outfits for him to wear. Of course, Wendell is rife with jealousy at the new creature who steals his daughter's time away from him. Uh oh, trouble is brewing at the Elmore household!

"Get that beast away from me! I'm allergic to him.
I want him out! You know there's something sick about you...
Don't complain Louise, just massage my lower back!"

Well, one thing's for sure. We're so glad to see Louise have a bit of fun amidst all her misery! When Emily invites Louise over to dinner, Wendell complains that"Suddenly," she's "all over town. Dancing on the table tops!" Louise meets Emily's mom - the frigid, bitchy Mrs. Perkins and David, Emily's stuttering, queer little brother. More laughs follows for us when Louise purposely drops one of Mrs. Perkins' "very expensive" bird figurines ("Aren't they lovely?") onto the floor, smashing it to pieces.

"Oh, sh*t!"



Carrie Snodgress stars as librarian Louise Elmore in The Attic (1979), a drama with minor trappings of suspense and horror genres. The film centers on Louise and her invalid (wheelchair-bound) and oppressive father, Wendell (Milland).


One library scene early in the film begins with a patron at the main desk asking Louise about her bandaged wrists. The result of an "accident," she responds, but they are bandaged because of a recent bungled suicide attempt, prompted by her inability to overcome the despondency resulting from the disappearance of her boyfriend on their wedding day 19 years ago. Louise has failed to move past 1960.

At a nearby card catalog, Emily Perkins (Ruth Cox), who will soon replace Louise as head librarian, is entangled in a conversation with a gossipy library patron who wants to know if she likes the library. "I like it here. Beats being a college librarian." The patron then shifts the topic and eventually remarks, "It's sad they're retiring her." The apparent reason for Louise's forced retirement is a library fire, which - according to the patron - "They say she deliberately set." When Emily states that it was an accident, the patron comments, "Of course, it had to be, I mean, in her intoxicated condition."

The card catalog is in close proximity to the main desk, permitting Louise to overhear the discussion. Before listening, however, she bends down to pour herself a drink (which she thoroughly enjoys) from a hidden liquor flask she keeps behind some items on an interior bottom shelf of the main desk. The patron also tells Emily about the fire that destroyed Wendell's store; Louise's father jumped from the second floor to escape, but the fall resulted in his present paralytic condition.

During this scene, Louise and Emily engage in various tasks - assisting patrons, stamping books, carrying books, using the card catalog, and shelving books. When the patrons leave at closing time, Louise comments, "Nineteen years I've been here. I guess they do need new blood." Emily, attempting to mollify the situation, responds, "People can be very unfair. Besides, being a head librarian is not exactly my idea of a lifetime career." This prompts Louise to remark, "How I wish I thought the way you did. I wish I had the courage to ... " but fails to complete her thought. Louise hustles Emily out of the library and begins organizing the main desk, closing stamp pads and placing date stamps on the pads, indicating the attention to detail that she observes as head librarian.

In the second library scene, Emily (glancing at photographs in an oversized book) asks, "Did you know that the snake is probably the longest surviving species of reptile on Earth today?" Louise replies, "Not true. My father is." Although the two librarians smile at her comment, the statement reflects Louise's deep dislike of her father. Throughout the film, Louise fantasizes about killing her overbearing and demanding father (for example, poisoning him or tossing an electrical heater into his bath). Every one of her actions is calculated to infuriate him; she never bypasses an opportunity to offend him.

In addition, she appears as a kook to several local residents. She telephones the Bureau of Missing Persons regularly to see if there is any new information about her boyfriend's disappearance; she visits a travel agency for information about summer vacations which she never takes. She, however, maintains a normal friendship with Emily, who suffers from a domineering mother. Louise empathizes with Emily's position because it resembles the relationship she has with her father; she displays no reservations in advising Emily to leave.

When Louise dines at Emily's, Mrs. Perkins (Rosemary Murphy) remarks that she would like Emily to find a stable job, as the library is her fourth position since college. Louise chimes in, "I wish that I'd had the good sense to try some other jobs when I was young. I may not have been a librarian." "It's a perfectly respectable job," responds Mrs. Perkins. Louise counters, "Respectable. Yes. And often boring."

Later, during coffee in the living room, Emily's young brother David (Patrick Brennan) spills chocolate on his coat, and exclaims, "Aw, shit!" Mrs. Perkins disciplines her son similar in manner to Wendell's harangues against Louise. In response to Mrs. Perkins' action, Louise immediately drops an expensive procelain collectible, breaking it. Acting surprised by her own clumsiness, Louise exclaims, "Aw, shit!" and apologizes profusely. Louise, realizing her own life has been destroyed by such a parent, strikes back in defense of David, who is too young to rebel against his mother, and Emily, who is too timorous.

The day after dining at Emily's, the library closes briefly near the end of the day to celebrate Louise's retirement. Joining Louise are Emily, an unnamed librarian (Frances Bay), and Donald (Terry Troutt). A large table loaded with food and champagne is in the middle of the library. While laughing and talking about the previous evening, Louise comments to Emily that "emasculation is some mothers' primary instinct. And some fathers, too." Emily, not having suffered as long as Lousie, is resigned: "You can't fight it." Louise's immediate response is, "The hell you can't." Louise then walks around the library and addresses the books, "Goodbye, all you bastards. If I never see you again, it'll be too soon."

Several days later, Louise receives a severance and unpaid vacation check ($631) and sends 500 dollars to Emily. She advises Emily to rush to her boyfriend in California, emphasizing that "everyone deserves the right to lead their own life." Louise is very instrumental in ensuring that Emily escapes the type of parent-child relationship that she has endured for years.

The same day she sends the money to Emily, Louise discovers that her pet monkey (whom her father hates) has disappeared. The following day, a delusional Louise believes the youngster hired to mow the lawn is her missing boyfriend and rushes to him; Wendell denigrates and admonishes her, insisting that he is the "only one" she has.

When Louise takes her father to the park for his Sunday excursion, the wheelchair overturns, and he falls on the ground, only to immediatley stand up and brush off his trousers - his paralysis was a sham. Louise, in a raging fervor, struggles with her father; he slips and falls down a hill. Louise rushes home and finds her father's key to the forbidden attic, where she discovers the truth of the past.

Of the four librarians, three - Louise, Donald, and the female librarian (unnamed character) - project the "only 38 image. Although only 33, Snodgress (by adding a few gray streaks and pulling her hair into a French twist with bun at her crown and sporting a half bang) projects the image of an older woman in the library. Adding gray to a hairstyle to attain an older appearance is the same technique that Lois Wilson used 56 years earlier in Only 38 (1923).

Emily is a brunette (blonde streaks; shoulder length page with half bang), as is the other librarian (collar length soft curls, brushed back). Donald wears eyeglasses, and Emily occasionally does. The three women dress in modest and colorful 1970s clothes, while Donald dresses complacently, appearing in patterned short sleeve shirts and a narrow, square, hem necktie.

Louise dresses sharply, but her father (whose only objective is to maintain his dominance over her) quips in one scene, "Look at you. Look at the clothes you wear. You're a mouse. That's what you are." Louise, berated relentlessly throughout this film by her father, exhibits little self-confidence and little desire to continue living. When she attends a movie, meets a sailor, and goes to a hotel with him, Louise informs the sailor that his "name is Robert [her boyfriend's name]. It is 1960, and we're in love."

Although an attractive "only 38" woman who displays the visual characteristics of the stereotypical image, Louise displays behavior contrary to that expected of a staid librarian, a result of her mental instability. She wants to keep her library position but is not hesitant about calling her job "boring" and the books "bastards." Over the years, she accepts her fate, corralling the fortitude only to fantasize about her father and to support Emily.

Emily is blunt about library positions - she believes that working in a public library "beats" working in a college library. She is not enamored with library work, although her mother calls it a "respectable job." In addition, Emily is not an advocate of the occupation, maintaining that being a "head librarian" is not her ideal "life-time career." The library offers Emily a respectable job, but she leaves at her earliest opportunity, the same afternoon that she receives Louise's gift in the mail. Emily, as previous reel librarians, could not resist the expectation of a happier life with her boyfriend.

No comments:

Post a Comment