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A Reflection of Fear (1973)

May 16th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 12 Comments

Have I ever started a review with “Where has such and such a movie been all my life?’ because I shoulda and coulda done it here. I’m not entirely sure how I would have responded to A REFLECTION OF FEAR if I had seen it at a younger age but I do know that it currently has all the markings and behavior of a pet movie I’d like to wrap in a blanket and deliver a saucer of milk. A cluttered mansion, a barely tolerable protagonist, psycho-sexual family skeletons falling out of the woodwork, a shadow faced killer on a rampage and a malevolent talking doll. It’s like THE ATTIC and PIN had a baby out of wedlock and I get to adopt it! REFLECTION is based on a novel by (DELORIS) STANTON FORBES and yes, I already ordered a copy and made sure it was plenty used and lived in a library. Hopefully it will be so moldy that I nearly suffocate while enjoying it.

Ethereally yet confidently directed by WILLIAM A. FRAKER the cinematographer of ROSEMARY’S BABY (!), REFLECTION introduces us to an unsung psycho sister of Norman Bates named Marguerite. Koo-koo, microscope-obsessed doll collecting Marguerite is played by SONDRA LOCKE and wholly crap is it a performance. Pale and fluttering like a sun-bleached sheet on a clothesline, she still manages to dominate anyone in her vicinity. No small feat when ROBERT SHAW is on the guest list. Young Marguerite has led a sheltered existence that has given birth to an intricate universe within her head. She barely exists at all but struts like a deity before her menagerie of dolls and the amoeba caught beneath her owl gaze. When Marguerite’s long lost father (SHAW) bounces into town with fiancée SALLY KELLERMAN on his arm, folks start getting beaten to death by a killer who wields a wooden plank like a possessed Punch puppet. The actual reveal of the mystery killer will hardly leave you doing a spit take but the way the material is handled is seriously haunting regardless.

I’ve always thought the scariest part of 1973’s DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was the eerie conspiratorial bookend whispers. REFLECTION carries a similar unearthly vocal element when dealing with Marguerite’s once treasured now vanquished doll Aaron (voiced by GORDON ANDERSON whose lone other voicing credit is that of the titular RATBOY in LOCKE’s directorial debut). REFLECTION’s PG rating, which it apparently endured many cuts to achieve, may leave it relatively dry in the flowing blood department but it continues to gush with the steady flow of genuine creeps. Really, this film, which sat on the shelf for two years, is a perfect example of the type of fear derived not from violence or bloodshed but from the unease that something generally wrong and unnatural is about to take place. I wasn’t shocked by its ending (man, do I want to ruin it) but I was genuinely disturbed and left with a feeling of unbalance. There are few choppy holes and the action jumps around in a way that left me unclear a few times but the one-two punch of LOCKE’s performance and FRAKER’s sometimes placid and dreamy, sometimes rabid and unruly direction overpowers all. Everybody who knew about this movie and didn’t tell me about it, I am now officially mad at you.

Tags: General Horror · Kids Who Kill

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 FilmFatherNo Gravatar // May 16, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Robert Shaw + Sondra Locke + ’70s horror/thriller = Yay!

    Not available on Netflix = Boo!

    Unk, how or where did you watch this?


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  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 16, 2011 at 9:45 am


    ROF is on Youtube! Definitely check it out!

  • 3 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // May 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Oh wow. I’m so glad you reviewed this cause a while back I watched the first couple of segments on Youtube (why I didn’t finish it I do not know) and could NOT remember the name of it or how I stumbled upon it – and I couldn’t get it out of my head – with the creepy doll talking to her and all that!

    Thank you (for the millionth, zillionth time)!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm


    I wonder if the title being so unmemorable is exactly why this one does not get mentioned more often. I think if they just called it “Marguerite” it might have helped. The original book it’s based on (which I just got in the mail today) is called “Go to thy Deathbed”!

  • 5 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // May 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    It is a confusing title. I still haven’t seen all of it so I don’t know if there is anything fearful having to do with a reflection (or a deathbed, for that matter) in the movie.

    I actually thought I had read about it here so when I was trying to figure out what it was I looked through the movie review section for all the names of movies that might have something to do with a doll or a crazy chick. A fruitless endeavor on all counts.

  • 6 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // May 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I watched the whole thing yesterday and while I agree its the kind of creepy I like they lost me with the ending. Does it even make SENSE? Not just the way it was poorly edited….just …if this movie was made today I would accuse them of tacking that ending on as a “cheap twist” for “shock vaue”. I almsot feel compelled to watch it AGAIN to see if it pans out and makes more sense.

    Let us know how the book is! Maybe it will explain the motives better than the movie did!

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 18, 2011 at 9:36 am


    I like the ending! That voice on the phone gets me. I think it’s set up that the mom and grandma really hate men and that’s why Marguerite is raised that way. Aaron the discarded doll is sort of the part of Marguerite that was thrown away. (SPOILER) I think that she becomes “Aaron” in the end. I see it sort of as a reverse “Psycho”. Reminded me of this great book called “The Wasp Factory” by Ian Banks

    The part that I didn’t fully understand is the younger love interest that shows up out of the blue. Wasn’t he the waiter at the start of the film? I did read that the film was heavily edited so maybe that explains the holes?

    Still, the atmosphere and performances are such that they allow me to forgive some choppy storytelling. I look forward to watching it again for more clarity.

    The book is already VERY different. The mom and grandma are dead on page 1 and it all takes place in 1890!!!! Wha? I can’t wait for Aaron to show up.

  • 8 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I was also confused about where that “boat guy” came from. They spent the whole movie telling us Margueite never left the grounds of the house and was pretty much raised in solitude.

    MAJOR SPOILERS: Did the Dad KNOW Margeuite’s ‘secret”???? END OF SPOILERS

    But Im a sucker for creepy dolls and creepy whispered voices s o the movie worked IN PARTS for me. I really wish someone had tigtened the screws a bit! It just misses the mark for me.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 18, 2011 at 11:34 am


    I’m pretty sure the Dad did not know. It’s weird the way you hear the phone voice over the scene of him finding out. I wonder if that VO was left from something filmed with him on the phone? I hope there is still a longer unedited R version out there.

    I see it like a puzzle that is sadly missing a couple pieces but I still love the unfinished image of the puzzle that we are left with.

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 18, 2011 at 6:37 am

    ROF was on Fearnet yesterday and it reminded me that I had read the Sondra Locke biography and it explains a bit about why the ending of the movie is the way it is. Apparently, (SPOILER) The ending reveal of Marguerite being a boy was filmed showing her having male genitalia but they were not allowed to use any of it so the phone voice over was attached to explain. I guess full frontal was just too much for the ratings board at the time but just think if it had passed it would have beaten “Sleepaway Camp”‘s surprise ending to the screen by a decade!

  • 11 Sleepaway CampNo Gravatar // Dec 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    This review is tops. Outfuckingstanding. I am curious to know what you thought of the book.. Very curious. I read it years ago and felt somewhat boo about it. I was expecting it to be just like the movie, only more graphic with more history on Marguerites childhood.

  • 12 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Dec 5, 2011 at 11:33 pm


    Thank You. I have to admit I did not get very far with the book. I too was hoping that it would add some insight to the movie but it’s a different beast all together.

    I’ll have to remember to bring up REFLECTION if anybody ever says to me “The book is always better than the movie!” In this case I’ll take the movie for sure!

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