I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that Pamela Franklin is hardly a name that would trip off the tongue of most horror fans.

In fact, unless you’ve dipped your toes in the murky waters of 60s and 70s British (and some lesser-known US) horror, you may not even have heard of her at all – hardly surprising when you consider Pamela decided to quit the acting game in the early 80s, move to LA and open a bookstore.

Even so, that doesn’t mean her contribution to the world of horror should be forgotten – far from it.

Feminine yet feisty, delicate yet determined, with talent to match her striking on-screen appearance, Pamela’s inclusion was a rubber-stamp of quality for a host of genre efforts in that era.

Franklin was no one-trick pony either, mixing her horror work with appearances in the likes of the Oscar-nominated The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.

Here at Movie Ramblings towers we are always eager to give a deserved shout-out to those noteworthy faces from yesteryear, so we’re kicking off our ‘Women Of Horror Retrospective’ series by revisiting Pamela’s work in our favourite genre.

The Innocents (1961)

Kicking things off with a real bang, Pamela was barely into double figures when she starred in this creepy adaptation of Henry James novel The Turn Of The Screw.

Franklin plays Flora, one of two children under the watch of governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) at Bly, a house that may or may not be haunted.

A real slow-burner, with suggestion and lighting in place of out-and-out shocks, the film is a tremendous study in style, and regularly features in lists of the best horror/suspense films made in the UK.

Pamela’s performance is an integral part of that, with childlike antics and hysteria mixed to great effect, earmarking her as somebody to definitely keep an eye on.

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The Nanny (1965)

In many ways the perfect role for Pamela to progress from child star to adult actress, this Hammer effort sees her play precocious 15-year-old Bobbie, at loggerheads with ‘The Nanny’, played with relish by Bette Davis.

Bobbie befriends Joey Fane, a ten-year-old who is sent back home after a spell at an institution following the drowning of his sister.

Joey is convinced there is something not quite right with Davis’ nanny, even though everyone else fails to see it, leaving Bobbie and Joey to join forces to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Franklin more than holds her own against screen titan Davis, signalling her as a talent that could shine for years to come.

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And Soon The Darkness (1970)

A dark, twisted little tale set in the French countryside, Pamela plays Jane, one of a pair of English girls who head across the channel for a cycling holiday.

After a petty arguement during a stop-off, Jane bikes off in a huff, only to return and find that her friend Cathy (Michelle Dotrice) is nowhere to be found.

Throw in the fact that a tourist was murdered in the same area some time previously, locals who act far too suspiciously for anyone’s liking and a severe lack of ways to communicate with the world at large and you have a recipe for a bad time.

Director Robert Fuest drains every last drop of effectiveness out of the isolated landscapes, and also uses the ingenious device of failing to subtitle any of the French dialogue (of which there is a fair bit), giving the audience an even greater sense of the feelings of confusion, fear and desperation that beset Jane.

It’s not perfect – the pacing flags, and some character choices leave something to be desired, but this is a film that deserves more recognition than it gets (even though it sparked a 2010 remake starring Amber Heard and Karl Urban).

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Necromancy aka The Witching (1972)

In normal circumstances, this would be one to brush under the carpet, but it would be rude to ignore a film that features the late, great Orson Welles as the head of a witches’ coven, wouldn’t it?

In a riff on the likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Necromancy sees Franklin’s Lori Brandon move to the town of Lilith, only to find herself slowly being dragged into the realms of the supernatural.

Throw in some nudity, goats, tarot cards, voodoo and other stuff, and Bert I Gordon’s film is pretty derivative.

Whether you find it enjoyable seems to depend on which version you get to see, as the film appears to have undergone numerous edits, with footage being added/removed, scenes altered, music changes and more – hence the two titles.

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The Legend Of Hell House (1973)

An effective haunted house chiller, which sees Franklin play medium Florence Tanner.

Tanner is part of a four-person team (including the likes of Roddy McDowall) sent to investigate the Belasco House, under the auspices of trying to either prove or disprove life after death.

There are plenty of things that go bump in the night, while the pacing and imposing house itself ensure the whole thing remains an enjoyable watch.

Franklin’s performance in many ways anchors the film (indeed, she gets first billing in the opening credits), a tightrope-walk between believability and hysteria that really works.

Oh, and she fights a possessed cat…….

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Satan’s School For Girls (1973)

A made-for-US-TV Aaron Spelling offering, Pamela stars as Elizabeth, who returns home one day to find her sister has arrived unannounced and promptly hanged herself.

Turns out her sis was enrolled at the Salem Academy For Girls (so we can see where this is going), so Elizabeth decides to go undercover, pose as a student and enrol herself at the academy to try and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Clocking in at just 73 minutes, this effort still ranks as one of my favourite Pamela performances, mainly due to her pixie cut sending her off the charts on the cuteness scale.

Clearly low-budget, with little in the way of effects or chills, the movie still scores thanks to Franklin’s turn, as well as some effective ‘creeping around corridors at night with a lamp’ scenes.

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The Food Of The Gods (1976)

Things were to get even worse for Pamela in this outing, based on a ‘portion’ of a novel by HG Wells.

Franklin plans scientist Lorna, one of a rag-tag bunch of individuals that end up on an island under siege from a host of giant animals, critters that have grown enormous in size after chowing down on some weird goo perfected by one of the locals.

It’s all Z-grade stuff, with the effects ranging from the so-so to the downright awful as huge rats run amok, but for some reason the whole thing remains an entertaining slice of hokum.

Franklin’s role is a bizarre one, calling for her to, among other things, gun down rats with a shotgun, casually ask the hero if he fancies a quick shag while in the midst of fighting off some hungry creatures – oh, and deliver a baby of course.

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I should also make brief mention of Pamela’s work in television, with appearances in 70s horror/supernatural shows such as Night Gallery, Ghost Story and Thriller, which are also worth checking out.

Indeed, it was television that took up the latter part of her career (post Food Of The Gods)  – and it was television that was to end it, with the actress admitting being referred to as ‘the girl’ by a director on the set of one such programme was the trigger to her quitting the business.

Many years on, and it is clear that Franklin has not regretted that decision, but it is safe to say that her gain (in terms of happiness) was very much a genre fan’s loss.

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.