Retro Review: Three in the Attic (1968)

Three in the Attic (1968) – Collecting dust in obscurity for years, Three in the Attic is, without a doubt, one of the strangest films of the 1960s which is waiting to be rediscovered and achieve the cult status that it disserves.

Minor 1960’s film stud Christopher Jones plays college student Paxton Quigley who is famous amongst his fraternity brothers for having “fifty scores before he was a sophomore.”    When he meets nice girl Tobey Clinton, played by minor screen siren Yvette Mimieux, at a frat party the pair enter a sweet relationship in which Tobey expects Paxton to be true to only her.  However, unable to keep his libido satisfied, Paxton begins sleeping with another two women who attend the same neighboring woman’s college that Tobey attends – black soul sister Eulice (Judy Pace) and tripped out Jewish flower child Jan (Maggie Thrett).  Juggling the three women in secret for months, Paxton decides to finally commit to Tobey, but it’s too late.  Upon discovering each other, the three girls devise a horrible punishment for Paxton – to kill him with the ultimate male fantasy.  Keeping him prisoner in a dormitory attic and feeding him only steak the three young voluptuous women attempt to torture Paxton Quigley to death by keeping him awake for weeks on end with non stop sex.

Three in the Attic is a bizarre film for many reasons with the first and foremost being the fact that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.  Although the plot would lend itself nicely to being a psychological thriller, an exploitation grindhouse film or even a horror film, it is hardly any of these  Released a year after The Graduate, Three in the Attic seems to be attempting to be a follow up in the same vein, copying the same type of mood, tone, tame sexual humor (there isn’t any real nudity and only the suggestion of sexual acts) and even has its own folk/pop soundtrack provided by British pop duo Chad and Jeremy.  It seems that writer Stephen Yafa intended Three in the Attic to be a comedy, but in all honesty the film just isn’t all that funny.  Meanwhile, it is far too surreal to really be a drama.  Three in the Attic just doesn’t seem to fall into any real defined film genre, making it truly unique.

Christopher Jones and Yvette Yvette Mimieux as Paxton Quigley and Tobey Clinton in "Three in the Attic" (1968)

What makes Three in the Attic worth watching is the pure coolness of the film.  Although it is a movie that would have been considered dated fifteen years ago, it has now matured itself into being deliciously retro.  Full of psychedelic imagery, silly 60’s stereotypes, groovy fashions and outdated sexual attitudes, Three in the Attic is a time capsule of what was probably considered cool in 1968.  Director Richard Wilson attempts to be innovative with freeze frame photography, quick cuts and slow motion camera work but he never quite achieves to become the Michelangelo Antonioni that he desires to be.  Meanwhile, the film caps itself off with a wacked out happy ending followed by an animated sequence between two bickering eggs providing commentary on the film as the credits role (this can only be seen to be understood…or believed).  Yet it is these subtle flaws in the film that sort of add an almost hypnotic draw for the viewer making Three in the Attic truly memorable.

The soundtrack to "Three in the Attic" was provided by British pop/folk duo Chad and Jeremy

Three in the Attic also succeeds as a result of cast made up of young and likeable Hollywood lightweights.  Although Christopher Jones has his own fan base, he grunts through the role as a Marlon Brando/James Dean wanna-be.  However, in some strange way it works for this film.  Yvette Mimiuex, probably the most successful of the actors in the film, is likeable and pretty and the viewer stays sympathetic to her as her mentally stability breaks down once she learns of her lover’s betrayal.  Judy Pace is a true delight as a stereotypical black soul sister, who in one pivotal scene, is outed as a phony when Paxton discovers her teaching grammar to a school room of children, revealing her southern hipster lingo to be a put on.  Maggie Thrett, who is best remembered for her role of Ruth in the classic Star Trek episode Mudd’s Women, is easily my favorite of the three women, who is possibly the funniest of the characters with her spaced out philosophy (“Do you think it’s possible for a woman to be both Jewish and psychedelic at the same time?”)  Also worth noting is the appearance by Richard Derr as Yvette Mimiuex’s father, who provides one of the most realistic film fathers of the era.  His honest and challenging confrontation with Paxton when the pair meet for the first time goes against the film stereotype of the father’s of pretty young girls and is a refreshing change to the usual bellowing and hollow threats usually connected to such characters.

 Three in the Attic is one of the true forgotten gems of the 1960s.  Although it has surprisingly never been released on DVD, Three in the Attic is a popular bootleg and can be purchased from a number of web-sites offering rare and hard to find films (I purchased my copy via http://www.modcinema.com/) If you come across a copy of Three in the Attic don’t dare miss this strange little film.  If you want to take a chance on something truly different, take a chance and track down a copy.  It is worth the price, and is a worthwhile addition to any DVD collection.

  1. Irene’s avatar

    Just a quick note to say that I recently re-watched this film, and could not agree with you more. It is far more complex and interesting than it is given credit for.

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