‘The Comeback’ a.k.a. ‘Savage Intruder’: Early 1930s Paramount star Miriam Hopkins as late 1960s Norma Desmond
Savage Intruder was shot in 1970 but (briefly) released in 1974, and is also known as either Hollywood Horror House (the video edition) or The Comeback (its production title).
The film stars Miriam Hopkins, in her last big-screen role, as a drunken, washed-up Norma Desmond-ish movie queen living in a decaying mansion in the Hollywood Hills, watching her old movies while referring to herself in the third person.
John David Garfield (John Garfield’s son) plays the young psychopath who seduces her. Gale Sondergaard plays the mysterious housekeeper, Lez (that is her name), who is justifiably suspicious of the nurse (Garfield) hired to take care of the ailing ex-star. Minta Durfee – formerly, Mrs. Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle – has a brief role in the film, too.
Despite writer-director-producer Donald H. Wolfe’s inconsistent handling of the material and the film’s minuscule budget, Savage Intruder has some interesting things to say about the decadence of late-1960s Hollywood. For instance, in an early scene a tour bus cruising the Hollywood Hills must come to a halt so a little girl can step outside to puke. Additionally, Old Hollywood is contrasted with New Hollywood through numerous scenes of hippies and assorted rebellious youth thriving in a place that used to stand for glamour and style.
Unfortunately, the whole production cries out for some serious editing and faster pacing to make the suspense more compelling. In fact, a pair of sharp scissors were needed during the long, annoying music-cacophony sequences.
The Savage Intruder shenanigans were filmed at the (alleged) estate of former silent film superstar Norma Talmadge. The film was one of the last in the “horror hags” cycle, and it remains quite a curiosity piece.
© Danny Fortune
Note from Editor: So far, there’s apparently no evidence that Norma Talmadge actually had any association with the so-called Norma Talmadge Estate. Director Maurice Tourneur reportedly had it built in the early 1920s, and silent film star Madge Bellamy once lived there. I’d like to thank researcher Greta de Groat and author Allan Ellenberger, currently working on a Miriam Hopkins biography, for their assistance.
The Comeback / Savage Intruder (1970). Dir. / Scr.: Donald H. Wolfe. Cast: Miriam Hopkins, John David Garfield (a.k.a. David Garfield), Gale Sondergaard, Florence Lake, Lester Matthews, Joe Besser, Virginia Wing, Riza Royce, Charles Martin, Minta Durfee.