I saw it for the first time sometime later, in 1977 or 1978, perhaps, and it absolutely terrorized my young psyche.
Along with her work-obsessed husband, Alex (Jim Hutton) -- who is devoted to becoming a partner in his law firm -- she moves into her grandmother's grand old country estate. There, she soon discovers an oddity in the basement study: the fireplace is sealed-up. Not just sealed-up, in fact, but barricaded. The bricks are reinforced with iron bars.
Perhaps all the way down to Hell itself...
They knock an ashtray from her night stand in the middle of the night; they tug at her skirt and won't let go; they turn off the lights in the bathroom while she's showering. They even go at her with a straight razor.
Turns out that Sally's grandfather opened up that fireplace once before -- for the first time since the house was constructed in the 1880s, in fact. And he paid the price for his curiosity. One night, his wife heard cries and screams from the downstairs study. And something horrible dragged her husband down into the fireplace shaft. He was never seen again.
She awakens in time to see the rope tying her ankles together, and she clutches the nearby furniture for dear life as her diminutive nemeses tug and tug. She grabs a flash camera and snaps their photograph, exposing them to the damaging light of the flash bulb for an instant...
Little things - literally, little monsters - keep getting in the way of the relationship, driving a wedge between the couple.
Again, without putting too fine a point on it, there's a psychological equivalent to this Pandora's Box (the fireplace...) in the film too.
Quite the contrary, by probing and questioning the way things are in her marriage, Sally is chipping away at the brick and mortar foundation of unquestioned, traditional male/female roles in such relationships. Just as she takes a hammer and cracks open the bricks in that fireplace, releasing anarchy, chaos and terror, she won't take for granted the status quo in her personal life either.
Not unexpectedly, Alex is incapable of doing the same; and in the end, he fails his wife miserably. He loses her to the "darkness."
On the latter front, I would point to a beautifully-composed shot of the depressed, terrified Sally sitting in a white-walled ante-room. She's bracketed by curtains, and outside them is pervasive darkness; the domain of the little devils. It's clear from this deliberate "bracketing" that Sally's space -- even in a large house -- is becoming increasingly constricted and small. Much how she feels about her own role in he marriage to Alex.
All of these tele-films, including this John Newland entry, featured a cinematic flair and a deep, palpable sense of dread. Hard to believe they were made for TV, and played to mass audiences, including kids. Today, these productions seem more chilling (and filled with disturbing implications) than many theatrical horror flicks I review here.
Like I said, this one really terrorized me as a child.
You leave it in abject terror, and you will, in fact, fear the darkness.