DAY FOUR of The William Castle Blogathon & Favourite Five Series: WILLIAM CASTLE
Welcome to DAY FOUR of The William Castle Blogathon! I really can not thank the talented folks who have contributed to this event enough! Your entertaining features and your enthusiastic participation has made co-hosting this event an absolute pleasure! Hot Damn! You people rock! And the Castle mayhem continues! We have a jammed-packed day of events for you so step right up! Let’s take a gander…
“Nobody Draws Faster Than Masterson of Kansas” My Kind of Story is ready to draw with his Masterson Of Kansas (1954) Image Gallery!
“Fate dials the number…terror answers the phone!”
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear reviews I Saw What You Did (1965)!
She Blogged by Night swam through a pool of sharks to bring you their review for Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)!
Mercy? Or no mercy? Anti-Film School reviews Mr. Sardonicus (1961)!
Like your information graphic? Well The Droid You’re Looking For has just what you need! The William Castle Gimmick Infographic! Here’s an appetizer…
TOP: Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, Homicidal, 13 Ghosts, The Tingler
BOTTOM: Mr. Sardonicus, 13 Frightened Girls, Strait-Jacket, I Saw What You Did, Zotz
The Droid invites you to use these icons if you so desire.
Lights! Camera! Action! Scenes from the Morgue is showcasing newspaper ads for William Castle films!
You don’t have to call ahead…just boogie right over to The Last Drive In to see the rest of the Castle-tastic lineup!!
***Favourite Five Series: WILLIAM CASTLE***
This is the second entry in my Favourite Five Series; a post I intend on making a regular feature. William Castle has 63 director credits listed on IMDB. Castle was under contract with Columbia and directed several of their films through the 1940s and 50s. He earned a reputation through the period of being a director who could produce a competent film; do it quickly, and under budget. Castle grew tired of the contract work and was determined to make his own film. Castle mortgaged his house and made Macabre. Macabre was the first of his gimmick flicks; he gave out life insurance policies from Lloyd’s of London in case patrons should die of fright while watching the film. This is the period of Castle’s career that has been my focus. I have seen all seventeen films from Macabre onward directed by Castle. Six of the seventeen were first time watches for this feature and two of those first time watches made this list!
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)
Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook Jr., Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman
Vincent Price made two films with William Castle in 1959; The Tingler and House on Haunted Hill. I am a huge fan of both films and a huge fan of Vincent Price. Vincent Price is one of my all time favourite actors who I have loved ever since I was a child. Vincent Price was all over the place when I was a kid. He was a regular on the game show Hollywood Squares (which my parents watched religiously), The Hilarious House of Frankenstein and Batman but it was all about his movies for me. I love all his 60s Corman flicks, The Last Man on Earth, Witchfinder General and especially my two very favourite Price flicks The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Theater of Blood. But before all those came House of Wax, The Fly, The Bat and of course William Castle’s The Tingler and House on Haunted Hill.
In House on Haunted Hill Vincent Price plays Frederick Loren; an eccentric millionaire who invites five people to a haunted house in honor of his wife Annabelle’s birthday. He offers each one $10,000 if they will stay the night. They only have a short time to decide because at midnight the doors are locked, and no one will be allowed to leave until the caretakers return in the morning. Vincent Price is not House on Haunted Hill’s only highlight. If you missed my Tuesday post The Women of Castle, Carol Ohmart was one of six women featured. Ohmart was inspiringly cast and is the perfect duelling partner for Mr. Price. Annabelle despises her husband through and through and they have some very entertaining and spirited conversations. Elisha Cook Jr. who plays the nervous Watson Pritchard is also a highlight. Pritchard spends the entire film wringing his hands and talking incessantly about murder and ghosts. House on Haunted Hill has a simple but compelling plot with a neat double cross/twist in the finale. Castle makes the most of the big rambling house and its many rooms and creates some nice atmosphere. The film is not without its suspense; it is not without its hokey elements either. Hokey or not; how can you not love that caretaker couple and that walking skeleton?! I’m loving the pit of acid in the basement; it is something every great villain should have equipped in their basement! And who doesn’t love party favors? Especially when they come in little coffin-shaped boxes! Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart’s performances are a massive highlight of House on Haunted Hill but it is also just a ton of fun! “Don’t stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me, it makes wrinkles.”
Starring: Marcel Marceau, Tsilla Chelton, Philippe Clay, Cindy Eilbacher, Helena Kallianiotes, Larry Bishop, Don Calfa, Biff Manard, Mondo
I was unable to find a trailer or clip for Shanks. As a matter of fact, I was unable to find much of anything on Shanks period. I am surprised they bothered to do lobby cards for the film. Pictured on the lobby card above is Marcel Marceau who plays Malcolm Shanks and Tsilla Chelton who plays Mrs. Barton (and was featured in my The Woman of Castle post). A shame this lobby card is black and white; I thought the film’s coloring was very appealing. Mrs. Barton’s striking red hair and lime green dress was a vision! As a matter of fact all of Mrs. Barton’s ensembles were a sight to see; like a twisted Holly Hobbie doll! It is a wonderful little touch to make her wardrobe something a doll might wear. I will explain that significance momentarily. Before the film begins we are told it is a “Grim Fairy Tale”. The film begins and ends with central character Malcolm Shanks putting on a puppet show. Shanks is a fantasy that twists the idea of reanimation into something very unique; twisting it into something that suits the talents of its star Marcel Marceau. In this fairy tale mute puppeteer Malcolm Shanks performs a puppet show for a group of kids. The group of joyful patrons includes Old Walker and Celia. Shanks and Celia are friends and he has promised to perform a puppet show for her birthday. Shanks lives with Mrs. Barton, the wife of his dead brother and pays rent as a tenant. Mrs. Barton is re-married to a drunk with a bad temper; the couple are not kind to Shanks. Shanks gets work with wealthy eccentric inventor Old Walker. Walker dies suddenly leaving behind his latest invention that can animate the inanimate. I shall not spoil how (Mr. Barton’s death is especially great) but the Barton’s meet their demise relatively early in the film. Mr. and Mrs. Barton spend the balance of the story as corpses controlled by puppeteer Malcolm Shanks. Celia learns of Shanks remote-controlled corpses and is initially horrified but relents to the idea cautiously. Celia celebrates her birthday with Shanks and is served cake by the Bartons which is when Shanks takes a dark turn. The chapter title reads “The Outside World of Evil”: which segues into a shot of a gang of bikers. One of the bikers is killed and the gang ends up bringing the body into Old Walker’s mansion where they are presently celebrating Celia’s birthday.
Shanks is unlike anything else on Castle’s resume. I think it is such a unique and appealing entry. This was definitely a collaborative effort between Marcel Marceau and William Castle. Marceau apparently contributed significantly to every aspect of the film. Marceau’s speciality is mime and Shanks incorporates a lot of that type of body work in its plot. Corpses are controlled like puppets! Marceau plays dual roles in the film; Malcolm Shanks and Old Walker. As Old Walker he gets to do his thing and it is truly magic! Shanks has some difficulty getting accustomed to the re-animator’s controls and attempts to get Old Walker’s corpse from a horizontal position into an armchair. Like every scene in the film that features the re-animated characters it is a huge treat! Marceau is immensely talented! Giving him a run for his miming money is Tsilla Chelton a former member of his troupe in Paris and she is simply superb as Mrs. Barton. Revisiting Mrs. Barton’s wardrobe it seemed like a fitting detail to put her in doll-like dresses being that she was manipulated like one. Philippe Clay who plays Mr. Barton does some pretty great mime work also. Cindy Eilbacher was well-cast as Celia; she is sweet and likable but not at all sugary. The bikers have names like Genghis Kahn, Einstein and Goliath. Shanks features biker flick veteran Larry Bishop (The Savage Seven, Angel Unchained, Chrome and Hot Leather) who plays Napoleon and Don Calfa (Return of the Living Dead) who plays Einstein. The film is presented in chapters with these wonderful imaginative chapter titles. I wasn’t entirely happy with the way this GIF turned out so I did not include it in my Fun With GIFs post; for the sake of illustrating the chapters for you it works well enough.
Shanks is a fairy tale with a theatrical vibe…I could see it translating perfectly into a stage play. It is also not without its Grand-Guignol elements. Shanks is funny, surprising, clever, beautiful, well-acted, occasionally violent and it has Marcel Marceau and bikers! Shanks is a genuine one-of-a-kind entry from the 70s worth its weight in gold!
Starring: Joan Marshall (as Jean Arless), Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, James Westerfield, Gilbert Green
The trailers and promotional spots for William Castle flicks are such a delicious treat! I can not recommend more highly watching the above charming promotional bit for Castle’s 1961 film Homicidal. William Castle gets on-the-spot audience reactions to Homicidal. I particularly enjoyed the serious young man who shook Castle’s hand and told him “I think Alfred Hitchcock is going to have to go a long way to try to top something like this.” He surely went into sales when he got older. Castle gave out money back guarantees for those too frightened to see Homicidal’s shocking finale. You could leave the theatre during the fright break and get a refund but you had to stand in the Coward’s Corner until the audience was let out. When you paid .70 cents to see a William Castle movie you got your .70 cents worth! Castle went the distance to give audiences a special experience; but an evening with Homicidal’s Emily is well worth the price of admission on its own. Apparently my favourite William Castle films also feature my favourite female performances. Joan Marshall is another actress featured in my Women of Castle piece. Marshall is deviously delightful in Homicidal. Joan Marshall IS Homicidal. An attractive blond woman checks into a hotel under the name Miriam Webster. She offers a bellhop $2000 to marry her assuring him the marriage would be annulled immediately after. They drive to the home of a justice of the peace who Miriam stabs to death. We learn that she is the caretaker for a mute wheelchair-bound woman named Helga. The plot thickens when we meet the real Miriam Webster. We learn our former Miriam is actually Emily who is employed by Miriam’s half-brother Warren. We also learn Warren is about to come into a large fortune. Homicidal’s story is surprisingly dark and includes themes of child abuse and sexuality. It is a spoiler for me to divulge the sexual nature of the film; but I think most people will figure it out pretty quickly. Despite knowing the reveal/twist it did not spoil my enjoyment of Homicidal at all.
The film drew comparisons to Psycho when it was released. Castle apparently held focus groups through his fan clubs asking members if they had seen and enjoyed Psycho and if they would go see a similar film. There is no denying a few similarities but Homicidal is uniquely William Castle and a fine thriller in its own right. Castle’s meaty opening sequence hooked me right away. Emily stabs the justice of the peace multiple times and the scene is surprisingly violent particularly for a film from 1961. Homicidal is an efficient little thriller with a lively pace and little unnecessary dialog. The highlight here as aforementioned is Emily. This callous, catty, confused, conniving, and cold-blooded murderess is in a class all her own. The attractive blond in her conservative gingham print dress threatening Helga her mute wheel-chair bound charge with her newly sharpened surgical knife is just one of copious “moments” for Emily. Emily has dozens of them and every freaking last one of them is a gem of unrestrained emotion! Angry, pouty, fretful, sad, irritated and homicidal; Emily emotes and emotes and emotes some more! Joan Marshall completely lets loose in the role of Emily and I really couldn’t imagine any one else in this role. It is too much fun watching her terrorize Helga; who evidently is no innocent party in this story. Actress Eugenie Leontovich is quite good as Helga despite not speaking a word. I enjoy this film more with every viewing. Homicidal is a good horror-thriller but it is Joan Marshall’s entertaining and memorable performance that makes it special.
THE NIGHT WALKER (1964)
Starring: Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Judi Meredith, Hayden Rorke, Rochelle Hudson, Jess Barker, Marjorie Bennett, Lloyd Bochner, Tetsu Komai
This was my first viewing of The Night Walker; William Castle’s 1964 horror-thriller written by Robert Bloch. The Night Walker stars Barbara Stanwyck as Irene Trent; it would be Stanwyck’s final feature film. Stanwyck stars opposite Robert Taylor whom she was married to from 1939 to 1951. The Night Walker was one of the last black and white films released by Universal and it is definitely a gem. Irene is in a bitterly unhappy marriage to blind millionaire inventor Howard Trent. Irene’s paranoid husband has been recording her and believes she is having an affair. Irene does indeed have a lover…in her dreams. Irene is talking sweet nothings in her sleep which is only increasing Howard’s paranoia. Irene is suddenly freed from her oppressive relationship when Howard dies in an explosion in his laboratory. Barbara decides to move out of the huge house and into a small apartment in the back of a beauty salon she owns. She begins to have increasingly vivid dreams that take on a decidedly nightmarish quality. The dreams are so vivid she feels certain they are not dreams at all. The Night Walker opens with the questions; What are dreams? What do they mean? What do you know about the secret world you visit when you sleep?” I desperately wanted to know! The visuals in the opening sequence of The Night Walker were absolutely fantastic! A trippy series of images, blinking eyeballs, flying women! The dream sequences through the entire film are all beautifully done. Particularly brilliant is a scene where Irene is swept away by her dream lover to a nightmare wedding attended and officiated over by mannequins! Unforgettable! I wish there had been more dream sequences! The effects are also well done. The melted face and dead white eyes of Howard Trent are quite haunting!
The Night Walker has an intriguing plot that kept me invested and Barbara Stanwyck is really fantastic in her role. She is empathetic and likable but never wishy-washy. Barbara Stanwyck is not only a talented actress she is one hell of a screamer! Bloody hell that woman can scream! She has a few pretty brilliant scenes where she shouts, screams and shakes her fists at the sky! “I cant wake up!” “I can’t wake up!” “I CAN’T WAKE UP!” Robert Taylor plays Barry Moreland; Howard’s lawyer, and the only person allowed inside the estate. I found Barry a little on the stiff side personally but apparently he was very attractive to woman. Irene is attracted to Barry but they don’t dwell on this, it is more of a passing observation. The chemistry between Barry and Irene was comfortable enough but not particularly endearing. I enjoyed Taylor in the role nonetheless. The neat little soundtrack by Vic Mizzy is a nice compliment to the film. I posted a piece of music from the The Night Walker yesterday. The Night Walker is one of Castle’s strongest stories and is a great little horror thriller with a perfect mood and atmosphere and excellent performances well worth seeing just to get an earful of Barbara Stanwyck screaming.
THE TINGLER (1959)
Starring: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge
The Tingler is a favourite from childhood. I was born long after The Tingler came out in theatres but I watched a lot of classic horror as a kid thanks to my father who was a huge fan. The Tingler would have been a pretty fabulous film-going experience though. Castle presented The Tingler in Percepto. Percepto allowed certain “more sensitive” audience members to feel what the characters on-screen allegedly feel. Buzzers were tucked under random seats in the theatre to buzz butts at appropriate moments. Add some planted audience members who pretend to faint and are carried out by doctors and you get so much more than just a movie! What a hoot! The only way to stop The Tingler is to scream! “Don’t forget…screaming will save your life!” Pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin believes that a powerful creature created by fear manifests itself on the spine leaving it cracked. He nicknames the phenomena The Tingler and is desperate to prove his theory true. He gets a chance to do so after meeting Ollie Higgins and his mute wife Martha. If screaming can paralyze the creature and effectively kill it, what would happen if a person could not scream? That is an outrageous premise; almost as outrageous as The Tingler itself. The Tingler looks like a fat spinal cord with legs and two big antennae….it also looks a lot like a silverfish actually. I enjoy the hell out of The Tingler but that may be one of the most un-frightening creatures ever created. I would almost go so far as to say cute. In fact, i would probably buy a Tingler plush! Don’t get me wrong, The Tingler is very much part of The Tingler’s charm! All the scenes featuring The Tingler are superbly fun; especially the movie theatre scene!
You also get to see Vincent Price having an acid trip! Dr. Chapin is seen reading “Fright Effects Induced By Injection Of Lysergic Acid LSD25 – A Preliminary Report.” The Tingler was allegedly the first film to feature the use of acid as a drug. Price’s trip is too great! Price of course is super fantastic as Dr. Chapin. I could watch Vincent Price making paper airplanes for 90 minutes. Although brief, I enjoyed the banter between Dr. Chapin and his wife Isabel played by Patricia Cutts. Isabel enjoys reminding her husband that without her he would have nothing. All the cast are good but Judith Evelyn who plays Martha Higgins is a real standout. Martha of course does not utter a word the entire film. Martha and her husband Ollie own a repertoire theatre that plays silent films. The intense and animated Martha seems as though she may be a star of the silent screen herself. Evelyn does a wonderful job. The Tingler has some neat visuals that quite impressed me. A splash of color in a black and white film is going to catch your eye; and the blood-filled bathtub in The Tingler is certainly a dazzler! The Tingler is camplicious entertainment and it is camp that boasts solid performances, some well-executed effects and a lot of creativity!