Category Archives: Barbara Stanwyck

Blu-Ray Review: The Night Walker (1964).

Produced & Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Block
Director Of Photography: Howard E. Stine
Music by Vic Mizzy

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Irene Trent), Robert Taylor (Barry Morland), Hayden Rorke (Howard Trent), Lloyd Bochner (The Dream), Judith Meredith (Joyce), Rochelle Hudson (Hilda), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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I love William Castle. There’s something about his movies that’s just Fun. It’s easy to see it in the gimmick-y things like The Tingler (1959) or 13 Ghosts (1960). But it’s there in the noir-ish The Whistler (1944), the whacked-out Biblical “epic” Slaves Of Babylon (1953) — just imagine: Sam Katzman tackles the Old Testament and includes a dance number by Julie Newmar, and everything in-between.

Throughout a Castle movie, it’s like he’s whispering in our ear, “I know this is really ridiculous, but ain’t it great?”

Yes, Mr. Castle, it is great

Robert Taylor, William Castle and Barbara Stanwyck at a party for The Night Walker.

By the time he got to The Night Walker (1964), Castle had stored the gimmick machine in his garage. The ballyhoo was still over the top, with Castle hamming it up in the preview trailer and some sort of monster appearing on the poster, but nowhere in the movie. But that was pretty much it.

If anything, the gimmick to The Night Walker is its cast. Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor had been married from 1939 to 1951, so there was an odd, gossip-y appeal to seeing these two big stars “together again” (as the poster boasted). Then there’s the weirdness of Hayden Rorke,  Dr. Bellows on I Dream Of Jeannie, unrecognizable (to say nothing of hideous and creepy-looking, above) as Stanwyck’s blind, rich, obsessive, jealous and severely-burned husband.

Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel Psycho, cooked up a pretty good murder plot, dressed up in all sorts of psychological dream-interpreting mumbo-jumbo. Like Stanwyck, we aren’t sure what’s real and what’s a dream. A cool prologue, narrated by the great Paul Frees, kicks things off with talk of nightmares and sex and desires and dreams and stuff.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for ya. A lot of it doesn’t make any sense, anyway.

One of the picture’s strongest points is its score by Vic Mizzy, who also did The Munsters and The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966). His work here is slightly reminiscent of those, with a cool guitar riff doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Then there’s the camera work by Howard E. Stein. He shot a staggering amount of TV in the 50s and 60s. His limited feature work includes several of Castle’s later pictures, along with MASH (1970) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He masterfully manages what we can, and can’t, see in the shadows. And that’s crucial to a movie like this.

Which brings us to the new Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. It’s beautiful, offering up Stine’s work with stunning clarity. The grain and contrast are perfect. The audio is dead on, giving Mizzy’s score plenty of punch. Then there’s a nice batch of extras: the trailer, a commentary and a hefty still gallery. This is a terrific release, and while The Night Walker isn’t what I consider one of Castle’s best, the presentation easily elevates it to Essential status.

One more thing. The set decorator on The Night Walker was John McCarthy, Jr. He was at Republic for years, working on everything from The Crimson Ghost (1946) to Trigger, Jr. (1950) to The Quiet Man (1952). He stayed at the studio to the bitter end, then worked in TV — Cimarron City, M Squad, Frontier Doctor, etc. McCarthy ended up at Universal, working on features like The Shakiest Gun In The West (1968), Coogan’s Bluff (1968) and The Hellfighters (1969) and TV shows such as Leave It To Beaver, The Munsters and two of my favorites, Dragnet and Adam-12. The fact that he worked with Republic, William Castle and Jack Webb shows he must’ve been good, quick and dependable.

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Filed under 1964, Barbara Stanwyck, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #148: The Night Walker (1964).

Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Bloch
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Judith Meredith, Hayden Rorke, Lloyd Bochner

Halloween’s the perfect day for an announcement like this. Scream Factory is bringing The Night Walker (1964) from the great William Castle to Blu-Ray in early 2018. (To me, William Castle owns Halloween.)

This was Barbara Stanwyck’s last theatrical film, and it found her co-starring with her ex-husband Robert Taylor. William Castle had a good script from Robert Block to work with, and the result is one of his best movies. It’ll be a real treat to see Harold Stine’s 1.85 photography in high definition. Not sure what extras, if any, are planned (but I can recommend someone for a commentary). Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, Barbara Stanwyck, DVD/Blu-ray News, Robert Taylor, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #149: Crime Of Passion (1957).

Directed by Gerd Oswald
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr, Fay Wray, Virginia Grey, Royal Dano

ClassicFlix has Gerd Oswald’s Crime Of Passion (1957) on the way, both Blu-Ray and DVD. This was an early direction gig for Oswald, but he did some great stuff right out of the gate, such as A Kiss Before Dying (1956) and Fury At Showdown (1957, a personal favorite). He had a real knack for getting the most out of a tiny budget and tinier schedule — and the results are always stylish. This made him perfect for later TV work like The Outer Limits and Star Trek.

Of course, with a cast like this one — Stanwyck, Hayden, Burr, etc., how could he miss? Crime Of Passion was dismissed as just another B noir back in the day, and it certainly deserves the reappraisal it’s received over the years. It’ll be great to have it spiffed up on Blu-Ray, where Joseph LaShelle’s camerawork can really shine. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Barbara Stanwyck, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gerd Oswald, Sterling Hayden