Category Archives: William Castle

Blu-Ray News #167: An Evening With Joan Crawford.

Mill Creek Entertainment has announced an upcoming twin-bill Blu-Ray of two Joan Crawford horror pictures, Strait-Jacket (1964) from William Castle and Berserk (1967), produced by Herman Cohen.

Strait-Jacket
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson

William Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up.

Berserk!
Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Starring Joan Crawford, Ty Hardin, Michael Gough, Diana Dors, Judy Geeson

This time, Miss Crawford runs a circus where people keep winding up dead — in the most grisly ways. Berserk‘s in Technicolor, shot by Desmond Dickinson. Herman Cohen, Michael Gough and Dickinson had already enriched our lives with Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959).

Mill Creek’s double features like this are terrific — they’ve already treated us to a number of Castle and Hammer films. All are a great deal and come highly recommended.

Strait-Jacket is also on its way as a stand-alone Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, which will come with some supplemental stuff. All of a sudden, there’s more Joan Crawford than you can shake an axe handle at.

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Filed under 1964, 1967, Columbia, Desmond Dickinson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Herman Cohen, Joan Crawford, Mill Creek, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #163: The Tingler (1959).

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn,  Philip Coolidge, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln

There’s about to be an open slot on my Blu-Ray Want List — The Tingler (1959) is coming from Scream Factory in August.

It’s maybe William Castle’s most whacked-out and outrageous movie of all. And that’s sayin’ something. A slug-like creature lives in our spines and grows when we’re scared; only screaming will keep it from killing us. And when one of these things (removed from a dead lady’s back by researcher Vincent Price) gets loose in a movie theater, the real audience got buzzed by little whirring motors attached to their seats. That, my friends, is why William Castle is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

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Castle with some of his Tingler cast.

Scream Factory has done a masterful job with all the old horror pictures they’ve put out, and I’m sure this one will be a real beauty — with all sorts of cool extras. God, I can’t wait!

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William Castle and Joan Crawford plugging Strait-Jacket.

Strait-Jacket
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson

And if that’s not enough, Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up. Scream Factory’s bringing the Psycho-inspired Castle masterpiece out at the same time as The Tingler.

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Filed under 1959, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Vincent Price, William Castle

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

Screening: House On Haunted Hill (1959).

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Jr.

The Graham Cinema in nearby Graham, North Carolina, is one of my favorite places to see a movie. So imagine how excited I was to find out one of my all-time favorites films, William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill (1959), will be playing there Friday night, October 20, at 11:30.

House On Haunted Hill adWilliam Castle. Vincent Price. Robb White. Elisha Cook, Jr. Emergo. Even the Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (and just up the street from the infamous Ackermansion). There are a million reasons why this movie’s so wonderful.

8336_cinema_efAdmission’s just $2 and benefits the Shriners Hospital For Children. If you’ve never been to the Graham Cinema, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And of you’ve never seen House On Haunted Hill, I pity you. I really do.

The Graham Cinema
119 N Main St, Graham, NC 27253

UPDATE: I get the supreme honor of introducing the movie Friday night.

Thanks to my daughter Presley for the tip.

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Filed under 1959, Elisha Cook, Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Screenings, Vincent Price, William Castle

Blu-ray Review: I Saw What You Did (1965).

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Produced and Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by William McGivern
Based on the novel Out Of The Dark by Ursula Curtiss
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Music: Van Alexander
Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant

Cast: Joan Crawford (Amy Nelson), John Ireland (Steve Marak), Leif Erickson (Dave Mannering), Sarah Lane (Kit Austin), Andi Garrett (Libby Mannering), Sharyl Locke (Tess Mannering), Patricia Breslin (Ellie Mannering), John Archer (John Austin)

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After the big-time box office of Strait-Jacket (1964), William Castle re-teamed with its star, Joan Crawford, for I Saw What You Did (1965). It’s the story of a couple of high school girls making prank calls, who just happen to say “I saw what you did and I know who you are” to a guy who just killed his wife (John Ireland). This tactical error spurs the thrills and mayhem that make up the rest of the movie.

(In the film’s ads, Castle got a lot of mileage out of the scientific term Uxoricide, which means simply “the act of killing your wife.”)

I saw what you did

William Castle’s at his pseudo-Hitchcockian best here, dialing back the gimmicks and doing a very good job at creating tension. While we often overlook his skills as a director to focus on his genius as a showman, the man knew how to make a movie. Castle’s been one of my favorite filmmakers since I saw House On Haunted Hill (1959) on TV at the age of nine — even without the floating skeletons, I was awestruck.

ISAWWHAT

But back to I Saw What You Did. Joan Crawford only worked four days on it. And though she was a consummate professional, the effects of her ever-present flask can be seen in some scenes — probably the ones shot each afternoon. The aging star intimidated the two teenage players, Andi Garrett and Sara Lane, who are quite good.

Scream Factory has done a great job with I Saw What You Did, mainly by presenting Joseph Biroc’s cinematography well (it’s nice and crisp, with a pleasing amount of wear and tear) and by including trailers and other material to highlight how Castle promoted his film — which he seemed to consider every bit as important as the film itself. This isn’t Castle’s best work, and it’s a long way from Crawford’s, but this Blu-ray is highly recommended. (Scream Factory, I’d like to put in a request for another Castle Universal picture, 1964’s The Night Walker.)

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-ray News #60: William Castle On Blu-ray.

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I’d better type this quick — before I have a heart attack. Four William Castle classics, including 13 Ghosts (1960), are coming to Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment. If I didn’t have a Blu-ray player, I’d be shopping for one now.

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The other three pictures are Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961) and 13 Frightened Girls (1963). They will appear in July as two double bills: 13/13 and Homicidal/Sardonicus. This is essential stuff, folks.

It’s hard to tell from the info available whether we’ll get both the B&W and color versions (to preserve the Illusion-O process) of 13 Ghosts. The DVD, which has been out for years, gave us both — and some reproductions of the Ghost Viewer.

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Filed under 1960, 1961, 1963, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Martin Milner, Mill Creek, William Castle