Category Archives: 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.

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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

Not happy with your choices for president? How about this one?

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Here’s a promo shot of William Castle out plugging his wonderful 13 Ghosts (1960) with a bogus run for president. Wouldn’t his campaign TV commercials have been great?

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Blu-ray News #50: I Saw What You Did (1965).

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Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Leif Erickson, Andi Garrett, Sara Lane

You don’t have to spend much time on my blogs to figure out that I’m a huge William Castle fan. So, around here, Shout Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray release of I Saw What You Did (1965) is a big deal indeed. Watch for it in May.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Shout/Scream Factory, William Castle

DVD News #35: William Castle Horror Collection.

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With their William Castle Horror Collection, Mill Creek’s brought together five Castle pictures into one budget, two-disc package:

13 Ghosts (1960)
Starring Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp. Donald Woods, Margaret Hamilton

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Starring Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka

Homicidal (1961)
Starring Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce

13 Frightened Girls (1963)
Starring Murray Hamilton, Joyce Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Khigh Dhiegh

The Old Dark House (1963)
Starring Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott, Joyce Grenfell

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All are presented widescreen, as they should be. You don’t get a Ghost Viewer for 13 Ghosts, but a pair of red-blue 3-D glasses will work just fine. A terrific set for less than 10 bucks.

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

DVD Review: The Whistler (1944).

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Rudolph C. Flothow
Screen Play by Eric Taylor, Based on a story by Donald Wilson
Suggested by the radio program The Whistler
Cinematography: James S. Brown, Jr.
Film Editor: Jerome Thoms
Music by Wilbur Hatch

Cast: Richard Dix (Earl Conrad), J. Carrol Naish (The Killer), Gloria Stuart (Alice Walker), Alan Dinehart (Gorman), Joan Woodbury (Toni Vigran), Cy Kendall (Bartender), Trevor Bardette (The Thief), Don Costello (Lefty Vigran), Clancy Cooper (Briggs), Byron Foulger (Flophouse Clerk), Otto Forrest (The Whistler), William “Billy” Benedict, Joan Woodbury

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tnWilliam Castle is one of my favorite filmmakers. Has been since I was a kid. From the budget noir of The Whistler series to cheap Westerns like Masterson Of Kansas (1954) to those gimmick-y horror pictures such as House On Haunted Hill (1959), with Castle, you can count on being entertained. And every once in a while, he’ll give you a little more.

Castle’s second film as director, The Whistler (1944) is a tight little mini-noir that put him on the B-movie map. It was a hit for Columbia Pictures and spawned an eight-picture series that’s been on collectors’ Want Lists for decades. They’re finally showing up on DVD from Sony’s Choice Collection.

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Based on the popular CBS radio program, each Whistler movie is a stand-alone story, with Richard Dix starring in all but the last one. He’s a different character every time — sometimes a good guy, sometimes a bad guy. This time around, he’s Earl Conrad, a successful businessman who decides to commit suicide by taking out a contract on himself. He changes his mind, but the guy who set up the hit’s been offed by the cops — and the killer has a very strong work ethic.

It’s obvious that Castle took this assignment very seriously, putting a lot more on the screen than Columbia’s $75,000 budget should allow, building some real suspense and creating a strong sense of doom. As he described in his autobiography, Step Right Up: I’m Gonna Scare the Pants Off America, “To achieve a mood of desperation, I insisted that Dix give up smoking and go on a diet. This made him nervous and irritable, particularly when I gave him early-morning calls and kept him waiting on the set—sometimes for an entire day before using him in a scene… (Dix) was constantly off-center, restless, fidgety and nervous as a cat. When I finally used him in a scene, I’d make him do it over and over again until he was ready to explode. It achieved the desired effect—that of a man haunted by fear and trying to keep from being murdered.”

Richard Dix is convincing as the businessman, becoming more and more harried as the killer’s deadline draws near. J. Carrol Naish is really effective as the hit man, making the most of a part that consists largely of following Dix around and smoking cigarettes. For the rest of the cast, we’re treated to a great lineup of fairly obscure character actors, such as Byron Foulger as the clerk in a flophouse, William “Billy” Benedict of the Bowery Boys as a deaf mute and Joan Woodbury as the widow of the guy Dix saw about the contract (why didn’t she get credit?).

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“I am the Whistler, I know many strange tales.”

With this first Whistler picture, Castle set the rules that the rest of the series followed, no matter who directed: Richard Dix, except for that last film; the Whistler, who comments (and whistles) from the shadows; the heavy presence of Fate; a noir-ish lighting scheme, as much budget as aesthetics; and a running time of right around 60 minutes. This is a terrific B movie, and the series as a whole is outstanding. Castle directed three more entries and they’re as good, if not better, than this one.

To be honest, I’m so excited to have these movies showing up on video, I’m not all that concerned with how they look. But I’m happy to report that The Whistler looks great on DVD. Contrast is near-perfect, which is important for a movie that spends so much time in the dark. The source material is crisp and clean. There are no extras. The third picture, The Power Of The Whistler (1945), directed by Lew Landers, has also been released, with two more entries promised for June.

It’s always baffled me how these gems are so often overlooked. Let’s hope these DVDs will help remedy that. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, The Whistler series, William Castle

DVD News #28: The Whistler (1944) And The Power Of The Whistler (1945).

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Directed by William Castle
Starring Richard Dix, J. Carrol Naish, Gloria Stuart

William Castle’s second time out as director and the first of the eight-picture series based on radio’s The Whistler program. (Castle would direct four of them.) This is a top-notch little mystery/noir film — and it’s a real treat to have it make its way to DVD from Sony’s Choice Collection. This series has been on my Want List for decades.

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Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Richard Dix, Janis Carter, Jeff Donnell

This third Whistler picture has Lew Landers at the helm. Though Richard Dix is in seven of the eight films, he plays a different character each time. Otto Forrest is the narrator. Again, it’s coming from Sony’s Choice Collection.

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Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Whistler series, William Castle