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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

William Castle Tribute III: Oh, the Horror!

In "William Castle Tribute II: Crime and Westerns", I outlined a bit about William Castle's early films, which were mostly in the Crime Drama and Western genres.  I finished the article by stating that in 1958, he began to work his way into the hearts of horror fans.

I said it because it's true.

Up until that year, Crime Dramas and Westerns were popular- which was why many of Castle's early films were in those genres.  However, as the 1960's started to approach, the Horror and Suspense/Thriller genres were starting to gain in popularity... and the man that would become a staple of the Horror Industry went with that flow.

William Castle's first foray into my favorite genre was with what most critics consider a Suspense/Thriller rather than a horror... even though I consider both to be closely connected.  In order to take this step, he mortgaged his own house into order to independently produce the movie.  The 15th of August, 1958 saw the first scenes being filmed, with the last being shot on the 23rd of that same month.

The plot was simple, but elegant: A rich doctor's daughter has been kidnapped and buried alive.  The doctor has to find his daughter before she runs out of air and dies.  The title was also simple and elegant: "Macabre"...

This movie not only heralded William Castle's entrance into the Horror genre- but also marked the first of his "gimmicks".  To market the film, Castle gave each movie goer a certificate for a $1,000.00 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London as they entered as compensation should anyone die of fright during the movie.  He also had ushers dressed in surgical dress, and had real ambulances stationed outside of theaters.

William Castle spent $90,000.00 to make the film, and it made approximately five million dollars.

After that, he went on to make "House on Haunted Hill" and "The Tingler" both with Vincent Price in 1959.  "13 Ghosts" followed in 1960, starring twelve year old Charles Herbet in the top billing spot.  .  Due to the success of "House on Haunted Hill", Hitchcock was inspired to produce, "Psycho"... which in turned inspired Castle- who was a Hitchcock fan to come out with "Homicidal" in 1961.  Along with "House on Haunted Hill", and "The Tingler", William Castle created promotioanl "gimmicks".  "Homicidal" actually had a couple of them- one being added after the film's release.  While most critics were rather unkind to the movie, Time magazine stated:

 "It surpasses "Psycho" in structure, suspense and sheer nervous drive..."
 "Mr. Sardonicus," "13 Frightened Girls," "Strait-Jacket," "I Saw What You Did," "Let's Kill Uncle," all followed between the years of 1961 up to 1968, when William Castle produced the Roman Polanski directed film, "Rosemary's Baby".  Due Castle's reputation for low-budget horror films, Paramount Pictures execs at the time told him that he could produce, but not direct the movie.  Personally, I would've been interested in seeing how William Castle would've done the film.  Castle DOES however make a cameo in the movie as the man waiting at the phone booth for Rosemary to finish her phone call.

After "Rosemary's Baby," the world would have to wait seven years before a new William Castle production would come out.  "Shanks," in 1974, and "Bug" in 1975 would be the last two films made by William Castle before his death.

Between 1943, and 1975, William Castle entertained the world with a total of 58 movies... with at least one quarter of them fitting into the Horror/Suspense/Thriller genres.  I for one am glad for it.


  1. I Saw What You Did was remade as a so-so TV movie. The story begs to be told again. Good series of articles, Mike S. You do The Basement, and most importantly Mr. Castle, proud!

  2. Thanks you- but wait! There's still more to come! My review of "Rosemary's Baby", a discussion of his famous "gimmicks", A special Birthday wish, and "Life After William Castle"!

    Stay tuned as the William Castle Tribute continues. :)

  3. I'm interested in the "Life after William Castle!"

  4. I'm looking forward to writing that one. :)