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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Video Beaverhausen: Going Homicidal with William Castle

Columbia Pictures just released the William Castle Horror Collection: five films on two discs. It's available at Amazon.com and includes some of the grade-B maestro's most memorable movies. Castle was also the producer of Rosemary's Baby, directed by Roman Polanski.

My favorite of the five flicks is Homicidal, Castle's 1961 rip-off of Hitchcock's Psycho. It has its own macabre charms, I think you'll find. Like the Hitchcock classic, it's gender-bending and very suspenseful, but has its own clever plot twists. Homicidal's hero is even portrayed by Glenn Corbett, the poor man's John Gavin.

Most riveting is the performance in the film by one Jean Arless. Arless is actually a pseudonym for actress Joan Marshall. Not sure, exactly, why she adopted this name exclusively for Homicidal. Jean sometimes reminds me of Lypsinka, other times like Doris Day's suppressed libido come to life.

After an opening sequence involving a little boy, a little girl and a doll, the film opens properly with a sequence in which the cool blonde Ms Arless checks into a hotel and propositions the young bellboy to marry her for two thousand dollars, promising the marriage will immediately be annulled. What ensues is the first in a series of shocking moments, especially near the climax, that carry the economically 90-minute film along at a brisk pace. The police get involved and an entire mystery involving a family inheritance begins to unravel.

I love Arless' interactions as "caregiver" to a woman named Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), crippled by a stroke, and who gets up and down stairs via motorized wheelchair lift. (One should note this film preceded Robert Aldrich's Baby Jane by two years.)

I highly recommend this if you're looking for thrills and chills. If chilling out is your wont or if you're prone to nightmares, maybe not so much. The phallic symbolism of knives is not lost on this film.

The other films on this collection are 13 Ghosts, 13 Frightened Girls, Mr Sardonicus and The Old Dark House.





4 comments:

  1. I remember having the entire (8 mm) collection of William Castle Films. I got them by sending away for them through "Famous Monsters Of Filmland" Magazine. I always loved his Films...kind of "a poor Man's Hitchcock", with a less subtle sense of humor!

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  2. Really cool stuff! Wierdly grusome! Great article bro!

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