If someone were to ask us to name our top ten directors of all time, the name William Castle would sit firmly somewhere within the top five. The man was not only a true showman but also an absolute genius. If we have one regret in our tenure here at Dread Central, it is that we weren’t around during Castle’s heyday of insane gimmicks. The man was without question the godfather of viral marketing, and it’s taken the rest of the industry decades to catch up. If you live somewhere within the Tri-State Region, we have the info on an event that you do NOT want to miss!
From the Press Release
THE RETURN OF WILLIAM CASTLE, a 15-film festival of horror and exploitation classics by the director and master showman, complete with their original gimmicks (Emergo!, Percepto!, Illusion-O!, and others – including one created exclusively for Film Forum), will run at Film Forum from August 27-September 6 (two weeks). This is the return of Castle’s gimmick movies to Film Forum – after a 15-year hiatus.
Castle (1914-1977) made over forty B-movies before hitting on a formula for box office success: low-budget chillers geared to the burgeoning Youth-sploitation market, including such effective Hitchcock imitations as Macabre, Strait-Jacket (the latter scripted by Psycho’s Robert Bloch), and Homicidal – which TIME magazine liked better than Psycho. Castle often appeared himself as a master of ceremonies à la Hitchcock, whose success and persona he strenuously attempted to emulate. A master of ballyhoo, Castle shamelessly promoted his pictures with cheesy but highly effective gimmicks, which will be lovingly re-created for the festival.
THE RETURN OF WILLIAM CASTLE opens on August 27 and 28 (Friday/Saturday) with a double-feature of HOMICIDAL, Castle’s quick cash-in on Psycho (the one TIME magazine preferred to the original). Will you hold out after the Fright Break? Terrified audience members are given one minute to leave before the conclusion but must sit in the lobby’s Coward’s Corner! It will be shown on a double-bill with STRAIT-JACKET, scripted by Psycho author Robert Bloch: Joan Crawford, returning from a 20-year asylum stint after hacking up her husband, is the obvious suspect when heads start rolling anew. Warning: STRAIT-JACKET vividly depicts axe murders!
Vincent Price, the Castle star par excellence, stars in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (Sunday, August 29): There’s a ghost for everyone when eccentric millionaire Price rounds up a motley crew of strangers for a little house party. Haunted Hill’s black humor and goose-fleshy atmosphere will be further enhanced by the miracle of Emergo! – a process “more startling than 3-D!” MR. SARDONICUS, screening with Haunted Hill on Sunday, features Castle’s famed “Punishment Poll.” The face of sadistic Baron Sardonicus gets stuck in a terrified grin, concealed behind an expressionless mask as he takes it out on the rest of the cast. Should he come to a horrible end? His fate is decided when the audience is given special glow-in-the-dark ballots to vote on the outcome of this most heinous fiend.
Screening as a triple-feature on Monday, August 30, are three of Castle’s B-movies based on the popular radio mystery series “The Whistler”: THE WHISTLER, with guilt-ridden Richard Dix hiring by-the-book hit man J. Carrol Nash to kill him through a middle man (The method? Death by fright!); MARK OF THE WHISTLER, with bum Dix deciding to cash in on a long-dormant bank account coincidentally in his name; and MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER, with crooked private eye Dix hired to find the benefactor of a mysterious bequest.
Other Castle gimmick movies to be screened during the festival include MACABRE screening on Wednesday, September 1: Doctor William Prince races against time to find his buried-alive-by-a-madman daughter. Due to the horrifying nature of this picture, each patron will receive a $1,000,000 policy insuring against Death by Fright (certain restrictions apply); showing with 13 GHOSTS, presented in Illusion-O!: Vengeful spirits (visible only with specially-provided “Ghost Viewers”) plague a creepy old mansion’s new middle class residents.
Screening on Thursday, September 2, is THE NIGHT WALKER, starring screen legend Barbara Stanwyck (in her final film) as a wealthy widow haunted in recurring dreams by her decidedly dead blown-up husband, co-starring Stanwyck’s real-life ex, Robert Taylor; and LET’S KILL UNCLE, the exact suggestion of Mary Badham (Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird) to teenaged pal – and heir to $5 mil – Pat Cardi, when his uncle/guardian cheerfully admits murder’s his own plan.
The rare Castle film noir WHEN STRANGERS MARRY will also have a single screening (at 6:30 only) on September 2: Kim Hunter weds glove salesman Dean Jagger after their first date, then hears there’s a gloved strangler on the loose – but old flame Robert Mitchum is there to help. Shot in 7 days for $50,000, Strangers was hailed by Orson Welles as “better acted than Double Indemnity and Laura.”
Two Castle 3D movies will be projected in their original double-system format: JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (September 3 & 4, Friday/Saturday, at 6:30 only): Brett King believes he’s the son of the notorious bandit and hooks up with the Daltons to try and learn the truth, but 3D’d sexpot Barbara Lawrence is raison d’être enough for this Castle oater; and the French & Indian War “Eastern” FORT TI (September 5 & 6, Sunday/Monday at 6:30 only), with colonial George Montgomery teaming up with Redcoats as they go toe-to-toe against the Frenchies at Fort Ticonderoga.
The most famous Castle film of all – and a Film Forum tradition – is THE TINGLER, with its spine-tingling PERCEPTO!, the ultimate in audience participation, to be shown over Labor Day weekend (September 3-6, Friday-Monday). “Get ready to scream – scream for your lives!” when Vincent Price’s fear experiments unleash that centipede-like thing right onto the spinal cords of our terrified audience. Featuring the original blood-splattered color sequence and the screen’s very first acid trip, experienced by the audience via Goldstein’s own innovation, PSYCHEDELORAMA!
Accompanying all shows of The Tingler will be Psycho: The Trailer, the legendary six-minute preview, with Alfred Hitchcock himself squeamishly taking us on a tour of the Bates House. (Psycho, celebrating its 50th Anniversary, will have a one-week run at Film Forum during Halloween Week, October 29-November 4).
Public Screening Schedule
HOMICIDAL (1961) WITH FRIGHT BREAK & COWARD’S CORNER!
1:00, 4:35, 8:10
STRAIT-JACKET (1964) Joan Crawford
2:45. 6:20, 10:00
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) IN BONE-CHILLING EMERGO!
2:45, 6:05, 9:25
MR. SARDONICUS (1961) WITH PUNISHMENT POLL!
1:00, 4:20, 7:40
THE WHISTLER (1944) New 35mm Print!
Richard Dix, J. Carrol Naish
1:00, 4:45, 8:30
MARK OF THE WHISTLER (1944) New 35mm Print!
2:15, 6:00, 9:45
MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER (1946) New 35mm Print!
MACABRE (1958) WITH $1,000,000 INSURANCE POLICY!
2:50, 6:10, 9:10
13 GHOSTS (1960) IN BLOOD-CURDLING ILLUSION-O!
Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp, Margaret Hamilton
1:00, 4:20, 7:40
THE NIGHT WALKER (1964) Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor
LET’S KILL UNCLE (1962) Mary Badham, Pat Cardi
1:00, 4:30*, 10:00
*4:30 show is a single feature only
WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) Kim Hunter, Dean Jagger, Robert Mitchum
THE TINGLER (1959) IN PERCEPTO! & PSYCHEDELORAMA!
Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Judith Evelyn
Plus Psycho–The Trailer
1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 8:15, 10:05
JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (1954) Brett King, Barbara Lawrence
FORT TI (1953) George Montgomery
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