Backstory: What ever happened to William Castle’s baby?

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Photo of the great William Castle -courtesy of Spine Tingler

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Castle in NYC street with Polanski

“The film is frightening because it forces us to examine the kinds and bases of belief. We confront the idea that the Christian myth is certainly no more believable that its mirror image, and possibly less so. And beyond this, we are also forced to realize that our mode of believing in Christianity is quite different from the one with which we perceive ‘real’ things In other words, while Polanski’s film is determinedly realistic, it is at the same time a challenge to realism, locating the ordinary world of plausible social interaction within a wider and more primitive universe of magic, sorcery and supernatural forces.”Hollywood Hex, -Makita Brottman

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Rosemary’s Baby is my favorite film. I plan on doing one of my long winded major features on this masterpiece in it’s entirety but for the sake of celebrating William Castle this week, I’d like to strictly focus on his contribution to an iconic tour de force that would not have been filmed if not for him. Rosemary’s Baby premiered in June 1968.

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Roman Polanski on William Castle: “He was an excellent technician who understands filmmakers’ problems and doesn’t have the usual worries other producers have. He made a constant effort to make me happy in my work. I can’t think of a better producer.”

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After many years of William Castle slaving over B movies and programmers like The Whistler and The Crime Doctor, he found his niche in horror. He saw Henri-Georges Clouzot le Diabolique in 1955 and it lit a fire in his belly to create his own Gothic creepy storytelling that would lure the audience under it’s spell. Thus sung Macabre in 1958. While certainly not Diabolique, Macabre put Castle on the path toward creating engaging & frightening landscapes that would entertain millions!

That same year, thanks to his very successful House on Haunted Hill and his 12 foot plastic glow in the dark skeleton deemed ‘Emergo’ that flew over theatre audiences, he was now dubbed the ‘King of Gimmicks.’ Castle went on to chill us with The TIngler in ’59, 13 Ghosts in ’60, Homicidal and Mr Sardonicus in ’61, Strait-Jacket in ’64, and I Saw What You Did in ’65 both landing Joan Crawford at the helm.

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William Castle’s Homicidal ’61starring Jean Arless (Joan Marshall)

With all the ballyhoo and commercial success, Bill was craving respect. He thought he’d find that admiration in Rosemary’s Baby, a novel by Ira Levin (A Kiss Before Dying, The StepFord Wives, Boys From Brazil) about an unassuming pretty little housewife chosen by a coven of New York City witches to be the mother of Lucifer’s only begotten son and heir.

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What is remarkable about the film is the realism. It is so careful to remain dedicated to the naturalistic tone of Levin’s novel showing us a set of ordinary characters in an apparently common world. Then they gradually become introduced to extraordinary elements of dark forces, both magic and fantasy that begin to overwhelm the narrative. We as spectators are now caught up in Rosemary’s plight and her utter sense of powerlessness. This story is less about witches and more about paranoia and the lack of control over our own bodies and destiny. However explained in supernatural terms, it’s still about losing trust with those closest to us, the people we depend on to protect us from harm. We watch as Rosemary’s world turns upside down.

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I saw Rosemary’s Baby during it’s theatrical release in New York in June 1968. It was billed as a double feature with The Mephisto Waltz. We won’t get into how either really enlightened or truly nutty, depending on your perspective, my mom was for taking her 6 year old little girl to see two very intense horror pictures dealing with adult and subversive themes.

I was an extremely mature child and the film not only didn’t traumatize me, it opened up a world of desire for me to see as many intellectual horror stories without fear of nightmares. Although I must admit when I used to watch Robert Wise’s The Haunting in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon, I did manage to lock the basement door and shove the large gold (the color of Archie Bunker’s favorite chair) love seat in front of it to keep any boogeyman from coming up the basement stairs into the den when I was alone in the house.

I also just saw Rosemary’s Baby remastered on the big screen at the Film Forum a few weeks ago. I have to admit, that as soon as Christopher Komeda’s music starts playing and the birds eye view of the Dakota emerges on screen the electricity started flowing up my legs, this time not my usual RLS, I began weeping. Not only is Rosemary’s Baby my favorite film, I recognize the confluence of perfectionism in each and every scene that makes it a flawless masterpiece, from the vibrant performances to the exquisite storytelling. Every detail is magical and I don’t mean devilish, I mean artfully.

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Something else wonderful happened during the screening that day. Amidst all the other film geeks like myself, and aside from the audible pleasure the audience let out when the magnificent Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer walk on screen where we all laughed and silently cheered for their strolling entrance as the iconic quirky and eccentric devil worshiping senior citizens. When Bill Castle did his Hitchcock walk on by the phone booth, I realized that it wasn’t only me smacking my partner Wendy’s knee with childhood excitement, “There’s Bill, there he is!!! We both chuckled with glee to see his wide warming grin. Suddenly we heard others in the crowd stirring and murmuring “there he is, that’s Bill Castle!!!” Amidst all the appurtenances Rosemary’s Baby has to offer, so many of us fans were thrilled to catch sight of Mr.Castle with his fat cigar standing by the phone booth. We were collectively excited to see the man who had entertained us all these years. It was heart warming. I did tear up.

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Mia back of Bill's head phone booth

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I recognize Roman Polanski as the auteur that he is, but that is not what I want to dwell on here. I want to stress that Rosemary’s Baby would not have been made if it weren’t for William Castle, and his perseverance, passion and eye for intellectual property. William Castle acknowledged that The Lady From Shanghai was a work of art because of Orson Welles‘ direction, however, it was Castle who first discovered and purchased the rights to If I Should Die Before I Wake, only to have Orson Welles turn around and pitch it to Harry Cohn as his own idea.

It was Rosemary’s Baby that Bill chose to elevate his status from B movie maker to respected filmmaker in a very fickle industry. Let’s pay tribute to one certain fact: Rosemary’s Baby would not be the film it is after 45 years without William Castle’s imprint on it.

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In Bill’s memoirs Step Right Up, I’m Gonna Scare the Pants Off America (which is a fantastic read for any enthusiast about the golden age of Hollywood and just a darn good bit of story telling) describes how William Castle’s literary agent Marvin Birdt, the person who found the script and insisted Bill read the galleys immediately. Castle looked at the title and dismissed it saying “Its probably some story about an unwed mother… cheap exploitation. Who the hell wants to make a picture like that?” 

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Bill Castle thought the film just wasn’t for him at the point. It was 1968 and the film industry wasn’t really embracing horror films anymore. He was so overwhelmed with the lousy books and manuscripts that were piling up that he just couldn’t fathom wasting any time with yet another piece of junk. But, it took him all of three hours to finish the story, as he said, ‘bathed in sweat and shaking.’ Castle saw the magnitude of Ira Levin’s story when it was still in unpublished manuscript form: “I made up my mind when I read the novel Rosemary’s Baby that it was the greatest novel that would translate into a screenplay that I had ever read. That just lent itself to a brilliant movie. And I loved the property and I brought the property because I wanted to prove to the industry my fellow peers that I could do something really brilliant.” (Step Right Up, 2010) He told Ellen, his wife, that it was one of the most powerful books he’d ever read, and that it would be an incredible picture to make. When Ellen finished reading it, she told him “it’s disturbing… frightening and brilliant.”(SRU, 2010) But Ellen also warned that he’d have trouble with the Church.

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William Castle and the love of his life, his beautiful wife Ellen courtesy of Spine Tingler

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Castle’s agent Birdt tormented him about other studios and directors interested in the story and making offers. Later, Castle had found out that the book had actually been offered to Alfred Hitchcock first. One wonders what it might have looked like if Hitch had been behind the camera, storyboarding Levin’s work.

Bill Castle was worried that he was going to lose the picture, but where was he going to get the quarter of a million Birdt demanded to finance the rights to the film? He asked Birdt to offer one hundred thousand dollars up front and then fifty thousand if the book became a bestseller with five percent of one hundred percent of the net profits. His agent wasn’t very encouraged that they’d accept the offer. The waiting to hear back was excruciating, but Castle did get the rights to Rosemary’s Baby. Now he had to come up with the money!

In Step Right UpBill describes how Robert Evans, in charge of Paramount Pictures, called to check in, not sure William Castle could handle such a serious motion picture.But, Charles Bluhdorn, owner of Paramount, wanted to meet with Castle personally to discuss the picture, saying “I have big plans for Paramount, and they include you.” Castle found Bluhdorn’s persona magnetic. He told him that Bob Evens had informed him about Castle’ obtaining Rosemary’s Baby.“Would you like to make the picture for us?” Of course, Castle told him, yes.

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head of Paramount Robert Evans

“Your services as producer, how much would you want?” Bill Castle corrected Bluhdorn by adding the word ‘director’… trying to avoid negotiating with this man without his lawyer. Bluhdorn wasn’t having any of that. He told Castle that he would not negotiate with lawyers on the making of Rosemary’s Baby. It’s either between Castle and him, or Donnenfeld and Castle’s attorney. Castle decided he had the ego to take on this financial genius and told him he’d negotiate with him directly. But first, Bill asked him if he had read the story. Bluhdorn had not. Bill thought that worked to his advantage as the story was intensely disturbing so the less Bluhdorn knew about the story the better.

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Robert Evans and Roman Polanski

When Bill Castle finally blurted out that he’d want to produce and direct, Bluhdorn laughed at him called him a ‘big ridiculous clown.’ He tried to offer Bill only one hundred fifty thousand for the film plus thirty percent of the profits. Bill told him no way. It was a hard bargaining session. Bluhdorn didn’t know what he was dealing for and Bill did, Bluhdorn was also dropping the phony niceties and getting close to bowing out of any deal. “If I walk through that door, Rosemary’s Baby is finished at Paramount. No one -and I mean no one- will renegotiate!” Castle finally composed his inner panic and came back at the austere blowhard with an offer of two hundred fifty thousand and fifty percent of the profits. It was a deal. (Step Right Up, 2010) 

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Bill Castle courtesy of Spine Tingler

Producer Evans In Conference

Bill’s daughter, Terry Castle remembers, “He had to do whatever he could and it was his time. Mom and dad mortgaged the house and they bought the rights for a substantial amount of money.” (Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story)

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Bill’s wonderful daughter Terry Castle founder of Dark Castle Entertainment

With that he asked Castle’s age and if he’d heard of director Roman Polanski, or seen any of his pictures. Castle had seen Repulsion and Knife in the Water. Bluhdorn sung Polanski’s praises calling him a genius. He impressed upon Castle that with the director’s youth and Castle’s experience as producer, they could both learn from each other. Bill Castle started to find his fire, “Look Mr. Bluhdorn, the reason I bought Rosemary’s Baby with my own money was to direct the film… It’s going to be an important motion picture and I’m not going to miss the opportunity of directing.” (Step Right Up, 2010)

Bluhdorn told him that Polanski directs Rosemary’s Baby or no deal, and asked Bill to at least meet the young director. Castle says “I had made up my mind to hate him on sight… and that he wasn’t going to direct the picture I said absolutely no way. I bought the picture, I bought the book. I own it, I’m going to direct it..{…} I worked all my life to get something worth while on the screen and so at first sight I hated him.” He’d sent Polanski the galleys to read and if after meeting him he decides he doesn’t want him directing the movie then fine. Bill Castle says in his memoirs that while Bluhdorn was a tough negotiator he was at least an honorable and fair man whose handshake was better than a written contract.

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Castle and Polanski courtesy of Spine Tingler

In Step Right Up, 2010 Castle describes his first impression of Roman Polanski was that he was a little cocky vain narcissist who liked to look at himself in the mirror a lot. Bill asked if he liked the story, “I like it very much… It will make a great picture.” Polanski spoke in his Polish accent. “You would like to direct Rosemary?” Bill asked. “That’s why I’m here. Nobody will be able to direct it as well as Roman Polanski.” And Bill Castle’ felt that Ira Levin’s book was perfect for the screen, needing absolutely no changes whatsoever in adapting it. This was something he felt passionately about. He posed the question to Polanski. “The book is perfect… no changes must be made” Bill says that Polanski was so intense about this that it was quite jarring. “It’s one of the few books I have read that must be translated faithfully to the cinema.” (Step Right Up, 2010)

And having read Levin’s book, I can tell you that reading each line of every page is exactly like watching the story unfold on screen. It is the most faithful adaptation I’ve ever read, more like reading the script after the fact.

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Then Castle posed a trick question to Polanski to see what his vision was for filming the narrative, suggesting to him that the camera should not only move around a lot but use strange shots to tell the story. Polanski was empowered by his convictions and told Bill,“No, I don’t Mr. Castle. Actors tell story… like peeping through the keyhole of life. I do not like crazy tricks with camera… must be honest.” That was exactly how Bill Castle saw the film being made. When Polanski told Bill to start calling him Roman, Bill couldn’t help but start to like this man who truly did share a special vision for a very special story. Polanski went on to tell him, “Bill, we can make a wonderful picture together. I have been looking for a long time for a Rosemary’s Baby. To work with you would be my privilege.” (Step Right Up, 2010)

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Terry Castle, Bill’s daughter, remembers: “Polanski came over to the house and he was this young wild guy, just this incredibly wily dynamic man with this very thick accent talking about cameras and light he was just incredibly dynamic himself and my dad totally got him. He wanted to get Rosemary’s Baby made and he wanted to produce it… and yet he wanted to direct it. But I think once he met Roman Polanski I think he understood he could bring something incredibly special to the project. And I think it was okay for dad to give that up to him because I think he saw the brilliance in this man. […] Even though he wasn’t going to be directing it at least his name was going to be on it as a William Castle production and he was making for the first time in his life an important studio film.” (Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story)

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Left tor right, William Castle, Mia Farrow, and Robert Evans during the production of ROSEMARY'S BABY, 1968.

Bill with Mia and John on the set of Rosemary's Baby

The last thing Bill Castle needed to know was who he’d pick to write the screenplay and why. Polanski told Bill he would do it himself because he would stick strictly to the book. They spent the rest of the time discussing the film, Bill finding Polanski brilliant and extremely open. He immediately called Bluhdorn and told him that he was right Polanski was the only one who could direct Rosemary’s BabyBill Castle had the wisdom and grace to understand that Polanski would make a great film, but to be fair to Bill Castle. it’s also only after his careful facilitation and thoughtful know-how that helped bring Ira Levin’s story to life.

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Polanski and Farrow and Cassavetes in hall color

Polanski kept his word, he wrote the screenplay and adhered strictly to the book as promised. Polanski asked Bill to help him find a house by the beach to work and that he’d send his fiance over to help him look for one. On a Sunday morning Sharon Tate was standing at Bill Castle’s door. They found the perfect beach house for the couple, owned by Brian Aherne who was in Europe.

Polanski wanted to use Richard Sylbert to do the set design for the film. Sylbert had just finished working on Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Roman Polanski thought his work was brilliant. Polanski suggested Tuesday Weld in the lead as Rosemary. Bill agreed that she was a fine actress but said, “I think the role was written for Mia Farrow” Polanski watched her in several episodes of Peyton Place and didn’t agree. He thought Tuesday Weld would be better. Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Elizabeth Hartman, and Joanna Pettet were also considered for the part. Evans asked about the casting of Rosemary, which they both gave their choices.Evans told them that he didn’t think Mia Farrow was available because she was working with George Cukor, he’d check with Zanuck at Fox and in the meantime try and get a reading with Weld.

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Tuesday Weld

Now the buzz was all over Hollywood and every actress in town felt they would be just perfect for the lead role, but Polanski was still stubborn about Tuesday Weld. When Zanuck called Bill and told him the Cukor picture fell through, and Mia was available. Bill set up a meeting with Mia and Polanski over lunch and Polanski wound up being completely mesmerized by her. He finally agreed she would play Rosemary. The rest is history.

Roman Polanski actually developed a wonderful working relationship with Mia Farrow on the set. She didn’t bring any preconceived motivations to her role as Rosemary Woodhouse. Supposedly he had some difficulties with Catherine Deneuve on the set of Repulsion, but he found Mia very amenable to work with. Mia followed Polanski’s directions very well, which might explain some of her childlike and innocent air to her performance of the blithe and charming Rosemary.

Continue reading “Backstory: What ever happened to William Castle’s baby?”

Step Right Up! It’s The William Castle Blogathon: The Last Gasp!!!

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No ballyhoo, gimmickry, shenanigans, hucksters or PT Barnum Hoopla– just one huge wave of gratitude washing over us as we conclude this incredible week. There have been a lot of words to sum up William Castle’s legacy here but somehow I’m speechless and humbled by all the amazing efforts, dedication, witty nuggets of facts hidden deep deep within the back story of the thing, all the heartwarming camaraderie, sense of community, mutual admiration, fair play, unique approach and prolific vision that each of you brought to the event just sort of blows my mind.

When I first dreamt up this blogathon honoring Mr. Castle, I never imagined in my wildest fancies that it could be this spectacular! And that’s because of all of you…

It just makes me feel such satisfaction to see how much of yourselves you put into each feature. How humorous, informative and unique you approached your version of Castle’s style and body of work. All I can seem to say is THANK YOU Goregirl ( I couldn’t have done this without you my brilliant & cheeky friend) and THANK YOU all… I am delighted and honored and really really proud that everyone had such a grand time… With tremendous gratitude your MonsterGirl- Joey

JUST A REMINDER THAT WE’RE EVER GRATEFUL TO DAVID ARRATE AND WENDY CHRISTENSEN FOR FOR THEIR INCREDIBLE BANNERS WHICH MADE THIS WHOLE SHINDIG A SMASHING SUCCESS

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Maybe we can scare up Mr Castle himself with all the love we’ve been showing him-now concentrate and let’s see if we can communicate with his spirit-Sshhh I think I hear some chains Rattl-O-a go-go!

This is the last gasp of air we’ll all be able to settle down from the week’s excitement! No more buzzers under your seats, or skeletons in the cellar. No more Ballyhoo and Fanfare… at least until the next time… You’ve all been so swell, I feel all tingly inside… uh oh. Nah it’s just the warm glow of appreciation to so many wonderful and brilliant bloggers who turned out to help Terri and I celebrate the greatest showman of em all… I hope you all had fun. I know we did. And please, keep William Castle in your hearts and every once in a while dust off one of his fabulous motion pictures and make a night of it with the entire family. He lived to entertain you, I hope we did the same…

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Today-the last day: Goregirl features: Vinnie from Tales of the Easily Distracted, Jenna Berry of Classic Movie Night, Sam at Wonders in the Dark, Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film,Toby Roan from 50 Westerns from the 50s &

(Me)-Joey The Last Drive InBack Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Here at The Last Drive In I’ll be featuring the fabulous Dorian from Tales of the Easily Distracted – with a zany romp: The Spirit is Willing (1967)

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Fritzi (Gwen) from Movies Silently  is going to wow us (silently from the projection booth of course) with, After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

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Then Jeff Kuykendall of Midnight Only  is going to be all creepy crawly with his feature on Bug (1975)

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William Castle at Bug

David Arrate of My Kind of Story –is going to dazzle us with Its a Small World Malcolm Shanks’

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Classic Film and TV Cafe  A William Castle Double Feature: The Tingler and Mr. Sardonicus- An Undertaker Is Standing By In Case You Die Of Fright!

Misty of Cinema Schminema  is going to thrill us with Project X (1968)

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and finally The Nitrate Diva -is getting all mysterious noir on us with Castle’s Betrayed aka When Strangers Marry (1944)

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Lindsey at The Motion Pictures wants to show appreciation for some of her fellow bloggers with ‘recommended reading’

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A little something for your Nightmare’s from The Phantom Erik  Episode 048: The Tingler (1959 Podcast

With Love to you Mr. William Castle-From all of us and your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl- Joey! Good Night-

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And the Spine-Tinglers Are:

Monday, July 29th:

Aurora at Once upon a screen… The Night Walker (’64)

Rich at Wide Screen World: Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks

Le at Critica Retro: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (’48) ‘Live Dreaming’

Furious Cinema: William Castle: Mad as Hell Movie Showman

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Favorite Things About… House on Haunted Hill

Forgotten Films: Macabre (’58)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis: 13 Ghosts (’60)

Joey at The Last Drive In: House on Haunted Hill (’59) ‘Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here’

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition

Tuesday, July 30th:

David Arrate of My Kind of Story  It’s a Small World (1950) ‘Image Gallery’

The Last Drive In William Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision…

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear & Radio Spirits: The Whistler, Mark of the Whistler, Voice of The Whistler

Heather Drain at Mondo Heather: 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) & Hullabaloo & Horror: A Tribute to William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Matinee (1993) A Cinematic Love Letter to the films of William Castle

Karen at Shadows and Satin: Mysterious Intruder (1946)

Kristina at Speakeasy: The Houston Story (1956)

Ray at Weird Flix: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

The Metzinger Sisters at Silver Scenes: Busy Bodies: Promoting Castle’s Camp” & The Films of William Castle!

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) {Boston Blackie}

Goregirl’s Dungeon:The Women of Castle

Wednesday, July 31st:

Brian Schuck at Films From Beyond The Time Barrier:Strait-Jacket (1964) ‘Mommie Dearest please put down that axe!”

Joey that’s me at The Last Drive In: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

Rob Silvera at The Midnight Monster Show: Double feature Homicidal (1961) & House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Macabre (1958)

Goregirl’s Duneon Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

Thursday, August 1st:

Steve Habrat at Anti Film School: Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Classic Movie Hub: The Busy Body (1967)

John LarRue at The Droid You’re Looking For: William Castle Gimmick Infographic

Paul Lambertson at Lasso the Movies: The Tingler (1959)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Favourite Five Series: William Castle

David Arrate at My Kind of Story/Images Masterson of Kansas (1954)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Tribute to “The King of the Corn” William Castle

Scenes From The Morgue: Showcase of newspaper ads for William Castle films

Stacia at She Blogged By Night: Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Ruth- R.A Kerr at Silver Screenings: The Old Dark House (1963)

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: I Saw What You Did (1965)

Ray at Weird Flix: The Saracen Blade (1954)

Friday, August 2nd:

Toby Roan at 50 Westerns: The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954)

Misty Layne at Cinema Schminema: Project X (1968)

Jenna Berry at Classic Movie Night: Ghost Story/Circle of Fear

Classic Film and TV Cafe A William Castle Double Feature: The Tingler and Mr. Sardonicus- An Undertaker Is Standing By In Case You Die Of Fright!

Kristen at Journeys in ClassicFilm: Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story

Joey at The Last Drive In: Back Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Jeff Kuykendall at Midnight Only: Bug (1975)

LIndsey The Motion Pictures: ‘Recommended Reading-William Caslte Blogathon’

Gwen Kramer at Movies Silently: After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

David Arrate at My Kind of Story-Images: ‘It’s a small world Malcolm Shanks part one’

The Nitrate Diva: Betrayed aka When Strangers Marry (1944)

Dorian Tenore Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: The Spirit is Willing (1967) William Castle in Duo-Vision! The Spirit is Willing and ZOTZ!

Vinnie Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: ZOTZ! (1962 William Castle in Duo-Vision! The Spirit is Willing and ZOTZ!

Sam at Wonders in the Dark: Krzysztof Komeda’s Score, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Bug ’75 banner courtesy of Jeff Kuykendall – Midnight Only

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Step Right Up! It’s The William Castle Blogathon: Day Four!

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This has been a killer Blog-O so far. I am so thrilled to my ever lovin’ bones to all of you who have participated in this memorable celebration. And a truly grateful heartfelt thanks to my partner in crime Goregirl. This amazing event would not have been possible without her imagination, determination and sense of fair play. She’s a class act and I owe her a debt, which in her case might be my left kidney, a life time supply of Fireball Whiskey or a date with Tom Savini. I think I could swing the booze.

So… This is day 4 and we’ve got lots more thrills and chills in store for all of you guests and ghouls, gangsters and gun molls, and generally just a great gang of git alongs. Today I am as glowing as a PERCEPTO skeleton flying over a rowdy audience of teenagers- And I know that Bill Castle would be so proud to see how many fantastic writers and film buffs have turned out to pay tribute to his legacy!

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AND SAY… DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO DIVE INTO ANY OF THESE INCREDIBLY THRILLING FEATURES OR YOU MAY JUST WIND UP LIKE THIS POOR FELLA!

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Mr. Sardonicus’ dear old dad

AND IF YOU’RE READING AT NIGHT MAKE SURE TO USE A LIGHT… YOU DON’T WANT TO RUIN YOUR EYES!

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Today I’m pleased to feature -Ruth at Silver Screenings with her spot on navigation of The Old Dark House 1963.

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I’m so excited I didn’t scare the ‘you know what’ out of Classic Movie Hub who’s is bringing us The Busy Body (1967)

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Paul at Lasso the Movies is going to tackle The Tingler (1959) Let’s hope he screams loud enough!

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FIRST: Watch this warning from William Castle just so you know what you’re getting into!

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POOR JUDITH EVELYN-IT NEVER FAILS-SHE’S ALWAYS GETTING THE BEJESUS SCARED OUT HER!!!!

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Lindsey at The Motion Pictures -is going to pay Tribute to ‘The King of the Corn’ William Castle

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Ray at Weird Flix -is offering us another spectacle with The Saracen Blade (1954)

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Then… Goregirl’s Dungeon is going to thrill us with her –Favourite Five Series: William Castle

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So… When you’re ready, just grab your pants (the one’s we’ve already scared off ya’ll ) and head over to Goregirl’s Dungeon as she features:

David Arrate of My Kind of Story, Ivan from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Stacia from She Blogged by Night, Steve of Anti-Film School, John from The Droid You’re Looking For & Scenes from the Morgue

And the Spine-Tinglers Are:

Monday, July 29th:

Aurora at Once upon a screen... The Night Walker (’64)

Rich at Wide Screen World: Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks

Le at Critica Retro: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (’48) ‘Live Dreaming’

Furious Cinema: William Castle: Mad as Hell Movie Showman

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Favorite Things About… House on Haunted Hill

Forgotten Films: Macabre (’58)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis: 13 Ghosts (’60)

Joey at The Last Drive In: House on Haunted Hill (’59) ‘Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here’

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition

Tuesday, July 30th:

David Arrate of My Kind of Story  It’s a Small World (1950) ‘Image Gallery’

The Last Drive InWilliam Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision…

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear & Radio Spirits: The Whistler, Mark of the Whistler, Voice of The Whistler

Heather Drain at Mondo Heather: 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) & Hullabaloo & Horror: A Tribute to William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Matinee (1993) A Cinematic Love Letter to the films of William Castle

Karen at Shadows and Satin: Mysterious Intruder (1946)

Kristina at Speakeasy: The Houston Story (1956)

Ray at Weird Flix: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

The Metzinger Sisters at Silver Scenes: Busy Bodies: Promoting Castle’s Camp” & The Films of William Castle!

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) {Boston Blackie}

Goregirl’s Dungeon:The Women of Castle

Wednesday, July 31st:

Brian Schuck at Films From Beyond The Time Barrier:Strait-Jacket (1964) ‘Mommie Dearest please put down that axe!”

Joey that’s me at The Last Drive In: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

Rob Silvera at The Midnight Monster Show: Double feature Homicidal (1961) & House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Macabre (1958)

Goregirl’s Duneon Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

Thursday, August 1st:

Steve Habrat at Anti Film School: Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Classic Movie Hub: The Busy Body (1967)

John LarRue at The Droid You’re Looking For: William Castle Gimmick Infographic

Paul Lambertson at Lasso the Movies: The Tingler (1959)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Favourite Five Series: William Castle

David Arrate at My Kind of Story/Images  Masterson of Kansas (1954)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Tribute to “The King of the Corn” William Castle

Scenes From The Morgue: Showcase of newspaper ads for William Castle films

Stacia at She Blogged By Night: Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Ruth- R.A Kerr at Silver Screenings: The Old Dark House (1963)

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: I Saw What You Did (1965)

Ray at Weird Flix: The Saracen Blade (1954)

Friday, August 2nd:

Toby Roan at 50 Westerns: The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954)

Misty Layne at Cinema Schminema: Project X (1968)

Jenna Berry at Classic Movie Night: Ghost Story/Circle of Fear

Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film: Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story

Joey at The Last Drive In: Back Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Jeff Kuykendall at Midnight Only: Bug (1975)

Gwen Kramer at Movies Silently: After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

David Arrate at My Kind of Story-Images: Shanks (1974) & Masterson of Kansas (1954)

The Nitrate Diva: When Strangers Marry (1944)

Dorian Tenore Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: The Spirit is Willing (1967)

Vinnie Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted:Zotz! (1962)

Sam at Wonders in the Dark: Christopher Komeda’s Score, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Step Right Up! It’s The William Castle Blogathon: Day Three!

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We’re so thrilled to see you again. Even this guy is filled with exuberance can’t you tell!

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It’s now three days since we’ve all got caught up in the ballyhoo, gimmickry, thrills and chills of the wonderful man that is William Castle! Today- I’m pleased (as Ruth at the house on haunted hill would say) as ‘Scotch and…’ to offer you these fabulous bloggers for your consideration…

So stay where you are… don’t go anywhere just yet

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Lindsey at The Motion Pictures is going to get all Macabre (1958) on us also…

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Ellen Corby in William Castle’s Macabre ’58

With great anticipation being a musician myself, I offer you Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

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the wonderful composer Vic Mizzy

So–bring a knife, a strait-jacket and a gun over to Terri’s place at GOREGIRL’S DUNGEON where she’ll be hosting these fine folks!

Rob Silvera of The Midnight Monster Show, Brian Schuck of Films From Beyond the Time Barrier

And… me MonsterGirl- but I aint no Stool Pigeon…

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Goregirl’s just letting me talk about William Castle’s Johnny Stool Pigeon 1949 – so show up or we’ll send The Tingler after you… or worse even…!

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And the Spine-Tinglers Are:

Monday, July 29th:

Aurora at Once upon a screen… The Night Walker (’64)

Rich at Wide Screen World: Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks

Le at Critica Retro: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (’48) ‘Live Dreaming’

Furious Cinema: William Castle: Mad as Hell Movie Showman

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Favorite Things About… House on Haunted Hill

Forgotten Films: Macabre (’58)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis: 13 Ghosts (’60)

Joey at The Last Drive In: House on Haunted Hill (’59) ‘Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here’

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition

Tuesday, July 30th:

David Arrate of My Kind of Story  It’s a Small World (1950) ‘Image Gallery’

The Last Drive InWilliam Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision…

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear) & Radio Spirits: The Whistler, Mark of the Whistler, Voice of The Whistler

Heather Drain at Mondo Heather: 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) & Hullabaloo & Horror: A Tribute to William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Matinee (1993) A Cinematic Love Letter to the films of William Castle

Karen at Shadows and Satin: Mysterious Intruder (1946)

Kristina at Speakeasy: The Houston Story (1956)

Ray at Weird Flix: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

The Metzinger Sisters at Silver Scenes: Busy Bodies: Promoting Castle’s Camp” & The Films of William Castle!

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) {Boston Blackie}

Goregirl’s Dungeon:The Women of Castle

Wednesday, July 31st:

Brian Schuck at Films From Beyond The Time Barrier:Strait-Jacket (1964) ‘Mommie Dearest please put down that axe!”

Joey that’s me at The Last Drive In: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

Rob Silvera at The Midnight Monster Show: Double feature Homicidal (1961) & House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Macabre (1958)

Goregirl’s Duneon Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

Thursday, August 1st:

Steve Habrat at Anti Film School: Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Classic Movie Hub: The Busy Body (1967)

John LarRue at The Droid You’re Looking For: William Castle Gimmick Infographic

Paul Lambertson at Lasso the Movies: The Tingler (1959)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Favourite Five Series: William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures:Tribute

Scenes From The Morgue:Showcase of newspaper ads for William Castle films

Stacia at She Blogged By Night: Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Ruth- R.A Kerr at Silver Screenings: The Old Dark House (1963)

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: I Saw What You Did (1965)

Ray at Weird Flix: The Saracen Blade (1954)

Friday, August 2nd:

Toby Roan at 50 Westerns: The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954)

Misty Layne at Cinema Schminema: Project X (1968)

Jenna Berry at Classic Movie Night: Ghost Story/Circle of Fear

Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film: Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story

Joey at The Last Drive In: Back Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Jeff Kuykendall at Midnight Only: Bug (1975)

Gwen Kramer at Movies Silently: After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

David Arrate at My Kind of Story-Images: Shanks (1974) & Masterson of Kansas (1954)

The Nitrate Diva: When Strangers Marry (1944)

Dorian Tenore Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: The Spirit is Willing (1967)

Vinnie Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted:Zotz! (1962)

Sam at Wonders in the Dark: Christopher Komeda’s Score, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) “He was a gangster and a hoodlum and he hated every cop that ever breathed.”

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JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON 1949

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William Castle had success with When Strangers Marry ’44, with (Kim Hunter and Robert Mitchum) and was well regarded for the work he did for RKO with his brilliantly offbeat The Whistler series.

Duff and Duryea Johnny Stool Pigeon

With Johnny Stool Pigeon, Castle directs this uncluttered and obscure little film noir, pairing Shelley Winters and Dan Duryea who made Larceny a year earlier and would then do another picture together, Winchester ’73 in 1950.

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Dan Duryea and Shelley Winters in Winchester 73 photo courtesy of all things Duryea @ http://danduryeacentral.blogspot.com/
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Shelley Winters and Dan Duryea in William Castle’s Johnny Stool Pigeon 1949 promo courtesy of Dan Duryea Central blog spot

It’s an entertaining programmer lensed with a semi-documentary style utilizing the usual noir voice over to aide in the story telling as Howard Duff’s character narrates the action as he goes undercover as Mike Doyle.

Scripted by Robert L. Richards  (Act of Violence 1948)based on a story by Henry Jordan. Using stock music by an uncredited Miklós Rózsa.

With cinematography by Maury Gertsman (Blond Alibi ’46, The Brute Man ’46, Ma and Pa Kettle ’49, The Glass Web ’53, The Creature Walks Among Us ’56). The moody visuals are courtesy of filming on location in San Francisco and Tucson. The old style pier scenes with the opening shoot out in the warehouse to the customs check with rows of cars at the Mexican border in Tucson give the picture the comfortable feel of added realism of 1949.

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beautiful exterior shots of the Tucson sky

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A young sailor gets off a ship carrying a sack. He’s meeting up with a hood named Carter. They’re trafficking heroine from the Orient.
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Federal Agents Morton and Harrison are in pursuit.

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“get your hands up and stay where you are”

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The young man is shot by his accomplice. Agent Morton looks at his wallet to id him.
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Morton (Howard Duff) goes on to narrate from here-“Someone in Shanghai told him a way to make an easy buck and he believed him. All he needed was luck. And so one night on a Shanghai dock they slipped something into his hand that looked like an ordinary can of tobacco. Only it wasn’t and John Whalen wasn’t lucky.”
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it certainly wasn’t an ordinary can of tobacco

With a fantastic cast as follows- Shelley Winters, Howard Duff, Dan Duryea who made 3 other noir classics that year in 1949 (Manhandled, Criss Cross, & Too Late for Tears) and co-stars Tony Curtis, John McIntire, Barry Kelley and Leif Erickson.

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photo courtesy of Dan Duryea Central Blog Spot

Duryea is marvelous as always, playing the quintessential sneering oily voiced cynic who’s a sympathetic slick and snickering ‘bad guy’ that you just have to like.

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Dan Duryea as Johnny Evans photo courtesy of Dan Duryea Central Blog Spot
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photo courtesy of Dan Duryea Central Blog Spot

Howard Duff  plays it straight as George Morton a federal narcotics agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a syndicate of criminal heroine smugglers. He enlists the help of childhood pal now convict, Johnny Evans (Dan Duryea) a hoodlum he’s sent to Alcatraz for life. Now getting him sprung so Johnny can help him sneak inside the big drug operation and bust it wide open. Naturally Johnny hates cops but his wife has just died from an overdose which Morton uses to convince Johnny to help him catch these dangerous drug runners.

Of course there’s conflict between these two men, as Morton’s on a mission and Johnny’s vowed revenge. Johnny Evans helps Morton get a new identity as they infiltrate the powerful gang of drug dealers.

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photo courtesy of Dan Duryea Central Blog Spot

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Morton now using the name of Mike Doyle, Johnny go to Vancouver where McCandles the drug lord uses his floozie blonde Terry to keep an eye on the pair. Like any good gritty and sexy charged thriller Johnny Evans falls for Terry who only only seems to have eyes for Morton. Ah the eternal triangle lives on as they travel to Tuscon where the dangerous drug deal is about to go down at the Mexican border crossing.

Gangly but wily rancher Nick Avery (John McIntire) doesn’t trust these two from the get go. The team must be loyal to each other if they want to remain above suspicion. It’s great grist for the noir narrative mill as we must wait and see whether Johnny will sell Morton out to this gang of thugs.

Johnny Stool Pigeon also features a first time role for a young Tony Curtis who plays a mute pretty boy hired killer who can’t seem to place Morton/Mike Doyle’s face but it’s lurking in his memory from the time they chased Carter and Joey spots them in the hallway. He’d just killed Carter, having been sent there to kill their San Francisco connection so he wouldn’t squeal.

Uncredited bit player Tony Curtis’ only spent a few seconds on screen doing the rumba with Yvonne DeCarlo’s  in Robert Siodmak’s Criss Cross ’49, That little spark of sexy flare made Universal realize that they had a star on their hands.

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doing the rumba with Yvonne DeCarlo’s in Robert Siodmak’s Criss Cross ’49

Gang moll blonde Terry is played by Universal’s new voluptuous Shelley Winters. Who begins her long career starting out as a whiny, trashy yet outre charismatic sex pot.

I’ve got a special feature waiting at the last drive in’s snack bar all about Shelley Winters and her impressive contribution to film.

Duryea’s character keeps us guessing as to whether he’s going to betray Morton and turn into a ‘stool pigeon’. It’s a great little match up of the likable Duff and Duryea as they play the eternal unwilling partners in conflict as they journey from San Francisco to Vancouver and then to a luxury ranch in Tucson run by the slimy Nick Avery, as amiable as a snake in the grass.

Continue reading “Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) “He was a gangster and a hoodlum and he hated every cop that ever breathed.””

Step Right Up! It’s The William Castle Blogathon: Day Two!

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Today is going to be a humdinger with some offbeat features to tantalize and titillate and make you whistle!

Goregirl’s Dungeon will be hosting Kristina at Speakeasy, The Metzinger Sisters of Silver Scenes & Heather Drain (Mondo Heather)

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I felt inspired here at The Last Drive In by all the ballyhoo and pageantry to do a ‘William Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision...’

David Arrate from My Kind of Story is sharing a particularly special little feature called It’s a Small World (1950) ‘Image Gallery’ I dare you not to fall head over heals for Harry Musk!

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear & Radio Spirits: is whistling at us with his fabulous series:

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The Whistler (1944)

Mark of the Whistler (1944)

Voice of the Whistler (1945)

I’ll also be featuring Ray at Weird Flix -as he mesmerizes us with the Slaves of Babylon (1953)


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Slaves of Babylon

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures -brings us an interesting take on the film Matinee (1993) A Cinematic Love Letter to the films of William Castle

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Ivan’s got more over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear The Chance of a Lifetime (1943)

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Karen at Shadows and Satin, our wonderful Dark Pages gal will titillate us with –Mysterious Intruder (1946)


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Mysterious Intruder

And my partner in crime at Goregirl’s Dungeon -is bringing us a fabulous bevvy of–The Women of Castle’ so head over there and ogle those beauties!

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Patricia Breslin Homicidal

Carol Haunted Hill

And the Spine-Tinglers Are:

Monday, July 29th:

Aurora at Once upon a screen…: The Night Walker (’64)

Rich at Wide Screen World: Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks

Le at Critica Retro: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (’48) ‘Live Dreaming’

Furious Cinemas: William Castle: Mad as Hell Movie Showman

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Favorite Things About… House on Haunted Hill

Forgotten Films: Macabre (’58)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis: 13 Ghosts (’60)

Joey at The Last Drive In: House on Haunted Hill (’59) ‘Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here’

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition

Tuesday, July 30th:

David Arrate of My Kind of Story  It’s a Small World (1950) ‘Image Gallery’

The Last Drive InWilliam Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision…

Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear) & Radio Spirits: The Whistler, Mark of the Whistler, Voice of The Whistler

Heather Drain at Mondo Heather: 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) & Hullabaloo & Horror: A Tribute to William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Matinee (1993) A Cinematic Love Letter to the films of William Castle

Karen at Shadows and Satin: Mysterious Intruder (1946)

Kristina at Speakeasy: The Houston Story (1956)

Ray at Weird Flix: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

The Metzinger Sisters at Silver Scenes: Busy Bodies: Promoting Castle’s Camp” & The Films of William Castle!

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) {Boston Blackie}

Goregirl’s Dungeon: The Women of Castle

Wednesday, July 31st:

Brian Schuck at Films From Beyond The Time Barrier:Strait-Jacket (1964)

Joey at The Last Drive In: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

Rob Silvera at The Midnight Monster Show: Double feature Homicidal (1961) & House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Macabre (1958)

David Arrate My Kind of Story-Images: It’s a Small World (1950)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

Thursday, August 1st:

Steve Habrat at Anti Film School: Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Classic Movie Hub: The Busy Body (1967)

John LarRue at The Droid You’re Looking For: William Castle Gimmick Infographic

Paul Lambertson at Lasso the Movies: The Tingler (1959)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Favourite Five Series: William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures:Tribute

Scenes From The Morgue:Showcase of newspaper ads for William Castle films

Stacia at She Blogged By Night: Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Ruth- R.A Kerr at Silver Screenings: The Old Dark House (1963)

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: I Saw What You Did (1965)

Ray at Weird Flix: The Saracen Blade (1954)

Friday, August 2nd:

Toby Roan at 50 Westerns: The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954)

Misty Layne at Cinema Schminema: Project X (1968)

Jenna Berry at Classic Movie Night: Ghost Story/Circle of Fear

Kristen atJourneys in Classic Film: Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story

Joey at The Last Drive In: Back Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Jeff Kuykendall at Midnight Only: Bug (1975)

Gwen Kramer at Movies Silently: After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

David Arrate at My Kind of Story-Images: Shanks (1974) & Masterson of Kansas (1954)

The Nitrate Diva: When Strangers Marry (1944)

Dorian Tenore Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: The Spirit is Willing (1967)

Vinnie Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted:Zotz! (1962)

Sam at Wonders in the Dark: Christopher Komeda’s Score, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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William Castle’s Villains & Victims! Scream-O Vision…

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THE VILLAINS:

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the ruthless head of the pick pocket ring
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Could this be Martin Milner as Benjamen Rush a fake ghost?
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13-ghosts Margret Hamilton she just looks mean all the time…
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a naughty up to mischief kind of ghost in The Spirit is Willing
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Kitchen ghosts and chef ghost in 13 Ghosts
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The Parmiter Bug ’75 they are excellent spellers
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Mrs. Slydes House on Haunted Hill
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Skeleton or Annabelle you decide!
Emmett Kelly The Fat Man
Bad clown, bad bad clown Emmett Kelly in The Fat Man 1950
Hayden Rorke The Night Walker
Hayden Rorke just looks ominous in The Night Walker
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Jean Arless has a serious identity crisis in Homicidal 1961
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Murderous Steve Marak (John Ireland) in I Saw What You Did ’65
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House of Evil- episode of Circle of Fear television series. Melvyn Douglas as the bad grandpa and the evil muffin people
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Joan Crawford wielding an axe in Strait- Jacket
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Guy Rolfe as Mr. Sardonicus 1961
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oscar homolka Sardonicus’ leech loving sadist
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Ruth Gordon as good neighbor Minnie Castavet
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Vincent Price’s neck tie- The Tingler

Carol Olhmar as Annabelle

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THE VICTIMS

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Audrey Dalton as Mr Sardonicus’ wife/victim
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The eternally screaming Nora… oh shut it already will ya…so she glides
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Dan Duryea as small time hood sent up for life Johnny ‘Stool Pigeon’ Evans
Edward Stillwell (Paul E. Burns)Mysterious Intruder '46
Edward Stillwell (Paul E. Burns)Mysterious Intruder ’46

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But you are Helga You are in that chair
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Helga- you just couldn’t stop tapping that damn door knob- in Homicidal
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Janette Scott and Tom Poston at the mercy of the Femm Family in The Old Dark House
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Jill Townsend, Barry Gordon and Sid Caesar in The Spirit is Willing ’67 menaced by merciless ghosts
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Joan Crawford is too demanding of John Ireland in I Saw What You Did
Kim Hunter When Strangers Marry
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Ellen Corby as Poor Miss Kushins – her little lamb is missing

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Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor in The Night Walker
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Vincent Price experiments with fear and finds it himself in The Tingler
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Scott Brady is framed ex-con Tony Reagen in Undertow ’49
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Mia Farrow is Rosemary looking at a face only a mother could love
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the guy in the chicken coup is gonna get it… wonder if he’s a leg or breast man?

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The projectionist is feeling all Tingly….

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Nora, will you just shut up already….you’re hysterical

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Look who’s coming to The Last Drive In on Friday! Bring some chocolate mouse

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See ya at The Dakota-MonsterGirl

Welcome to The William Castle Blogathon: Day One!

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IT’S DAY ONE OF THE WILLIAM CASTLE BLOGATHON– I FEEL SOMETHING EERIE AND YET PLEASANT CRAWLING UP MY SPINE!  I THINK IT’S EXCITEMENT SO SCREAM, SCREAM FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!! HAPPY 54TH ANNIVERSARY TO THE TINGLER

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Here at The Last Drive In -We’re kicking off the celebration with some very spine tingling, toe tapping tales in celebration of the great William Castle.

Aurora over at Once upon a screen… is hiding under the sheets as she talks about The Night Walker (1964) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor and Lloyd Bochner.

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Rich, over at Wide Screen World, offers us his Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks!

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(Le) at Critica Retro discusses charming romp Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (1948)

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MacGill, Ryan, Bates and Hamilton- Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven

And my wonderful partner in crime, Terri at Goregirl’s Dungeon, will be setting the Wow Meter off into the red with her Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition!

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So don’t be afraid my fearless friends- head over to the dungeon and see Terri’s cheeky tribute to the July 29, 1959 54th anniversary nod to our little pal… The Tingler plus…her fun with gifs!-you won’t be able to take your eyes off ’em

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Terri at Goregirl’s Dungeon will be hosting folks at her lair with bars on the windows and vats of boiling acid; so go there and be thrilled to your bones!

Furious Cinema, Lindsey at The Motion Pictures, Forgotten Films, Barry at Cinematic Catharsis

And me at The Last Drive Inshowing some love to my favorite Castle fun house fright ride- House on Haunted Hill (1959)Good old Mrs Slydes still scares the hell out of my cat… okay maybe me…. when she glides through the dark wine cellar.

The Spine-Tinglers Are!

Monday, July 29th:

Aurora at Once upon a screen…: The Night Walker (’64)

Rich at Wide Screen World: Top 5 William Castle Gimmicks

Le at Critica Retro: Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (’48) ‘Live Dreaming’

Furious Cinemas: William Castle: Mad as Hell Movie Showman

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Favorite Things About… House on Haunted Hill

Forgotten Films: Macabre (’58)

Barry at Cinematic Catharsis: 13 Ghosts (’60)

Joey at The Last Drive In: House on Haunted Hill (’59) ‘Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here’

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Fun with GIFS: The William Castle Edition

Tuesday, July 30th:

Heather Drain at Mondo Heather: 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) & Hullabaloo & Horror: A Tribute to William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: The film Matinee (1993) and how it was inspired by Castle

Karen at Shadows and Satin: Mysterious Intruder (1946)

Kristina at Speakeasy:  The Houston Story (1956)

Ray at Weird Flix: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

The Metzinger Sisters at Silver Scenes: Busy Bodies: Promoting Castle’s Camp” & The Films of William Castle!

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) {Boston Blackie}

Goregirl’s Dungeon: The Women of Castle

Wednesday, July 31st:

Brian Schuck at Films From Beyond The Time Barrier: Strait-Jacket (1964)

Joey at The Last Drive In: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)

Rob Silvera at The Midnight Monster Show: Double feature Homicidal (1961) & House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Macabre (1958)

David Arrate My Kind of Story-ImagesIt’s a Small World (1950)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Alex North & Vic Mizzy

Thursday, August 1st:

Steve Habrat at Anti Film School: Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Classic Movie Hub: The Busy Body (1967)

John LarRue at The Droid You’re Looking For: William Castle Gimmick Infographic

Paul Lambertson at Lasso the Movies: The Tingler (1959)

Goregirl’s Dungeon: Favourite Five Series: William Castle

Lindsey at The Motion Pictures: Tribute

Scenes From The Morgue: Showcase of newspaper ads for William Castle films

Stacia at She Blogged By NightLet’s Kill Uncle (1966)

Ruth- R.A Kerr at Silver Screenings: The Old Dark House (1963)

Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of YesteryearI Saw What You Did (1965)

Ray at Weird FlixThe Saracen Blade (1954)

Friday, August 2nd:

Toby Roan at 50 Westerns: The Law vs Billy the Kid (1954)

Misty Layne at Cinema Schminema: Project X (1968)

Jenna Berry at Classic Movie Night: Ghost Story/Circle of Fear

Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film: Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story

Joey at The Last Drive In: Back Story: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? (Rosemary’s Baby)

Jeff Kuykendall at Midnight Only: Bug (1975)

Gwen Kramer at Movies Silently: After the Silents: Chills! Thrills! William Castle Special!

David Arrate at My Kind of Story-Images: Shanks (1974) Masterson of Kansas (1954)

The Nitrate Diva: When Strangers Marry (1944)

Dorian Tenore Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily DistractedThe Spirit is Willing (1967)

Vinnie Bartilucci at Tales of the Easily Distracted: Zotz! (1962)

Sam at Wonders in the DarkChristopher Komeda’s Score, Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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House on Haunted Hill (1959) “Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here”

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vintage house on haunted hill poster

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL 1959

Disembodied screams, rattling chains and ghoulish groans amidst creaking doors- all a delicious mixture of frightful sounds that emanate from a jet black screen.

Suddenly Watson Pritchard’s floating head narrates the evenings spooky tale–

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“The ghosts are moving tonight, restless… hungry. May I introduce myself? I’m Watson Pritchard. In just a moment I’ll show you the only really haunted house in the world. Since it was built a century ago, seven people including my brother have been murdered in it, since then, I own the house. I’ve only spent one night there and when they found me in the morning, I… I was almost dead.” -Watson Pritchard

The marvelously dashing face of Vincent Price or for the film’s purposes, Frederick Loren’s head sporting a plucky mustache and highbrow tone introduces himself in front of the imposing Modern-Ancient structure–

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“I’m Frederick Loren and I’ve rented the house on haunted hill tonight so my wife can give a party. A haunted house party… She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I’ll give you each $10,000. Or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. Ah, but here come our other guests…”
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“It was my wife’s idea to have our guests come in funeral cars… She’s so amusing. Her sense of humor is shall we say, original. I dreamt up the hearse. It’s empty now but after a night in the house on haunted hill… who knows.”
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“Lance Schroeder a test pilot, no doubt a brave man but don’t you think you can be much braver if you’re paid for it?”
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“Ruth Bridges the newspaper columnist. She says the reason for her coming to the party is to write a feature article on ghosts. She’s also desperate for money. Gambling.”
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“Watson Pritchard a man living in mortal fear of a house and yet he’s risking his life to spend another night here… I wonder why? He says for money.”
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“Dr. David Trent a psychiatrist. He claims that my ghost will help his work on hysteria. But don’t you see a little touch of greed there around the mouth and eyes.”
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“This is Nora Manning- I picked her from the thousands of people who work for me because she needed the 10,000 more than most. Supports her whole family… Isn’t she pretty?”
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“The parties’ starting now and you have until midnight to find the house on haunted hill.”

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Von Dexter’s music, a mixture of solemn strings, a sustained and queasy Hammond organ & Theremin greet us with an eerie funeral dirge while the shiny black gimmicky funeral cars pull up in front the quite sinister post modern structure.

And this is just the opening fanfare of William Castle classic House on Haunted Hill!

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One of William Castle’s most beloved low budget, fun-house fright ride through classical B movie horror and exquisitely campy performances. Distributed by Allied Artists and written by Robb White who also did the screenplay for Castle’s Macabre 1958, The Tingler 1959 13 Ghosts 1960 & Homicidal 1961.

written by Robb White

White’s story is quirky and wonderfully macabre as it works at a jolting pace delivering some of the most memorable moments of offbeat suspense in this classic B&W B-Horror morsel from the 50s!

The success of the film inspired Alfred Hitchcock to go out and make his own low budget horror picture- Psycho 1960.

Much of the style and atmosphere can be attributed to the unorthodox detail by art director Dave Milton and set designer Morris Hoffman. The exterior of the house is actually The Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, built in 1924, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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the house

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There’s a pervasive sense of dread in House on Haunted Hill, that makes the house itself a ‘spook.’
Whether the house is haunted or not, it’s forbidding presence tells us that it just doesn’t matter. The history of the house itself, it’s violent past is enough to give one chills. While not in the classic sense like that of Robert Wise’s diseased and imposing Hill House, William Castle does a fabulous job of inventing a parameter to tell a very cheeky and pleasurable little scare story. As David J Skal puts it succinctly “The real, if unintentional spook in House on Haunted Hill is postwar affluence.”

The narrative is fueled by the creepy atmosphere of the house itself. Not using a claustrophobic Old Dark House trope but rather a modern Gothic construction that swallows you up with odd motifs and a sense of malignancy within the fortress walls. The starkness of the wine cellar and it’s empty miniscule dark grey rooms with sliding panels is almost more creepy than black shadowy corners with cob webs and clutter. Director of photography Carl E Guthrie  (Caged 1950) offers some stunning and odd perspective camera angles and low lighting which aide in the disjointed feeling of the sinister house’s magnetism.

interior house

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Nora explores the house

The constant explorations into the viscera of the house by the guests is almost as titillating as the criminal set-up and conspiracy that is afoot propelled by Von Dexter’s tantalizingly eerie musical score with deep piano notes and eerie wispy soprano glossolalia.

House on Haunted Hill works wonderfully, partly due to the presence of the urbane master of chills and thrills, the great Vincent Price who plays millionaire playboy Frederick Loren. Vincent Price was a versatile actor who should not be pigeon holed as merely a titan of terror, given his too numerous layered performances in great films like Otto Preminger’s Laura ’44, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Dragonwyck ’46 etc. Vincent Price did however make his mark on the horror genre with House on Haunted Hill. The New York Herald-Tribune praised Price’s performance as having “waggish style and bon-vivant skepticism.”

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As David J Skal puts it in his, The Monster Show {Vincent Price} “Could bring an arch elegance to the most insipid goings-on…

The omnipresent Elisha Cook Jr. is superb as Watson Pritchard, the neurotic sot who is riddled with fear, spouting anecdotes about the house’s grisly history.

I adore Elisha Cook, from his cameo in Rosemary’s Baby, his performance as George Peatty in Kubrick masterpiece The Killing ’56 to his very uniquely intense role as Cliff the sexually jazzed up drummer in Phantom Lady ’44.

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Elisha Cook Jr as the doomed George Peatty in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing ’56

The strikingly beautiful Carol Ohmart plays Loren’s treacherously seductive wife Annabelle who is sick of her husband’s irrational jealousy. Has she already tried to poison him once but failed? The story alludes to as much. Annabelle wouldn’t be happy with a million dollar divorce settlement, she wants ALL her husbands money! Annabelle is Loren’s fourth wife, the first wife simply disappeared.

The supporting cast is made up of Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson and Howard Hoffman as Mrs. & Mr. Jonas Slydes.

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And of course the skeleton who is billed as playing ‘himself!’

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