The Film Forum presents this fifteen-film tribute to the late producer-director William Castle, running from August 27 through September 6. Specializing in horror films and thrillers, Castle was an entertaining showman who relied on on outrageous gimmicks with catchy names like Percepto, Emergo, and Illusion-O, in order to lure audiences into theatres to see such campy confectionery as THE TINGLER, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, and 13 GHOSTS. Thanks tothese innovative process, audiences might feels their seats vibrating as if a creature were scurrying beneath their feet in the theatre, or see a skeleton floating overhead on a wire, or be given an opportunity to walk out and get their money back if they felt the ending might be too intense (few people took advantage, as it required sitting in a “Coward’s Corner” in the lobby until the film was finished).
THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL are probably two of Castle’s most well known films, thanks to the presence of horror star Vincent Price, whose campy approach to the genre was perfectly suited for Castle’s gimmicky style of fun. HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL yielded a 1999 remake starring Geoffrey Rush and Famke Jansen; 13 GHOST was also remake. Although amusing and fun, Castle’s work loses something on television and home video, where the gimmicks cannot be replicated; fortunately, the Film Forum is presenting the films as they were meant to be seen – with the gimmicks intact.
If you want to get a taste of what the William Castle experience was all about, you should check out Joe Dante’s 1993 film MATINEE, in which John Goodman plays a Hollywood hustler obviously inspired by Castle, whose latest gimmick consists of simulating an atomic explosion in the middle of a sci-fi movie about radioactive mutation.
The Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014, between 6th Ave and Varick (7th Ave). Their webpage for the Return of William Castle series is here.
AUGUST 26/27 Fri/Sat (2 Films for 1 Admission)
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
AUGUST 29 Sun (2 Films for 1 Admission)
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
AUGUST 30 Mon (3 Films for 1 Admission)
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!
SEPTEMBER 1 Wed (2 Films for 1 Admission)
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
SEPTEMBER 2 Thu (2 Films for 1 Admission)
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
SEPTEMBER 2 Thu (Separate Admission)
WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) Kim Hunter, Dean Jagger, Robert Mitchum
SEPTEMBER 3/4/5/6 Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon
THE TINGLER (1959) IN PERCEPTO! & PSYCHEDELORAMA!
Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Judith Evelyn
Plus PsychoÂThe Trailer
1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 8:15, 10:05
SEPTEMBER 3/4 Fri/Sat (Separate Admission)
JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (1954) Brett King, Barbara Lawrence
SEPTEMBER 5/6 Sun/Mon (Separate Admission)
FORT TI (1953) George Montgomery
Check out the official press release for more details:
15 CASTLE CLASSICS,
INCLUDING LEGENDARY ÂGIMMICKÂ MOVIES
at Film Forum, August 27-September 6
THE TINGLER, in Percepto! and Psychedelorama!,
in special 4-day run, September 3-6 (Labor Day weekend)
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 Â including one created exclusively for Film Forum), will run at Film Forum from August 27-September 6 (two weeks). This is the return of CastleÂs gimmick movies to Film Forum Â 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 – 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.
Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s Director of Repertory Programming, first presented the Castle gimmick movies at the theater in 1988. ‘Like 3-D, I saw the gimmicks as a theatrical experience that home video couldn’t compete with (it still can’t): a kind of low-tech interactive cinema. The Tingler, in fact, became our own Rocky Horror Picture Show Â over the years, I codified the main Tingler sequence into a mini-stage show.
Â”Castle’s wife and daughter came to the theater for our first festival. When Mrs. Castle saw what we had devised for The Tingler, she commented (with a slight German accent), ‘Bill never went to this much trouble.””
Goldstein has since served as consultant on Castle shows around the world and technical advisor on a Japanese documentary on Castle. He has personally directed Castle events in Tel Aviv and, last year, in a three-city European tour: Munich, NeuchÃ¢tel (Switzerland), and Paris, where he presented the films in the rarefied salles of the Cinmatheque Francaise. “Ten French workmen were engaged to rig the Emergo! skeleton alone,” he says.
Â”We attracted huge crowds in all three cities,” says Goldstein. “I then realized that it has been 15 years since we last showed the Castle movies at Film Forum. This is my way of celebrating our 40th anniversary.”
THE RETURN OF WILLIAM CASTLE opens on August 27 & 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 CowardÂs 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! Â a process “more startling than 3-D!” MR. SARDONICUS, screening with Haunted Hill on Sunday, features CastleÂs famed ÂPunishment Poll.Â 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: Dr. 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 StanwyckÂs real-life ex, Robert Taylor; and LETÂS KILL UNCLE, the exact suggestion of Mary Badham (Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird) to teenaged pal Â and heir to $5 mil Â 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 looseÂbut 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 3-D 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 3-D’d sexpot Barbara Lawrence is raison d’Ãªtre enough for this Castle oater; and the French & Indian War ÂEasternÂ 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 Â and a Film Forum tradition Â is THE TINGLER, with its spine-tingling PERCEPTO!, the ultimate in audience participation, to be shown over Labor Day weekend (September 3-6, Friday-Sunday). “Get ready to scream Â 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 GoldsteinÂs 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).