Friday, 14 October 2011

Movie Review - Jeffrey Schwartz's Spine Tingler The William Castle Story

This documentary marks the history of director and producer William Castle, who was an American showman liked to include a gimmick within his films that allows his audiences to participate. "In short, the film is a chronicle of the last great American showman, filmmaker William Castle, a master of ballyhoo who became a brand name in movie horror with his outrageous audience participation gimmicks (Miska, 2011) His gimmicks were also crucial to Castle as the seriousness of the film as critics would review both and the clever extra made Castle's films different from other horror movies. The Tingler does this in the form of electric buzzers under certain cinema seats so that only selected members of the audience would feel the sensation of 'the tingler' crawling over them. These gimmicks drew more people back to experience them for themselves.

Figure 1, (2008), The Spine Tingler

Castle concerntrated more on the fun qualities that a movie could bring which made his films more original and unique to other movies. "Will remind audiences that the genre can be fun first and important second..." (Vasquez, 2010) In a sense Castle's fun gimmicks masked some of the terrible effects such as the floating skeleton in The Haunting on the Hill or the creature in TheTingler because he was more interested in engaging the audience's participation and reactions as his work was staged in a theatre. A strong example is when Castle released Homicide, a year after Hitchcock released Psycho because Castle copied the idea of a cross - dressing killer and stalker but made the tone of the film more fun and engaging but telling his audiences not to reveal the ending. Hitchcock was more serious with Psycho by allowing it to play out as classic horror with his choice of soundtrack and iconic scenes such as the murder in the shower make him more successful and changing the horror perception away from Castle's out of date fun gimmicks and bad effects.

Figure 2, (2007), Homicidal

However, these gimmicks and the showmanship of Castle stopped him being a respected director. "It's a portrait in contradiction, a man who finds success in gimmicks but so wants to be taken seriously." (Axmaker, 2009) In the documentary, Castle gets excited about Rosemary's baby and his ambition causes him to pay the rights to make the film but the investors based him on his previous work of fun and gimmicks and decided he wouldn't be able to carry the seriousness and capture the true dark themes of the story. This led in castle reliquishing the role of director to Roman Polanski and settle for producer. Although Castle got his name in the credits, the audience can tell this is a young ambitious drive of Polkanski.

Figure 3, (2010), Gimmick in 13 Ghosts (red if you want to see the ghosts, blue if you don't)

Illustration List
Figure 1, (2008), The Spine Tingler, @, Accessed on: 1st April 2008
Figure 2, (2007) ,Homicidal, @, Accessed on: 2007
Figure 3, (2010), Gimmick in 13 Ghosts (red if you want to see the ghosts, blue if you don't), @, Accessed on: 2nd September 2010

Axmaker Sean, (2009), Seanax. com - The William Castle Story, @, Accessed on: 18th October 2009
Miska Brad, (2011), Bloody Disgusting your number 1 source for horror - The William Castle Story, @, Accessed on: 2011
Vasquez, (2010), Cinema Crazed - The William Castle Story, @, Accessed on: 3rd October 2010

3 ½ / 5

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