Friday, 14 October 2011

Narrative: Review on 'Spine Tingler:The William Castle Story' (2007)

FIG.1 : Film Poster

A great film-maker, an impressive director, an ambitious actor, a loving father, a loyal husband, a genius mind, an undoubted innovator. These few words pretty much sum up William Castle, the King of low budget B-Movie Horror Flick!. Spine Tingler! is an unforgettable journey to Castle's career and a great story of how this film-maker blossomed.  He may not have been famous for his high rated films back in the 1950's-60's but  he certainly did know what could drive people into theatres to see his films. With the great combination of horror, humour and gore William Castle always put on a good show and impressed the audience with his clever gimmicks.

FIG.2: William Castle
Even from a very young age Castle was always overwhelmed whenever he impressed his audience. As a young boy he used to show off his gymnastic skills by over-stretching his limbs. From those days forward he knew that he was dying for his audience's applause and he emediately took the risk of finding a place in show-business. Starting off as an actor on stage he got in Hollywood in the late 1930's, and became a director in 1943 when he made numerous low budget films. In the late 1950's he became an independent film-maker. Recognising the growing enthusiasm of shock horror films, Castle aimed to make his own but this time with exploitation campaigns. 
One of his famous films which was marketed with the process called 'Emergo!' was House in the Haunted Hill (1959) which consisted of a luminous inflatable skeleton attached to a wire floating above the audience to scare them off. The object didn't always instil fright but it was indeed a clever gesture to astonish the audience. His next process was called Percepto! used for the film The Tingler (1959) where equipted the seats with buzzers  which caused an electric shock to whoever did not scream. "The Tingler is in fact a deeply complex and interesting film, ad with wiring up his cinema seats with electrical cables, Castle was actually-al-beit unknowingly- extending the principles of experimentation with theatre, audience and spectacle." ( Grant.2004:266) This fascinating thought drove hundreds of people in the cinema the very next day who wanted to experience the tingling sensation themselves. In addition, William Castle  used the marketing process called Illsion-O! in 13 Ghosts (1960) where he provided the audience with and held glasses with a red and blue cellophane strips. If the people wanted to see the ghosts they would have to look through the red strip, if they were too scared then they would have to look through the blue one instead. These sort of tricks enabled the viewers to interact with the film itself, and instantly made Castle famous for his innovative gimmicks.

FIG.3: 3D glasses gimmick
Castle often compared himself to Alfred Hitchcock , whom he referred to as the 'master' and the 'great man'. Castle studied hard Hitchcock's films. In one his films called Homicidal (1961) which was released a year after Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Both films were concerning a psychotic transgendered murderer. It was obvious back then how Castle was evoking Hitchcock in his own work.
But Castle soon enough wanted to break free from his gimmicks and prove to himself that he can do more than just a cheap B-movie. He wanted to take the risk and produce his first A-movie, and that's when he became the Producer of Rosemary's Baby (1968), directed by Roman Polanski.
In conclusion, William Castle is still considered today as the innovator of film gimmicks and some of his methods are still being used, even nowadays. He knew what the audience wanted so he went for it. He took the risk and didn't fail.


Barry Keth Grant(2004).Planks of reason: essays on the horror film. Scarecrow Press Inc.: USA

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: The Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story Poster At: (accessed on 13/10/2010)
FIG.2: William Castle At: on 13/10/2010)
FIG.3: 3D glasses gimmick At: (accessed on 13/10/2010)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andriana

    Don't forget the Star rating (see the group blog)