Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Wolfe Barzell, Patricia Breslin, Teri Brooks, Alan Bunce, Glenn Corbett
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Cross Alfred Hitchcock with a carnival showman and you might come up with William Castle, the low-budget horror king of the exploitation gimmick. Homicidal is arguably his best film, a devious little Psycho knockoff with a... more »
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A cult favorite - for good reason
Kona | Emerald City | 07/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do you remember shrieking with horror and giggling with delight at William Castle's old black and white spook-fests? Well, here's one of his best: Homicidal, a drama that borrows freely from Hitchcock's Psycho.
The story opens as a strange blonde woman pays a stranger to marry her and promptly stabs the man who performs the ceremony. Back in the sleepy town of Solvang, California, we meet a peculiar young man named Warren, who has returned to his old home with this mysterious blonde. Warren is about to inherit a fortune on his twenty-first birthday, but strange things start happening - and what secrets are hidden in the dark, old house?
This movie is short on actual violence, but long on creepy atmosphere and things that go bump in the night. The actors are all good, but the real star is director Castle, who creates a very scary mystery with so much tension you'll be on the edge of your seat. In true Castle-style, there is a gimmick in this movie: Just before the final scene, a clock appears on screen to allow those too frightened to watch the end to leave the theatre - and sit in the Coward's Corner booth in the lobby. It's all in good fun and not to be taken seriously; you'll be spooked by the thrills and chuckling as soon as it's over. A fun movie!
"I don't like your eyes, Helga....they see too much!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most pre-eminent showmen in Hollywood, William Castle, director of such films as The Tingler (1959) and House on Haunted Hill (1959) released Homicidal in 1961, one year after the release of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Psycho. Some will say it's a blatant rip off of Psycho, and others will say it's more of a homage, but either way, it's a very entertaining film.
The story starts off showing a woman, played by actress Jean Arliss aka Joan Marshall, checking into a hotel and offering a bellboy two grand to marry her. The bellboy is naturally curious, but the lure of the humongous pile of greenbacks keeps his queries to a minimum. They arrive at the Justice of the Peace, late in the evening, and the ceremony proceeds, only to end in a very grisly, visceral murder. Confused? I was too, but all will be revealed as the film progresses. The film's plot is fairly intricate, involving murder, money, and mayhem. The story mainly takes place in a small, southern California town focusing on the remaining family members, a brother and sister, Carl and Miriam Webster, both sharing the same father but different mothers. Jean Arliss plays Emily, a live-in caretaker for the now elderly mute woman confined to a wheelchair that cared for Warren while he was growing up. A dark, mysterious family secret drives the film that maintains a stranglehold on the viewer's attention until the very end. The plot seems very convoluted at the beginning, but the pieces slowly start to fall into place. I really don't want to get into specifics about the movie, as I fear I will give something away to someone who hasn't see the film, but I will say that Castle really was able to provide suspense pretty much throughout. You may be able to figure out the twist ending, as I caught on to it later in the film, but it was still very creepy when all was revealed at the end. There were some plotting gaps, and some of the exposition seemed a bit clunky and forced, but the movie appeared to have as more working for it as it did against it, helping to keep us interested through the 87 minute running time.
William Castle, being the showman he was, usually incorporated gimmicks into his movies, ranging from buzzers in theater seats to provide a 'shock' to various patrons for The Tingler (1959) to plastic skeletons suspended on a wire that would fly from the screen towards the audience for the film House on Haunted Hill (1958). In Homicidal, the gimmick was called Fear Break. This incorporated certificates that moviegoers would get prior to the start of the feature, which would allow people to get their money back if they got too scared and wanted to leave, but there was a catch. The Fear Break occurred near the end of the movie, with a 45 second stop clock appearing on the screen, and voice over stating that things were going to get really scary after this point, so if you wanted to leave, do so now. The catch to redeeming your certificate in order to get you money back was you had to stand in the Coward's Corner, near the exit, until all the movie viewers who stayed had filed out. Given that this would probably be very embarrassing, I doubt many people tried to take advantage of this gimmick. It was pretty obvious Castle tried to emulate Hitchcock in many areas, and there are similarities between this film and Psycho, but where Hitchcock was a master director at building up tension and suspense in often subtle methods, Castle more or less would forgo subtly for sensationalism and give it to you both barrels in the face. Effective, yes, but, in my opinion, nowhere near as frightening. Castle always seemed a showman first and foremost, and second, a director.
This picture on this DVD looks really wonderful, but in standard format. I was curious as to if someone was going to go through the trouble of digitally remastering a movie, why not present it in its' original format? Oh well...special features includes trailers for two other Castle films, Straight-Jacket (1964) and Mr. Sardonicus (1961) and a great featurette titled "Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal". If you haven't seen this film before, do not watch the featurette before the movie, as it will give away the 'surprising and shocking' ending. What would have been a great addition to this would have been a reproduction of the certificate that was handed out at the original screenings on the movie. While this film is certainly derivative to Hitchcock's Psycho, Homicidal doesn't hold up nearly as well, but then, how many movies could?
Scary as He-Double-Hector!
Joyce Rapier | Van Buren, AR United States | 06/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1962, my husband and I, along with many on and off campus college students, went to see the "much touted," Homicidal. Neatly seated in the small theatre, voices were booming until the movie started. Popcorn and cokes were the norm, so we settled down to view the movie we thought would be over rated by the general population of the small town.
Much to our surprise, the black and white thriller lived up to be one of the most horrid things we ever watched. Several minutes into the psycho, popcorn and cokes flew through the air and pelted every head that wasn't under the seat! Screams from men and women echoed as though we were in the Grand Canyon and couldn't get out of the enormous abyss. Taking a few deep breaths to calm our senses, the movie continued while we waited for the next knife to jab into another person's guts. Calm, we were...for awhile.
Refilling the snacks (popcorn and cokes)from the previous episode of the nerve shattering wacko woman's rage, all became quiet. Holy Moley! When the countdown came (it's on the movie) for those to exit the theatre to keep from watching the all time, teeth shattering, hair raising scene...we sat there like dummies. Then Helga, gotta love Helga, scared the beejeebers out of us. Once again, popcorn and cokes soared through the air. One of the ladies in front of us passed out, another one was yelling she was in labor and others scattered out of the movie like mice being chased by a cat.
After the movie, my husband and I had to enter a two story house to get to our apartment. The hall lights would not come on and we ran up the stairs as fast as we could. Needless to say, the movie did a number on our psyche and we talked about this movie for years.
Enter today, as we ordered the movie from Amazon to see if it was what we remembered. YEP. It still made my hair stand on end. If you love psycho movies, much like Alfred Hitchcock's offerings...order this one, but forget the popcorn and cokes...you won't have time to eat them!"
Infamous Castle Gimmick Film
John Gentile | Hoboken, NJ | 05/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most horror fans know William Castle's movies were very very low budget. He boosted his films with attention getting gimmicks. For this obvious Psycho imitation, her offered "cowards" their money back if they were too scared to see the last 10 minutes of the film. Of course, the kids watched the end, and then stayed to see the movie again to get their money back before the second showing ended! Castle remedied this by issuing different color tickets for each show!
The plot concerns a homicidal woman seemingly killing without reason, but there is a method to her madness. The ending is given away by some dialogue dubbing, which was not as sophisticated in 1961.
The film was a big hit. I am absolutely amazed it was not released in any home format until 2002 (DVD only). The DVD is taken from a great print (fullscreen). A short but interesting documentary explains the Castle gimmick.
Most importantly, the DVD contains the "fright break". This is the minute where a clock appears on the screen, and the audience is given 60 seconds to leave the theater to get their money back. Not Castle's best, but an entertaining way to spend a rainy afternoon."