Cinema Sunday: Macabre (1958)

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Title: Macbre

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producer: William Castle

Starring: William Prince, Jim Backus, Christine White, Jacqueline Scott, Susan Morrow

Released: March 1958

MPAA: Approved

 

As I march thru the holiday season, there are a couple more flicks I want to get out of the way. This one by William Castle and company is at the top of my list. For those who haven’t seen this film, you’re in for a treat. Imagine if you got home one day, and your child was missing. You frantically run through your entire house, but the child is nowhere to be found. A sinister voice over a phone tells you something nightmarish, and voilà, you have an incredible thriller! Oh, and when you see a familiar face as one of the main characters, try not to laugh! OK, here we go…

 

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The film begins with a funeral parlor director giving a statement to the sheriff (Jim Backus, yes, from Gilligan’s Island!) about how his establishment was broken into. He tells the sheriff that it was a child’s coffin, but the sheriff seems to think the man is probably trying to pull an insurance scam to pay off gambling debts. He then sees a man get out of a car across the street, and you can tell he’s got bad intentions towards the man. We are then introduced to Dr.Rod Barrett (William Prince), as he’s verbally accosted by the sheriff, who seems to have it in for him. Why? Because apparently the Doc won the affections of a woman who the  sheriff also loved (Alice, the Doc’s wife who died). The sheriff advises him to get out of town, but the Doc tells him to get lost, then heads inside to his office.

 

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Inside the office, we meet the Doc’s secretary, Polly Baron (Jacqueline Scott). She’s prettying herself up for the Doc, as she seems to be smitten with him. He enters the office and she lights up like a Christmas tree. They talk briefly about the sheriff, but the Doc (with Polly in-tow) eventually heads out and to his home. Once there, he looks for his daughter, who was with his girlfriend all afternoon, but returned home safely. The nanny, Miss Kushins (Ellen Corby), informs him that his daughter is probably just hiding, and that’s why he can’t find her. He frantically searches for her, but to no avail. He thinks maybe she’s gone back to his girlfriend’s house, so he heads over to her place. He arrives but she’s not there either, and he has a brief conversation with Sylvia Stevenson (Susan Morrow), but returns home quickly.

 

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Just before he reaches his home though, the telephone rings. Polly answers, rushing in front of the nanny. She gets a horrified look on her face, and then begins screaming at the caller. The Doc rushes in, and asks her what’s going on. She tells him that the unidentified caller told her that the Doc’s three-year old daughter has been kidnapped, and buried alive. They only have a few hours before she runs out of air, and dies. Polly, the Nanny, and the Doc are trying to piece together this insane assault on his family, but cannot figure it out. The Doc thinks she must be buried in the graveyard, so he and Polly head over there to try to find her. Meanwhile, the nanny goes to the grandfather (the Doc’s father-in-law), to inform him of the incident, even after the Doc requested she not tell him due to a bad heart condition he has recently acquired. She tells him what’s going on, and you can tell by his demeanor that he’s not going to take this lying down.

 

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Over at the graveyard, Polly and the Doc are still trying to piece this together while searching the area. They seem to feel like they’re being watched, and Polly tells him numerous times that she heard and saw something in the brush nearby. They see a fresh grave, so they begin digging. A few minutes in, and the Doc realizes it’s a ruse. They then head over to a crypt of the family’s but it’s so full of cobwebs, you know it hasn’t been disturbed in years. They get surprised by the grave keeper, but explain to him they’re not grave robbers. Jode Wetherby (the grandfather, real name Philip Tonge), surprises the grave keeper, and accidentally kills him. Polly rushes him back to the Doc’s house, where he accuses the nanny of possibly being the abductor.

 

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Is it the nanny, the sheriff, or another enemy of the Doc or Wetherby family? Find this movie and get the answers to this riddle!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one film for the time that was pretty morbid and outlandish. Think about it, the year is 1958, and most of us weren’t even in a dream in momma’s head yet. William Castle can be called nothing less than a revolutionary in the film industry. Yes, most will remember him for the gimmicks (this film had one- an insurance policy because you might die of fright! – image below), and rightly so, but dig deeper, and watch these films, and you’ll see the substance is there.

 

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Believe it or not, Jim Backus plays an incredible heel in this film. Most will remember him as Thurston Howell III, from Gilligan’s Island, of course, but put that role out of your head, because this is nothing like that show. William Prince does a good job portraying a tortured soul, and the frantic father. The supporting cast is above average, and we get a great mystery with a few red herrings to throw you off the scent. A couple of beautiful starlets are a treat as well (images below)!

Get out there and find this flick, you wont regret the time spent watching this thriller!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Tingler (1959)

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Title: The Tingler

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producer: William Castle

Starring: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Philip Coolidge

Released: July 1959

MPAA: Approved

 

After a double-dip of Amicus films, I thought it had been too long since I’d visited a film starring one of my all time favorite actors, Vincent Price! I still have quite a few films of his that I want to spotlight, and this one is right at the top of the list, so I figured, why not? By this time in his career, Price had been working diligently and built up a good reputation. He had also begun to do almost nothing aside from horror films, which was a big deal for him, and would’ve been for any actor of that time (the genre was very well-respected back then).

I’d like to think that the relationship between William Castle and Price was one that helped vault both of their careers into the stratosphere, and it definitely helped the genre tremendously, and the industry. Castle was known for his cheaply made films that used a gimmick to get the audience to squeal, and more often than not, he accomplished that feat and more. OK, without further interruption, here we go…

 

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The film begins with it’ Producer/Director, William Castle warning the viewers that he’s obligated to warn us that we (the viewers) will also be experiencing some of the sensations physically that the actors in the film did. He urges you to scream at the top of your lunges to help alleviate this sensation. The screen is then bombarded by floating heads that scream loudly, and the film begins.

We see a man in a jail cell, and he looks as though he’s about to go mad. He’s led from his cell to a room (execution), and then the scene switches to a room marked “autopsy” and we see Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price), as he’s readying the room for another customer. A few minutes alter, and a body is rolled out of the room, and towards the autopsy room. Once the body arrives, Chapin begins his work. He notices that the dead man’s back is broken in two different places, and he theorizes that something other than electrocution did this. The other man in the room, Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge), tells Chapin that this man is a serial killer that also happens to be his wife’s brother. Chapin discusses his fascination with fear, and experimenting on people to figure out the effects from it.

 

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After the autopsy is over, Chapin gives Higgins a ride into town. They walk by a movie theater that Higgins and his wife own. Higgins uses sign language to tell his wife that he’s going to have a cup of coffee with Chapin at their apartment across the street. Eventually, Mrs. Higgins (Judith Evelyn), comes in and Oliver explains that she cannot speak or hear, so she must read lips or use sign language. As they talk, Chapin gets cut, and the mere sight of blood causes Martha to faint. later, Chapin tells Oliver that the reason she faints when she sees blood, is because she cannot scream and release the fear inside of her. Chapin, after Oliver asks him about the tingling sensation, dubs this condition “the Tingler.” Chapin leaves and heads for home.

 

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Over at his house, Chapin enters and is greeted by Lucy (Pamela Lincoln), and then his partner, David (Darryl Hickman). He tells David about his interesting experience today with the deaf-mute woman, and the two theorize about the effects of fear. Lucy gets mad and wants to leave, so David eventually complies. Later that night, Isabel (Patricia Cutts), Lucy’s older sister (and guardian), and apparently Chapin’s rich, estranged/ex-wife. Chapin and Isabel exchange quips, and then after Isabel gets cranky, Chapin pulls out a gun, and threatens her with a pistol. He leads her down to the lab, and threatens her. He demands that she leaves Lucy and David alone, and that gives half of her father’s fortune to Lucy. She tells him she wont do it, and lunges for the phone to call the police. Chapin shoots her, and while the body is still warm, he begins to experiment on her.

 

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He quickly takes x-rays of her spine to see what causes it to break suddenly when someone is struck by a terrible fear. A moment later, she leaps up from the table and shrieks. He tells her it was only blanks in the gun, and that she passed out from the situation. Meanwhile, a cat that David procured for the experiment hops in the window and scares Isabel. He tells her that the cat was originally intended for the experiment but he thought she’d make a better volunteer. He also asks her is she’s seen this cat before in any of the local alleyways. She threatens him and gives him an ominous forecast for his future.

 

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The following day David comes over to the lab, and shows him the x-rays of Isabel just as she was scared stiff. David is astounded by this find as they both see that there is indeed something in the spine just as someone is frightened. Chapin wants to push forward, but David is worried. Chapin convinces him to follow along, and the two try concoct a plan to extract a “tingler.” Chapin gives David the night off, and he and Lucy get the impression something is amiss.  They’re right, and they peek in on Chapin as he injects himself with some drugs (LSD?) to induce a fear in himself.

 

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Chapin starts to go on a trip, and is trying to record all of this, but is having trouble keeping up with things the longer he’s under the influence. He starts to hallucinate that the walls are closing in on him, and he begins to panic. He feels like he can’t breathe, and sees the skeleton in his lab come after him. He tries to stop himself, but cannot, so he screams out. After he wakes, he tells David and Lucy that there isn’t anyway possible for someone to stop themselves from screaming from fear. He then gets a sinister idea, and leaves. David is worried he might experiment on Oliver’s wife, since she cannot scream.

Will Dr. Chapin resort to experimenting on Martha? Will he prove his theory about the Tingler? Check out this classic to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is another good one from Castle and Price. House on Haunted Hill is better, mostly because of the cast, but also in plot. You can’t dismiss this one though, and I’m sure the gimmicks helped this one be even better when it was in the theaters. The special effects were pretty cool, especially the scene with the blood. Of course the “Tingler” by today’s standards would be judged as cheesy, but in all honesty, it looks as good comparatively speaking to the face-hugger in Aliens (1986).

The film is a must see for any Price fan, but also for anyone that loves old school cinema, especially of the thriller/horror variety. You do get a cool twist late in the film, and if you love House on haunted Hill, this one has some of the same elements to it that made that one great. Lets be honest for a minute, Price could carry any film, and his reputation was built on performances like this one!

 

Click here for the trailer!