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The story centers around a murderous scheme to collect a rich inheritance. The object of murder is Miriam Webster, who is to share in the inheritance with her half brother Warren, who lives with his childhood guardian Helga in the mansion where Warren and Mariam grew up. Confined to a wheelchair after recently suffering a stroke, Helga is cared for by her nurse Emily, a strange young woman who has formed a close bond with Warren. Written by
William Castle claims that he had the idea for this film while he was sleeping. If so, I can only assume that he was dreaming about Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, 'Psycho' because the blatant homage to the earlier film is difficult to ignore. Castle injects all the same themes and many of the ideas from Psycho into this film, but luckily; the master of entertainment has enough ideas of his own to ensure that Homicidal isn't merely a rip-off. Besides, Castle himself had a small hand in the events leading up to the release of Hitchcock's low-budget thriller...so I guess he earned the right to homage. The film starts off with one of Castle's campy intro features, and we also get a 'Fright Break' towards the end; but on the whole, this film is slightly more serious than earlier films such as The Tingler and House on Haunted Hill. The film opens properly with a sequence that sees a beautiful blonde woman pay a hired hand at a hotel to marry her. One thing leads to another, and she quite shockingly ends up sticking the knife into the Justice of the Peace...the plot thickens with the introduction of the elderly Helga and an inheritance of $10 million.
This film is never as good as Hitchcock's Psycho, but the master of entertainment always ensures that there's enough going on to ensure that it doesn't get boring. Much of the plot takes place in a dark, creepy house; which helps the director to implement a morbid and macabre atmosphere. One of the major faults with the film with regards to the scare factor comes from Castle's own showboating. The 'fright break' towards the end kills the shocking atmosphere that Castle has spent the rest of the film implementing, and as a result; the final macabre sequence is not nearly as effective as it could have been. The final twist is a clear derivative of Psycho, but it's actually quite well worked. The film introduced the talents of Joan Marshall (appearing here as Jean Arless) to the cinematic world, and her performance is what makes the film what it is. It's a shame that she never went on to make much of a splash after this film. I wouldn't hesitate to label Homicidal as one of William Castle's better efforts, as even though it's not quite what audiences have come to expect from the master of entertainment, and it's purely derivative; Homicidal is still a fine quality B-movie shocker.
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