27 user 29 critic

Shanks (1974)

A mute puppeteer uses a deceased scientist's invention to control dead bodies like puppets.


William Castle


Ranald Graham
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Marcel Marceau ... Malcolm Shanks / Old Walker
Tsilla Chelton ... Mrs. Barton
Philippe Clay ... Mr. Barton
Cindy Eilbacher ... Celia
Helena Kallianiotes ... Mata Hari
Larry Bishop ... Napoleon
Don Calfa ... Einstein
Biff Manard Biff Manard ... Goliath
Mondo Mondo ... Genghis Khan
Read Morgan ... Policeman
William Castle ... Grocer
Phil Adams Phil Adams ... Beethoven
Lara Wing Lara Wing ... Little Girl


Malcolm Shanks is a sad and lonely man, deaf, mute and living with his cruel sister and her husband, who delight in making him miserable. His only pleasure, it seems, is in making and controlling puppets. Thanks to his skill, he is offered a job as a lab assistant to Dr. Walker, who is working on ways to re-animate dead bodies by instering electrodes at key nerve points and manipulating the bodies as if they were on strings. When the professor suddenly dies one night, Shanks gets the idea to apply their experimental results to a human body, and then to start exacting some revenge. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A new concept in the macabre in which the Good come out of the grave and the Evil are sent to fill the vacancy. See more »


Fantasy | Horror



Did You Know?


The role of the biker Goliath was played by Biff Manard, who would become Playgirl Magazine's Man Of The Year in 1975. See more »


After Mrs. Barton moves Celia's placemat, Malcolm cocks her body to her left. In the following shot, she's cocked to her right. See more »

Crazy Credits

Right before the closing credits roll, a quote from William Makepeace Thackeray is featured: "Let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out." See more »


Featured in Trailer Trauma Part 4: Television Trauma (2017) See more »

User Reviews

Yes, it's Strange, but it's also Good.
20 June 2005 | by Sturgeon54See all my reviews

Here is a film I had wanted to see for some time and finally tracked down a low-quality bootleg video of. I am quite a fan of unusual films like this, although unlike the works of David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky, the weirdness of this film comes naturally from the storyline and not from any intentional strangeness just for the sake of strangeness. William Castle has created a neat, compact, self-contained movie universe here, with the setting being an odd juxtaposition between a dark Gothic castle and sunny Northern California. I couldn't help but be reminded of Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands", another modern fairy tale about a mad but gentle genius and his near-mute misfit assistant in a dark old castle surrounded by a sunny '50s style suburbia. In fact, call me crazy, but I will bet that Burton has seen this film before and was possibly inspired by it while making his own film. There are other similarities to that film: the genius dies leaving the misfit to fend for himself in the outside world, the villains are in a motorcycle gang, the misfit falls for a local blond teenage girl, and he also performs his "magic" for children in a school classroom. Also like the films of Burton, there is a mixture of visual motifs from the past and present, including silent-movie style story-cards, Alex North's heady music score, and a motorcycle gang.

Sadly missing, though, is a highly compelling storyline, but in this case style over substance is not such a bad thing. This film is hard to classify, as it is not completely horror, modern fairy tale, or art film. I think it would be best to classify it as an experimental curio - one of those films like "Eraserhead", Jacques Tati's "Playtime", "Cabinet of Dr. Caligaryi", or "El Topo", which have no conventional film equivalent yet continue to garner a following from a small group of adventurous filmgoers. If you are attracted to films such as these, you will not be disappointed with "Shanks."

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Release Date:

9 October 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A bábmester See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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