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Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Biography | 20 October 2009 (USA)
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Chronicles the last great American showman, filmmaker William Castle, a master of ballyhoo who became a brand name in movie horror with his outrageous audience participation gimmicks.

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Cast

Credited cast:
... Himself
... Himself
... Herself
Sidney D. Balkin ... Himself
Steve Bickel ... Himself
Robert Bloch ... Himself (archive footage)
... Himself
... Himself
Kathy Burns ... Herself (archive footage)
Terry Castle ... Herself
... Himself (archive footage)
... Himself (archive footage)
... Himself
... Herself (archive footage)
... Himself
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Documentary on famed Hollywood director and producer - and supreme showman - William Castle. Castle made his mark in the decade from the mid-1950s to the mid 1960s with a series of low-budget but highly popular and profitable horror films. The list includes Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), Homicidal (1961) and many others. Castle always had to have a gimmick to go with his movies. These included having nurses on duty in the lobby should anyone need medical assistance or giving everyone a $1000 insurance policy should anyone die of fright. Castle's greatest success came as he producer of Rosemary's Baby (1968). All in all he is fondly remembered by those who knew and worked with him. Written by garykmcd

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He was just another movie director...until he found himself a gimmick.


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20 October 2009 (USA)  »

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Behind the Scenes with one of the Horror Greats
19 August 2008 | by See all my reviews

William Castle is notorious among horror fans as the B-grade director of the 1950s and 60s. His gimmicks, his cost-cutting techniques and his unique vision are legendary. It comes as no surprise, then, that someone (Jeffrey Schwarz, who's made countless documentaries) would finally take the time to devote a documentary to his greatness. Such is "Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story".

I had a general understanding of who Castle was, having seen some of his films over the years. I knew nothing about her personal life, his goals and ambitions. This film really fleshed out the man and gave me a fuller appreciation for the devotion he had for the craft of film-making and his contributions to the horror genre. The movie depicts Castle as rival to Alfred Hitchcock, with Hitch being the artist who wins praise while Castle is the carnival barker who gains cult notoriety, but much less respect. He is an icon to all second-rate directors out there, which is why it's not surprising that John Waters is featured prominently in here. (Joe Dante and Stuart Gordon also have sizable roles.)

His gimmicks were what drove his fame, and the documentary takes great pains to explain them, which is crucial for those who are too young to remember. The rudimentary 3-D of "13 Ghosts" (see separate review), the buzzer in the seat for "The Tingler" (see separate review), money back guarantees for "Homicidal"... watching these films now outside the theater, we can judge them for their content (which, personally, I still enjoy) but we cannot fully appreciate what audiences once felt.

The climax of the film is when Castle goes from cult director to Hollywood producer. Having bought the rights to "Rosemary's Baby", he is put in a very special place for negotiating its film release. Hoping to direct, he is sidelined to producer in order to make way for new director Roman Polanski. While at first disappointed, this proves to be one of the best opportunities of his lifetime -- a hugely successful film, and a job he excels at. Who better to control the purse of wild artist Polanski than a penny-pinching Castle? This was to be his crowning achievement, though sadly the film is more often connected to Polanski than Castle.

The remainder of his years are played out, and we are given personal reflections by his daughter and niece. Across the board, everyone seems to have nothing but praise for the man. Somewhere along the way, he surely upset one or two people, but you would never know it from this film. And I find that find -- this is a celebration of Bill Castle's life, not "E! True Hollywood Story". Fans of the genre would do well to pick up a copy of this work.

I would personally recommend picking up the William Castle Collection, which has not only this but eight of Castle's films in it, with plenty of special features. Even this documentary comes with an audio commentary so you can hear how Schwarz was personally affected by Castle, and have Castle's daughter Terry giving a running reflection of her experiences with the different films and remakes. It's almost a whole new film.


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