Tuesday, April 23, 2013

William Castle, 1914-1977

TCM is running a bunch of movies in honor of Shirley Temple's 85th birthday today. I was thinking of doing a post on That Hagen Girl, which is airing at 12:15 PM and doesn't seem to be on DVD, but I already did one some time back. So, I was going to do a post on somebody else who was born today, but unfortunately while looking up the birthdays on IMDb, I typed in April 24 for today's date, when in fact it's only April 23. So I wrote an entire post on April 24 birthday boy William Castle before realizing I was a day off! Oh well, the whole post is written; there's no point in deleting it and starting a new post, especially since there's something on TCM tomorrow night worth blogginb about tomorrow morning. If you want a good April 23 birthday other than Shirley Temple, you could do worse than director Frank Borzage, or actress Simone Simon.

Anyhow, William Castle started off directing B-movies in the 1940s, doing three of the movies in The Whistler series, including the first of them. Despite the low budget, Castle gets a lot out of his actors, which might have something do with with a good plot, about a man (Richard Dix) who pays to have himself killed because his wife was lost at sea, only for him to find later that his wife was in fact not lost.

Castle continued to direct B-movies for others in the 1950s, getting to do several westerns. I believe The Gun That Won the West just showed up on TCM last week, and I don't think I've ever seen Jesse James vs. the Daltons before. At any rate, it's quite different from what he was doing in the 1940s, and what he'd get to do once he became a producer.

It is of course the work that Castle did as a producer that made known today for what he is, that being a man who used all sorts of gimmicks to draw people in to the theaters. TCM showed the first film he produced, Macabre, recently, but I think the gimmicky stuff is better known from a film like The Tingler, for which he had seats wired with small electrical charges so that at key points during the movie, some audience members would scream. Castle produced Rosemary's Baby, but didn't direct it.

Of the movies Castle directed, I think my favorite might be Strait-Jacket. Joan Crawford became increasingly fun to watch in the 1950s and 1960s, and she's a hoot in that horrible dress, axe-murdering the Six Million-Dollar Man. The plot itself is a lot of fun too. True, the production values aren't the greatest, but I've argued a lot that a good story can often make up for a poor budget.

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