Saturday, October 15, 2011

Night of Terror #15: 'Homicidal"

Let's get one thing straight about William Castle: He weren't no artist. He didn't think of himself as one, anyway. And when you watch his movies, it's clear to see he didn't have that cinematic verve that, say, Hitchcock has. Same with the performances - they're mostly flat (unless Vincent Price was involved), and delivering the kind of ridiculous expository dialog that seems fundamentally disconnected from real life. And yet there is a kind of artistry to William Castle's movies. If Hitch is The Beatles, William Castle would have to be, I dunno, The Stooges or something. Maybe they didn't know how to play their instruments, but holy shit, they could play anyway.

That's actually a horrible analogy because Castle's movies aren't particularly exciting in the conventional sense, but there's something so thrilling about them anyway. Which finally brings us to Homicidal, a blatant Psycho knock-off from 1961. It's got Psycho's stark black-and-white cinematography, a violent plot about a serial killer, a couple stabbings/dismemberments, shots of driving in the rain, and a twist ending.

It also has something Psycho does not: A "Fright Break," in which a clock appears on the screen and faint-hearted members of the audience are invited to leave before things get too intense. Gimmicks like this are a huge part of the Castle oeuvre, and they give his movies a kind of Pop Art weirdness that I really love.

It occurred to me about halfway through this that my aim of keeping the blog free of heavy spoilers means I won't be able to talk about by far the most interesting aspect of the movie, which is the big "twist" and its ramifications. Oh well. Instead I'll point out that the character of Helga seems to be at least one inspiration for the wheelchair-bound and mute Hector Salamanca on Breaking Bad. Only instead of a bell, she has some kind of gavel thing. I wonder if Vince Gilligan ever saw this movie?

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