The Spine-Tingling Centennial of William Castle!
October 11–November 4
“William Castle was my idol. His films made me want to make films…William Castle was God.” — John Waters
“My favorite filmmaker” — Robert Zemeckis
2014 marks the centennial year of filmmaker and showman William Castle (1914–1977), the innovative purveyor of low-budget, gimmick-driven and highly remunerative spooky movies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A beloved cult figure whose films entertained and inspired a generation of future filmmakers and fans, and whose marketing moxie earned him a degree of begrudging respect from members of Hollywood’s A-list echelon, Castle toiled for years as a B-movie director at Columbia, churning out quickie Western and crime movies.
Striking out on his own as an independent producer/director, Castle hit upon a winning formula — scary movies pitched to a juvenile audience, each with an endearingly amateurish scare tactic that doubled as a promotional gimmick: audiences at MACABRE received a $1,000 Lloyd’s of London insurance policy against “death by fright”; THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL came equipped with “Emergo” 3-D (a fake, wire-suspended skeleton would “emerge” from a closet located near the screen); viewers watched 13 GHOSTS with their “Illusion-O” ghost-spotting cardboard spectacles; while camp classic THE TINGLER was augmented by “Percepto” technology, where randomly selected theater seats were wired with vibrating buzzers.
Near the end of his career, Castle enjoyed a bittersweet valedictory as the producer of ROSEMARY’S BABY, a smash hit, studio-funded, high-class horror film, directed by Roman Polanski. However, Castle, who shrewdly optioned the film rights to Ira Levin’s book before it was even published, had hoped to direct the picture himself.
AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings in the William Castle series.
Lawrence Woolsey presents the end of civilization as you know it. Make that…Proudly Presents! Key West, Florida, 1962: local boys Gene and Dennis Loomis can’t wait to go see the new movie from Lawrence Woolsey — creature feature producer, schlockmeister, cockeyed genius and promoter extraordinaire — who will be presenting in person his latest film, MANT — “Half man! Half ant! The product of science run amok. In Atomo-Vision and Rumble-Rama!” But with the Cuban Missile Crisis putting the country on high alert and paranoia running wild, what’s scarier — the image on the screen or the panic in the streets? John Goodman gives a masterful performance as Woolsey, clearly modeled on the one and only William Castle, in Joe Dante’s fond spoof of Cold War-era pop culture and B-movie camp.
DIR Joe Dante; SCR Charles S. Haas; PROD Michael Finnell. US, 1993, color, 99 min, 35mm. RATED PG
SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY
The surprising, inspiring and deliriously entertaining story of William Castle, producer/director and marketing genius behind a string of low-budget, wildly successful horror films in the 1950s and ;60s. An orphan by age 11, Castle quit school at the age of 15 to take a job as assistant stage manager for Bela Lugosi’s touring theatrical production of “Dracula.” Lighting out for Hollywood, he earned a position with Harry Cohn at Columbia, where he toiled on the cheapest of B pictures — but also had the opportunity to apprentice with filmmakers like George Stevens and Orson Welles. Finally an independent, Castle hit upon the winning formula that became his lasting legacy: scary movies with cheesy effects, brilliantly promoted with gimmicks that encouraged audience participation, much to the delight of the films’ enthusiastic young audiences. Featuring interviews with film world fans John Waters, Joe Dante, Leonard Maltin, Roger Corman and John Landis. Audience Award, Best Documentary, 2007 AFIFest.
DIR/PROD Jeffrey Schwarz. US, 2007, color, 82 min, digital presentation. NOT RATED
Admission is FREE!
Tickets will be available on the day of the show on a first-come, first-served basis; limit four per person. The box office opens 30 min before the first film of the day.
*Ticket does not guarantee admission* Please plan to arrive early and be in your seat 15 min prior to showtime, as empty seats will be opened up to standby patrons at that time.
Sun, Oct 12, 2:40
Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) and his family inherit a mansion from deceased uncle Dr. Plato Zorba, noted scholar of the occult. But as luck would have it, the place is full of ghosts, a dozen in fact, with designs on adding one more. But there’s buried treasure to be found there, if the Zorba family can safely navigate the household’s ghostly gauntlet. Luckily, their late uncle left them ghost-viewing goggles, which Castle also provided to the audience as cardboard red-and-blue-lensed, dual-purpose ghost viewers/ghost blockers equipped with the “Illusion-O” process — depending on their level of bravery, audiences could either see or block out the terrifying image of the blue-tinged ghosts on screen.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robb White. US, 1960, b&w, 85 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
Eccentric millionaire Vincent Price hosts a “haunted house” party, and offers $10,000 to any guest who can make it through the night in this spooky old manse, where seven murders have taken place over the years. Famous for introducing Castle’s “Emergo” technical innovation — a plastic skeleton that popped out of a cabinet near the screen — and a huge hit.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robb White. US, 1959, b&w, 75 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Miriam’s cousin Warren returns to their hometown after years abroad. Warren seems like a nice young man, but his wife Emily is a real pain in the neck…Alfred Hitchcock reportedly admired the promotional campaign for Castle’s hit horror flick HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL so much that he modeled his own hucksterish promotion for his 1960 low-budget production PSYCHO on it, to tremendous success. Castle returned the favor with 1961’s HOMICIDAL. The film included a “fright break,” where patrons too frightened to continue could exit and claim a refund — if they went to “Cowards Corner” and signed a yellow card certifying their cowardice!
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robb White. US, 1961, b&w, 87 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
"The Tingler is in the theater!" Scientist Vincent Price discovers a deadly creature dubbed "The Tingler" living inside the spine of every human. The parasite feeds on human fear, and if left unchecked, can cause instant death. Price’s theory is that nothing the human host’s screams can weaken and paralyze the creature. After surgically removing one from a victim for testing, things spiral out of control when the beast escapes to terrorize a crowded movie theater. Taking the screen’s first LSD trip to induce nightmares, Price puts his theory to the test in order to stop the madness.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robb White. US, 1959, color/b&w, 82 min, DCP. NOT RATED
HOLLYWOOD STORY with THE HOUSTON STORY
In this B-movie follow-on to the previous year’s SUNSET BLVD., producer Richard Conte begins filming a movie based on an infamous unsolved murder that took place back in the silent era, casting the surviving stars then implicated in the case, and long since forgotten, in bit parts. Castle’s fictional case closely follows that of the real-life William Desmond Taylor case, a silent-era actor/director whose murder was never solved. Featuring Julie Adams, Richard Egan, Henry Hull and Jim Backus, with a measure of verisimilitude provided by Francis X. Bushman, Helen Gibson and Joel McCrea as themselves.
DIR William Castle; SCR Frederick Kohner, Frederick Brady; PROD Leonard Goldstein. US, 1951, b&w, 76 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE HOUSTON STORY
Looking to strike it rich, wildcat driller Gene Barry (best remembered from TV’s BURKE’S LAW, and a revelation in 2012 Noir City DC’s NAKED ALIBI) conspires with mobster Edward Arnold to illegally tap into a valuable Houston oilfield. Soon, Barry is fighting both sides of the law in this energetic thriller. With Barbara Hale (PERRY MASON) as a nightclub singer caught up in the drama.
DIR William Castle; SCR Robert E. Kent; PROD Sam Katzman. US, 1956, b&w, 79 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON with UNDERTOW
JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON
G-man Howard Duff recruits convict Dan Duryea to help him infiltrate a West Coast drug dealing ring — the same criminal gang responsible for the death of Duryea’s wife. Shelley Winters is a gangster’s moll looking to go straight.
DIR William Castle; SCR Robert L. Richards; PROD Aaron Rosenberg. US, 1949, b&w, 76 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Ex-con and reformed Chicago mobster Scott Brady returns home to his fiancée Dorothy Hart after a trip to Reno, but soon discovers he’s been framed for the murder of her uncle, Chicago mob boss Big Jim. Enlisting the help of Peggy Dow, a fellow passenger from his flight, and an unusual friend, detective Bruce Bennett, Brady must race the clock, not only to clear his name, but to avoid getting whacked by the real killer. Includes the first screen credit for “Roc” Hudson, then a Universal bit player.
DIR William Castle; SCR Arthur T. Horman, Lee Loeb; PROD Ralph Dietrich. US, 1949, b&w, 71 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE NIGHT WALKER with WHEN STRANGERS MARRY
THE NIGHT WALKER
Barbara Stanwyck is unhappily married to Hayden Rorke, a blind millionaire inventor who is pathologically jealous and convinced his wife is cheating on him. She’s not — although she does find her husband’s personal attorney, Robert Taylor, attractive, and has recurring dreams where she trysts with a “dream lover.” After her husband dies in a lab explosion, it would seem that Stanwyck has gained her freedom. But those dreams won’t let her go. Castle’s stunt casting of former marrieds Stanwyck and Taylor was the promotional angle on this low-budget thriller, Stanwyck’s final feature film.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robert Bloch. US, 1964, b&w, 86 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
WHEN STRANGERS MARRY aka BETRAYED
“A 67-minute exercise in murder, paranoia, sexual intrigue and sweaty psychosis.” — Gary Giddins, Film Comment
Released in 1944 by the iconic “poverty row” studio Monogram (to whom Jean-Luc Godard, inspired by the studio’s stock-in-trade hardboiled crime pictures, dedicated BREATHLESS), WHEN STRANGERS MARRY has the illicit charm and vaguely disreputable material that many B pictures promise but few deliver. Director William Castle, later the gimmicky impresario of ’50s-era horror films, ably guides the excellent, on-their-way-up cast — including Robert Mitchum, Kim Hunter and Dean Jagger — through this tale of a hasty marriage, ensuing love triangle and murder setup.
DIR William Castle; SCR Dennis J. Cooper, Philip Yordan, from the story by William K. Howard and George Moskov; PROD Frank King, Herman King, Maurice King. US, 1944, b&w, 67 min, digital presentation. NOT RATED
STRAIT-JACKET with I SAW WHAT YOU DID
After 20 years in a mental hospital following the brutal axe murder of her husband and his mistress, Lucy Cutler Harbin (Joan Crawford) is pronounced cured and released, and goes to live with her brother and sister-in-law, along with her now-adult daughter, Carol (Diane Baker). But after a new series of mysterious axe murders takes place, all signs point to Lucy.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR Robert Bloch. US, 1964, b&w, 93 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
I SAW WHAT YOU DID
Mischievous teenagers Libby, Kit and Tess make a series of prank phone calls, saying, “I saw what you did, and I know who you are.” But they pick the wrong man to prank in Steve Marak (John Ireland), who has recently murdered his wife (Joyce Meadows), and now, believing the girls to be witnesses, sets about tracking them down. Meanwhile, Marak’s neighbor Amy Nelson (Joan Crawford) really did see what he did — but she has her own agenda.
DIR/PROD William Castle; SCR William P. McGivern, from the novel by Ursula Curtiss. US, 1965, b&w, 82 min, digital presentation. NOT RATED
Suffering from both a difficult pregnancy and a deteriorating psychological condition, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) believes that the strange doings in her chic New York apartment building may be the work of a secret Satanic cult among her otherwise normal-seeming neighbors. Her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) tells her it’s all in her mind, while older neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer and Best Supporting Actress Oscar® winner Ruth Gordon) take an increasingly intrusive interest in her health and comfort. But what if Rosemary’s terrifying dream — where she was drugged, incapacitated and ravaged by a demon — wasn’t a dream at all? Roman Polanski’s landmark horror film was produced by B-movie impresario William Castle, who makes a Hitchcockian cameo outside the phone booth as Rosemary frantically tries to reach her obstetrician.
DIR/SCR Roman Polanski, from the novel by Ira Levin; PROD William Castle. US, 1968, color, 136 min, DCP. RATED R
Fri, Oct 31, 11:00; Tue, Nov 4, 7:15