"A WORD OF WARNING! Please don't reveal the ending of this picture or your friends will kill you – IF THEY DON'T, I WILL! – William Castle"#Horror #Mystery#NotQuiteClassicCinema pic.twitter.com/e6A9FMcpZ1
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) May 2, 2020
Much like Scream of Fear (1961), Homicidal (1961) is a post Psycho (1960) psychological horror film shot in black and white. Also like Scream of Fear, Homicidal features a character in a wheelchair. Both movies also contain some clever twists and turns. Scream of Fear is the better of the two, in my opinion, but Homicidal is still an entertaining and effective little thriller.
Homicidal was made by William Castle, who was famous for his gimmicks, like Percepto!, the attaching of electric buzzers to some theatre seats during The Tingler (1959), or Emergo, a giant skeleton that would fly over the audience during The House On Haunted Hill (1959). The gimmick in Homicidal is a 45 second “Fright Break” during which members of the audience who were too scared to continue watching the movie could leave the theatre and receive a refund.
Unfortunately for Castle about 1% of the audience took him up on his offer of a refund (presumably because they hated it, not because they were scared). Castle fought back by creating a “Coward’s Corner” which filmmaker John Waters described in his book Crackpot:
“When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn’t take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward’s Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: “Cowards Keep Walking.” You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform? … I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, “Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward’s Corner!” As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity – at Coward’s Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, “I am a bona fide coward.” Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to zero percent…”
William Castle is certainly an important figure in the world of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. House on Haunted Hill (1959) has been a personal favourite of mine for years. I also really enjoyed The Tingler (1959). Castle did produce one undeniable classic as well, which is another personal favourite of mine: Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The story goes that Castle could only get the rights to Ira Levin’s book of the same name if he agreed NOT to direct it. Thankfully he went ahead hired a young, up and coming director named Roman Polanski, and the rest is history.
Somehow I had never seen Homicidal until last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I enjoyed it very much and will be happy to watch it again in the future. Sure, it may be overly influenced by Psycho (1960). Yeah, maybe it isn’t William Castle’s best film. But it starts with one the most intriguing opening sequences I’ve seen in a long time. If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot. For the first 20 or 30 minutes, I thought it might be my new favourite movie.