Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story is a documentary about film producer/director William Castle. Castle is best known for the series of gimmicks he used to promote his B-movie horror films in the 50s and 60s. He had directed films prior to that, but before that they had been primarily crime and comedy B-movies.
The film touches on Castles early life and personal life later on, but primarily focuses on what a film like this should focus on: Castle’s drive, his films, his desire to direct an A-Movie and the gimmicks he used to get people into the seats.
Really, the gimmicks are the films primary focus and it spends time going into detail about the more memorable ones. For instance, his first horror romp Macabre is know for offering it’s movie goers an insurance policy (backed by Lloyds of London, no less) in case one of them were to die of fright.
Of course, there was no chance of that happening, but the nurse sitting out in the lobby
And the hearse parked out front…
Were nice touches, non-the-less.
Other notable gimmicks included the skeleton that would fly though the theatre during the House on Haunted Hill
And by ‘skeleton’ I mean sad, inflatable imitation. Castle was nothing if not cheap. I also love how everyone seems so thoroughly unimpressed by it.
And the buzzers that were put under several strategic seats in theatres that were to be activated at a certain time during The Tingler.
Percepto, AKA, We’re going to make your chair vibrate. This will either freak you out or be mildly enjoyable.
And, yes, that is Vincent Price on that movie poster. That he was able to talk Price into appearing in a movie so laughable tells you a lot about the character of one William Castle.
According to the film, they got along surprisingly well.
And indeed, what set Castle apart from other directors of his time was his personality. Castle was quite well known in a time when movie directors were not only unknown but garnered little attention, save perhaps for Alfred Hitchcock. Castle spent a lot of time promoting his films, appearing in the trailers and showing up at premieres around the country.
It was this extra effort that endeared him to his fans and made him so well known, despite the lower quality of his movies.
While Castle himself never realized his dream of directing that ever elusive A-Movie, he did finally manage to get his name attached to a big-budget A-film, if only as a producer with a small walk on role. But it’ll be the gimmicks and cheesy, but enjoyable, films that he made in the 50s and 60s that have left a larger impact. So if you enjoy those early horror, or even sci-fi, movies of yore, than Spine Tingler is something that you may wish to look further into. If nothing else, it’s an interesting story about an interesting man. A man with a plan…..to make your seat vibrate.
I’m not sure, but I think that’s Hitchcock’s head. One sided rivalries can be fun.
Spine Tingler is listed, but does not seem to currently be available, to rent on Amazon.
It is, however, currently available on DVD.