When Bill Schloss got into showbiz, he decided a name change was in order to give the old nom-de-plume a little more punch to get noticed; and thus, William Castle was born. And after cutting his teeth on a ton of B-features in the 1940s and ’50s, the director was intrigued by the huge success of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s imported thriller, Diabolique — especially it’s twist ending, and the promotional efforts that not only teased the frightful climax but at the same stroke worked very hard to keep that final shock / reveal a secret. But most important of all, Castle was keenly interested in the massive lines forming around the block wherever it played! With that as an inspiration the director decided to try his hand at producing his own fright flick and an industry legend was born — ready, willing and able to cash in on the bally-ho and the bullshit in a string of gimmick-driven pictures for over a decade, including this fantastic feature from the spring of 1959, House on Haunted Hill; an awesome Vincent Price-fueled spook-show teamed up with a standard police procedural, where a couple of hard-nosed cops try to track down a firebug before he strikes again. And with this latest feature, Castle also unleashed a new process called Emergo:
Video courtesy of brutallodotcom.
Seems an inflatable skeleton was trolled out over the audience during the film’s climax, but, alas, I fear the Capitol Theater might have opted out of using it since there is no mention of Emergo in the ads, meaning their patrons had to settle for just watching it with someone with warm hands — whatever the heck that means?!
With or without the gimmicks, the King of Schlock — or the Poor Man’s Hitchcock, call him what you will — the one thing you can say about any of Castle’s films was they were seldom — if ever — boring, and always a wonky good time.
Other Points of Interest:
House on Haunted Hill (1959) William Castle Productions :: Allied Artists / P: William Castle / AP: Robb White / D: William Castle / W: Robb White / C: Carl E. Guthrie / E: Roy Livingston / M: Von Dexter / S: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook Jr.
Arson for Hire (1959) Broidy Pictures Corporation :: Allied Artists / P: William F. Broidy / AP: Erwin Yessin / D: Thor Brook / W: Tom Hubbard / C: William Margulies / E: Herbert R. Hoffman / S: Steve Brodie, Lyn Thomas, Tom Hubbard, Wendy Wilde