Tag Archives: William Castle

The Busy Body (1967)

busy body

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Find the dead body.

George Norton (Sid Caesar) is a nebbish mama’s boy who, for whatever reason, gets taken in by Charley (Robert Ryan) a Chicago mob boss. Charley even gives George a seat on his board of governors. When a fellow crime boss (Bill Dana) gets killed in a freak accident it is George who selects a blue suit for the corpse to wear at the funeral. Unfortunately that blue suit was lined with a million dollars and Charley demands that George dig up the body and retrieve the money, but when he does he finds that the body is gone and thus begins a long, winding, ‘madcap’ search for the missing body and money.

Noted horror director/producer William Castle decided late in his career to give comedy a stab and this is the result. The beginning is mildly amusing, but the humor gets terribly strained and a 100 minute runtime is just too long for such trite material. Everything gets suppressed into silliness with an overplayed music score that has too much of a playful quality to it making the whole thing thoroughly ingrained on the kiddie level from start-to-finish.

Dom DeLuise has an amusing bit as a mortician that would really rather be a hairdresser and Kay Medford is quite funny as George’s doting mother, but the rest of the supporting cast is wasted, which includes Richard Pryor, in his film debut, playing in a role that does not take advantage of his comic skill. Caesar is just not leading man material and his vaudeville-like shtick is quite passé and predictable. His co-star Ryan is far funnier and without having to try half as hard.

The plot goes off on wild tangents until it becomes impossible to follow and quite pointless. The whole production is horribly dated and will not appeal to kids or adults. In fact the film’s intended audience has long ago passed away making this thing a silly relic of its time and nothing more.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 12, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Castle

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Strait-Jacket (1964)

strait jacket

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Giving them the ax.

Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) comes home early one night from a trip only to find her husband Frank (Lee Majors in his film debut) in bed with another woman. This enrages her so much that she grabs an ax and chops off both of their heads all while in front of her young daughter.  After being institutionalized for 20 years she is released and sent home to live with her now grown daughter Carol (Diane Baker). Unfortunately the ax murders begin happening again and all signs seem to point to Lucy having a bad relapse.

Director William Castle keeps the proceedings compact enough to be entertaining, but borrows too many elements from Psycho and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? while also adding a few to many gimmicks. Having the setting take place on a rural hog farm gives it a little extra atmosphere. The wrap-up is nice, but halfway through the film I had already figured out the twist ending and thus making the final revelation not as shocking or interesting as I think the filmmakers intended.

I realize the gore factor here is quite sanitized when compared to today’s horror movies and yet the scene where Lucy axes her hubby is actually quite effective. We see the shadow of the husband’s body with his head popping off like a cork coming out of a wine bottle. Instead of cutting away like most other films do it cuts back to Joan’s face where she continues to whack and whack and whack while her eyes get wilder with rage, which in many ways makes this far better and more fun than most other ax wielding movie scenes.

The film also brings out an interesting loophole. Namely the fact that can a woman be considered crazy for wanting to chop off her husband’s head after finding out he is unfaithful or is she simply giving the two-timing cad his just desserts.

Baker is good in support and her face is adorable. Her restrained performance nicely compliments Crawford’s more hammy and histrionic one. In fact some may consider Crawford’s acting to be over-the-top and unintentionally funny, but on a camp level it is fun. I realize both her wig and clacking bracelets become a major plot point, but I disliked both. The wig makes her look too much like an old, haggard version of her famous Mildred Pierce character and the constant clacking from the bracelets becomes annoying.

It was interesting to see Leif Erickson cast as a family friend who tries to work with Lucy and her emotional instability as he was at one time the husband of Frances Farmer an actress who also suffered from mental illness and I kept one wondering the whole time whether he was channeling those experiences into his character here. George Kennedy can also be spotted, but his almost unrecognizable as he has jet black hair here, a much thinner frame, and a pair of buck teeth.

Probably the film’s best gimmick comes at the very end where the famous torch carrying lady on Columbia Pictures logo is seen with her head cut off and having it lying on the ground beside her feet.

Capture 334

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 19, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Castle

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video