Tuesday, March 10, 2009

William Castle Tribute at the OffScreen Film Festival

A big tip across the waters to our friend Gert Verbeeck of Cult Reviews, reporting from the front lines of the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium. In addition to a tribute/retrospective of William Castle's films (more below), they have programs entitled Post-Apocalyptic Films, Raro Italiano, Ozploitation (Australian exploitation), Interactive Cinema, and First-Offscreenings (new releases and premieres). For a closer look at Gert & Co.'s extraordinary viewing adventures, visit Cult Reviews at http://www.cultreviews.com/

American director and producer William Castle was known as the
King of the Gimmick." Although his contribution to the big Hollywood productions of the ‘50s and ‘60s was marginal, he was successful in promoting his low-budget B movies thanks to his inventive publicity campaigns. He transformed the big screen into a carnival experience…

William Castle, a.k.a. William Schloss, was born in 1914. He directed and produced over fifty films, yet became legendary above all for his talent in luring audiences to the movie theatres. In 1958, having only worked on B movies for the big studios until then, Castle took the reins and made the horror film Macabre. To rope in the spectators, he signed up for insurance with the famous Lloyd Company to cover any fear-induced casualties that could result from watching his film! This publicity stunt impressed many: the film was a success and Castle became a true phenomenon.

A series of well-packaged genre films ensued, each accompanied by sensorial effects such as “Percepto”, “Illusion-O”, “Emergo”, the “Fright break” or the “Punishment Poll”. This screening programme, which will include the some of the effects mentioned above, starting with a double feature on March 6 at Cinema Nova. Screenings will then continue at the Cinematek starting March 13, including six films by the inventive director who passed away in 1977 and the film Matinee, an affectionate homage to Castle by Joe Dante.

Films to be screened:

13 GHOSTS - One of the craziest ghost films ever made, directed by an overzealous William Castle who recklessly multiplied any and all effects designed to terrify the spectator. Featuring the “Illusion-O” gimmick, a special pair of glasses that allows spectators to see real ghosts.

HOMICIDAL - A disturbing residence where even more disturbing things take place. A horror film so frightening that William Castle offered to reimburse any terrified spectators who couldn’t sit through the end.

MR. SARDONICUS - This is Castle’s tribute to the gothic horror films of the 1930s. A ghoulish spin on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by way of “Eyes without a Face”. Featuring the “Punishment Poll” for audience participation, with a clever break hosted by Castle himself before the film’s devious finale.

STRAIT-JACKET - Joan Crawford is an axe-wielding homicidal maniac who leaves the psychiatric ward only to be haunted by her crimes… a mad adventure about madness.

THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL - An eccentric millionaire offers a tidy sum to any guest that survives the night in his haunted mansion. Vincent Price at his finest in one of Castle’s best movies, featuring his “Emergo” gimmick whereby an inflatable skeleton floats above the audience’s heads.

THE NIGHT WALKER - Barbara Stanwyck plays a rich widow tormented by strange dreams about her missing husband. A psychological thriller written by Robert Bloch, author of “Psycho”.

THE TINGLER - Vincent Price is a scientist obsessed with fear. In his research, he discovers that fear causes a nasty, worm-like creature to grow inside the human body along the spine. Featuring the legendary “Percepto” gimmick: Some innocent viewers will receive a mild electric shock from their seats!

ZOTZ! - A magic coin from ancient times bestows supernatural powers upon he who holds it. William Castle strays from his usual path of horror in this rare attempt at fantasy and comedy.

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