Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


HOMICIDAL (1961). Director: William Castle. Screenplay by Robb White.

Castle's shameless imitation of Psycho is an entertaining picture in its own right, if decidedly less “artistic.” A cold, rather weird-looking blond named Emily (Jean Arless) pays a handsome bellboy (Richard Rust) to marry her, then immediately after the ceremony, takes out a butcher knife and plunges it into the stomach of the justice of the peace, drawing much blood. Emily is apparently the wife of a slender young fellow named Warren, who lives with his old nurse Helga (Eugenie Leontovitch), who has suffered a stroke and is being taken care of – in more ways than one – by Emily. Then there's Warren's half sister Miriam (Patricia Breslin) and her druggist boyfriend Carl (Glenn Corbett), both of whom come to suspect that there's more to Emily than meets the eye. The whole business is tied into Warren's upcoming inheritance and the macabre truth about his birth. While Homicidal may be rather stupid all told, it is an effective horror comic with fascinating elements and some well-directed murder sequences. Castle obviously didn't take it too seriously – it's often overwrought like a burlesque -- and the picture emerges as a very amusing black comedy once you're clued in to its psycho-sexual dynamics. Castle introduces the picture in an unnecessary prologue, and offered theater patrons a “fright break” so they could leave the theater before the gruesome climax. Critics of the period were either amused or outraged, with some opining that the great Leontovitch was debased by appearing in such a film, and that Jean Arless had the most embarrassing debut of any actress in movies. Actually, Leontovitch offers an excellent, intelligent performance despite the fact that she hasn't a word of dialogue [not to mention her tumbling head in the movie's sickest – or funniest – sequence], and Jean Arless – according to – was better-known as Joan Marshall, who later played an old girlfriend who's prosecuting Captain Kirk on an episode of Star Trek. Marshall also married director Hal Ashby and had a small role in his film Shampoo (1975) with Warren Beatty. Arless is definitely not Leslie Parrish, as some have theorized, who also appeared on Star Trek and was in movies [Li'l Abner/1959] under her own name before Homicidal was made.

Verdict: Watch out for that head! ***.

No comments: