William Castle double-feature

Shanks (1974)

“The town drunk with a shrew for a wife and a deaf mute for a brother-in-law”

The movie has silly, cartoonish music by Alex North which belongs in a goofy porno comedy, just a few years before North’s lowest low point in Wise Blood. He was oscar-nominated by the tin-eared academy, but fortunately they awarded the great Nino Rota the honors instead.

Shanks (Marcel Marceau) is a ridiculed mute puppeteer hired by rich Mr. Walker (also Marceau!) to control dead people using a three-button remote? I don’t remember why. Honestly, it was late at night and it was a very silly movie and I watched it while assembling Ikea furniture. But here are some notes I took:

The miracle of bringing dead animals to life is achieved cinematically by using live animals
Suddenly an underage love interest named Celia.
The drunk gets killed by a reanimated chicken in slow motion
Flowery intertitles

Wife is hit by a car – I’m not giving murderous Marceau credit for that one
TV laugh track during sinister scenes
He makes them do an awful lot with just three buttons

Mr & Mrs Barton is the couple, mute is Malcolm
Perverse to star a celebrated mime but have all the other actors play fun reanimated dead people [this was before I realized Marceau also played Mr. Walker, the first to be hilaiously reanimated]

Silly-ass music

“The outside world of evil,” says a title card which burns away revealing… youth on motorcycles. Still the greatest threat to society in 1972: mustache dudes on motorcycles.

Mata Hari is the bad girl
Good girl is killed and, let’s face it, probably raped. Typical 70′s.

Closing title card unsubtly tells us “Good versus Evil,” but I wouldn’t exactly call Marceau “good,” just maybe in comparison with the others in this movie. He’s also shown to be a better fighter than the leader of the bike gang. Needless to say, he reanimates the dead girl at the end and makes her dance with him, because he is a dangerous creep. Mata Hari never wakes up and calls the cops, like she should.
First rom-zom-com? Look out, Shaun of the Dead.

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Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

“London, 1880″
Castle doesn’t really look like John Goodman, but he is just as cheesy.

What was this about? Robert goes to Sardonicus’ castle to surgically fix his death-grimace face, supernaturally obtained when Dr. S tried to rob a winning lotto ticket from his own father’s grave, but Robert’s science is unsuccessful. There is intrigue involving Dr. S’s wife, I believe. I’m pretty sure I liked it better than Shanks, or maybe I’d just been drinking more.

Sir Robert is a handsome physical therapist with right-hand man Wainwright
Much is made of the invention of the hypodermic needle
He has a photo-locket that speaks to him in flashback-voiceover
One-eyed hunchy Krull [Oskar Homolka of Ball of Fire and Sabotage]

A scene ripped off from Dracula when he arrives in eastern europe
Also no mirrors in the castle
Ana has leeches on her!

Nice to see a castle servant who’s intelligent and well-spoken
Maybe Sardonicus is meant to sound like sarcophagus, but it looks more like sardonic
Toulon! [Sardonicus is played by Guy Rolfe, Andre Toulon in Puppet Masters 3-7]

Henryk [Vladimir Sokoloff of Baron of Arizona] was his dad. I actually thought it was Oskar playing a different character. Elenka is his first wife
Comically over-explainy, like in MANT

Buy Sardonicus from Amazon:
The William Castle Film Collection

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