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Movie Gimmicks

The Tingler poster art
The Tingler poster

William Castle

"Without a doubt, the greatest showman of all time was William Castle. King of the Gimmicks, William Castle was my idol. His films made me want to make films. I'm jealous of his work. In fact, I wish I WERE William Castle."

- John Waters, "Whatever Happened To Showmanship?" American Film, December 1983

That last part perhaps excepted, I share director Waters' passion for the delightful (and frequently shameless) filmography and very persona of producer/director William Castle entirely. How many other show business moguls can you name who staged anti-Semitic protests at their own community theatres, electrified the seats of movie theatres to literally shock their target audiences (The Tingler), and yet who also had the artistic right stuff to collaborate with not only the legendary Orson Welles (The Lady From Shanghai), but Roman Polanski (Rosemary's Baby) as well?

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As Waters argues out in his essay: "Why do today's producers waste untold millions on media junkets, national television spots, and giant print ads, when they could come up with something as delightful and effective as handing out vomit bags at horror films?"

The man who discovered Divine has a point: take a look at the dreary and generic ad campaign for the big-budget Warner Bros. remake of Castle's House On Haunted Hill. Where's the promise of THX-mastered chills to come? The Death-By-Fright Insurance from Lloyds Of London? The extra-large "Cowards Corner" to better service the capacity of the contemporary multiplex? Crikey, there's not even a decent close-up of the film's star attraction, Geoffrey Rush mugging it up as a literal modern-day Vincent Price. Rush is buried in the back while the regular gallery of pretty faces stares out from the silhouette of a hand. Granted, it's a step up from The Faculty. But the promo art isn't a far step from that of non-genre releases like Body Shots.

Castle's gimmicksContinue Reading

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