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Tagline: A WORD OF WARNING! Please don't reveal the ending of this picture or your friends will kill you - IF THEY DON'T, I WILL! - William Castle

Preshow Entertainment: YOU BET YOUR LIFE

Pizza: Bravo? No! Royal Pizza? No! Lenzini's? Si!


William Castle's HOMICIDAL. To say this is a rip-off of PSYCHO would not get you sued for slander. In fact, on a talk show, the Godfather of Soul mistakenly asked The Master of Suspense about "his" movie HOMICIDAL. It's said that Hitch was well aware of Castle's films, and how they were all done on such tiny budgets. This led to him doing PSYCHO, so you see? Full circle.

A fabulous turnout made tonight's movie experience so much fun...not that HOMICIDAL isn't fun on its own. But first we had to order the pizza - three times. The first, Bravo, didn't answer. The second, Royal Pizza, had a voicemail that went to someone's private residence, an odd way to do business, unless you're an escort service. We finally hit with Lenzini's, a new place.

I've seen HOMICIDAL before. A friend was trying to find a copy for his sister, who had seen it when it first came out. I can't remember if I had HOMICIDAL in the RMC collection or if I came across it soon after, but I was able to make a copy for her, and as I did, I watched. And loved it.

HOMICIDAL begins with gimmick-meister William Castle himself, smoking a cigar and doing needlepoint as he addresses us and intros the film. Then -

Talk about a big opening; Emily (Jean Arless), an alluring, mysterious bucket of hotitude checks into a hotel and immediately pays a bellhop to marry her. Then, she murders someone right before his eyes (I know this type well). We soon learn that Emily is a care provider for mute and wheelchaired Helga (Eugenie Leontovich).

Visiting Helga's house are Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin)...that's Miriam, not Merriam...and her step brother Warren. Something is odd about Warren. You can't really put your finger on it, though it's not entirely impossible to. Is this simply the case of an awful actor? Why does it sound like a bad dubbing job? What gives??? Well, something does give, but I'm not spilling.

There are a lot of unexplained things that Emily does (don't worry, it all gets sorted out), but this much is true - even without her murdering someone, Emily is clearly psycho in more of a premeditated way. She's Norma Bates with an agenda, although sometimes cold and calculated, other times she's fragile (watch out for those times as well). I love how her plan unfolds, leaving us in the dark, as it should. We're also provided with a lot of backstory. A lot. From drunken car crashes, tormented youngsters, trips to Denmark, a suspicious coparcenary, strokes, nurses that quit, Justices of the Peace that are paid off...but hang on to every word. It'll all make sense. And there are a lot of clues, too. A lot.

I love that HOMICIDAL takes place in Solvang, California. There's something so right about that. Why can't Danish communities have their share of maniacs? It's been too many years since HAMLET. And it's no mere coincidence that the movie is Dane-centric.

Solvang is populated with TV actors whose combined resumes cover every single show ever aired. NOTE: Jean Arless was really Joan Marshall, who played Lily (then called Phoebe) in the unaired (but available on DVD) THE MUNSTERS pilot. Coincidentally, I just caught her appearance on a JACK BENNY SHOW.

It's hard to believe how much fun this silly, cheap thriller is. Man, it could have been a classic in the hands of a master. But now it's relegated to a goofy fun, like THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE or ORPHAN, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. It works on its own terms, PSYCHO comparisons aside.

Its undoing is actually its gimmick of a Fright Clock that holds the picture for forty-five seconds at the end of the movie to warn you that it's about to get really scary. Castle was the King of Gimmicks, none coming close to THE TINGLER, where movie theaters' chairs were rigged to vibrate, as if The Tingler was loose in the theater (The Film Forum in NYC did this at a screening and it was silly fun). HOMICIDAL had not only its Fright Clock, but a Coward's Corner in the lobby. If you got scared, you had to walk the yellow line to the lobby and stand in a spotlight. Endure that, and you got your money back. I'm not sure any money was ever returned, as the humiliation factor alone kept people out of the Coward's Corner. Castle also made the movie SHANKS (in the RMC library), starring Marcel Marceau as a mute puppeteer who reanimates corpses.

Written by frequent Castle collaborator Robb White (THE TINGLER, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, 13 GHOSTS), HOMICIDAL is the guiltiest of pleasures, unless you count boffing your boss' wife and daughter (separately or together, your choice). Again, it makes for a credible thriller, if not for Warren's wooden dubbing and that damn Fright Clock (though as far as film history is concerned, I'm glad it's there). Even the lighting is superb and the music moody and creepy. I could see why my friend's sister wanted to see it again after so many years.

STOP! The next paragraphs, which contain SPOILERS, might prove too scary for you to read. You must stop here or walk the yellow line to the RMC Coward's Corner.

If you're reading this, then you've either seen the movie or you don't give a crap about being surprised should you ever see HOMICIDAL. It turns out that Jean Arless plays Warren, too. The fact that Warren's voice is dubbed actually gives the movie a creepy feel, as well as something to laugh at. If you don't figure out the gag, you're likely to believe that the actor was, for some reason, dubbed by the moviemakers out of necessity, not plot. And while we're on the topic, after the movie ends, Jean Arless comes out as Warren and Emily, and they take a bow together. Done in a split screen, natch.


Groucho was the host of the comedy/talk show disguised as a game show YOU BET YOUR LIFE, which ran on NBC for 11 years. I used to watch these at 4am when I was a teen (they were reruns...I'm not THAT old). The show relied more on Groucho's strong suit, which was his ability to ad lib, and as if to drive that point home, more time was spent talking to the players than actually playing the game.

This episode, from 1958, featured contestants Pop Carter and Marilyn wannabe Lari Laine, who was, as she put it, "an actress." She actually did about a dozen or so TV shows and movies, but this was only after gracing the cover of the May 1958 Playboy.

As she explained to Groucho, she was on TV three times a week doing commercials for a tire company, where she was called Miss Boom Boom. Miss Boom Boom is now 73.

Her co-contestant, Bob Carter, was 102 (born in 1856). His secret to long life - "I eat anything I want...I've smoked since I was two years old." Cocky smartass. Maybe if you lost that attitude you could have lived longer. Anyway, he has 19 great great (wait for it...) great grandchildren. Some of them may be reading this now.

But get this; he said he was a roller skater...and look what I found online, about Dearduff Roller Rink in Litchfield, Illinois, which opened in 1947:

The youngest skater is Linda Irvine, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Irvine of Litchfield. She began skating at the age of fourteen months. The oldest skater was "Pop" Carter, the world's oldest skater, who skated here two years ago at the age of ninety-two.

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