EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|SHANKS (director: William Castle; screenwriter: Ranald Graham; cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc; editor: David Berlatsky; music: Alex North; cast: Marcel Marceau (Malcolm Shanks/Old Walker), Tsilla Chelton (Mrs. Barton), Philippe Clay (Mr. Barton), Cindy Eilbacher (Celia), Larry Bishop (Motorcycle Gang Member), Don Calfa (Motorcycle Gang Member), Biff Manard (Goliath), Phil Adams (Motorcycle Gang Member), Helena Kallianiotes (Mata Hari), Read Morgan (Cop), Lara Wing (Little Girl), William Castle (Grocer), Mondo (Genghis Khan); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Steven North; Paramount Pictures; 1974)|
|"A grim fairy-tale."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The last film directed by William Castle ("The
Tingler"/"Zotz!"/"Strait-Jacket") is his weirdest, yet. Castle was
primarily known for his marketing skills, publicity stunts and his low-budget gimmicky films. In his 13 Ghosts (1960), Castle made patrons wear a Ghost
Viewer. This oddball macabre horror/fantasy
story, called by Castle "A grim fairy-tale," is written by Ranald Graham and has very little dialogue.
It's a black comedy, but one that loses track of what it wants to be
after its silent movie-like pantomime sets a strange comical mood and
its gimmicky reanimation conceit wears thin as the abused hero mime
doesn't know what to do with his new found powers and soon the story
turns into an unpleasant routine revenge film.
Marcel Marceau, the legendary mime,
has a dual role in this curio, one in which he speaks and the other in
which he's a mute: he plays Old Walker, the eccentric inventor of
devices that can make the dead walk again by use of a control box and
the young downcast deaf mute puppeteer Malcolm Shanks, who becomes his
assistant and takes over when Walker dies.
In the opening scene the gentle deaf mute puppeteer entertains some
children outside a
small-town grocery store, where his only friend is the wide-eyed local
adolescent Celia (Cindy
Eilbacher). Malcolm lives with
the Bartons: his brother-in-law, the brutish town drunk (Philippe Clay), and his shrewish wife (Tsilla Chelton), Malcolm's nasty sister.
They abuse the timid lad and when Walker dies Malcolm leaves them. But
the drunken brother-in-law goes to Walker's mansion to pick up
Malcolm's pay and further abuse him. Instead he finds that the
playful Malcolm has reanimated Walker and the
threatening Barton is attacked by a reanimated lab chicken and dies
falls down the stairs. Malcolm brings the corpse of Barton back to
life, but when he's in traffic near his house his wife gets run over
when going out to see what's wrong with her zombie-like husband.
Celia on a picnic with the reanimated Bartons, but when in
Walker's mansion to celebrate her birthday they are invaded by a gang
of Hell's Angels like bikers who bring with them a dead member to
celebrate a wake. When the gang rapes and kills Celia (off-camera), the
puppeteer gets his revenge on them.
and fellow French pantomime artists Philippe
Clay and Tsilla Chelton
considerably aid the mime in their roles of Mr. and Mrs. Barton, as
they artistically play zombies on the move.
reanimation concept was inventive, it soon became tiresome and the
awkward acting became a chore to watch as the film veered between
comedy, sentimentality and unease. Shanks just had too slight of a
story and it was too poorly paced to be much more than a freaky chiller
that held my attention because it was so genuinely goofy.
Alex North's score received an Oscar nomination.
REVIEWED ON 8/2/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ