By Doug Gibson
The late-great William Castle was a master showman, and he made some great thrillers. In homage to his showmanship, I offer this trailer that starred Castle more than the film. I personally tag "Homicidal," 1961, as his second-scariest offering, second only to "The Tingler."
As most readers of this blog already know, "Homicidal" was Castle's version of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." "Homicidal" as a lot of scary scenes, similar in content to the movies such as "Drag Me to Hell" or the "Insidious" series. However, one of Castle's trademarks was to keep his tongue firmly entrenched in his cheek during his movies. As a result, "Homicidal" never approaches the intensity and suspense of "Psycho." How could it with gimmicks such as a clock materializing on the screen and giving "faint-hearted" patrons 45 seconds to leave the theater before the terrifying conclusion!
The plot is standard Castle -- a dysfunctional family gathered together (the setting is Solvang, Calif.) prior to a settlement in which a young man, the mildly repulsive, clean shaven, prissy-voiced Warren, is set to inherit a fortune. He has a disturbed, beautiful friend, Emily, who culminates a long prologue by murdering a justice of the peace (James Westerfield) in front of his traumatized wife (Hope Summers) and Emily's surprised faux husband to be (Snub Pollard) whom she hired for the murderous ruse.
Emily's deadly deeds are unknown -- at least for a while -- to Warren's generally happy sister, Miriam (Patricia Breslin). In fact, family and townspersons seem to generally like Warren despite his vague creepiness, which includes baring his closed teeth while he talks. Back to Emily: She's taking care of a crippled, mute, Helga, (Eugenie Leontovich) whom Emily treats rather cruelly. There is the boyfriend (to Miriam), a detective, and the country doctor, all stock characters.
There's lots of intrigue, spooky moments, thrills and giggles, and a particularly chilling scene in which Emily sadistically draws out a terrified Helga's final moments. I won't give away the surprise ending, although -- unlike "Psycho" -- sharp viewers can more easily guess what's going to occur. By the way, the actress who plays Emily does an excellent job. She's really the best actor in the film.