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Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

Montreal Premiere

WINNER: Audience Award, AFI Fest
WINNER: Best Documentary, Magnolia Film Festival

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“A fittingly lively portrait of the B-movie artist who put the show back into showmanship” - Michael Rechtshaffen, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Inspiring... A warm, funny and affectionate portrait of a man who genuinely loved what he did” - Peter Martin, TWITCH


Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Screenplay: Jeffrey Schwarz
Cast: John Waters, John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, John Badham, Terry Castle
Producers: Jeffrey Schwarz
Distributor: Automat Pictures

Part of...

Documentaries From The Edge   

Documentaries From The Edge


Pack your ghost-viewer glasses and choose your seat wisely, someone has finally given William Castle the documentary salute he so rightfully deserves, and its as illuminating and affectionate a film as anyone could have hoped for. Castle was the horror showman to end all horror showmen, a talented, kooky writer/producer/director and genius “king of the gimmicks.”

Castle’s career in the movies reached over 50 years, but it was the last 20 that really shook things up, beginning at a time when Hollywood trembled at the new threat of television. Cinemascope and 3D were tools studios used to fight back, but Castle saw a whole other world of bizarre possibilities. Thus, in 1958, baffled audiences who came to see MACABRE were given life insurance policies by Lloyds of London against “death by fright.” One year later, crowds were floored when HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL screened at cinemas specially rigged with “Emergo,” allowing for a skeleton to fly over their heads on wires! Cinemas showing THE TINGLER had select seats wired to deliver electric shocks, to simulate the sensation of being attacked by the film’s creature (“Percepto!”—not everyone was thrilled with this one). And that’s just a few of Castle’s many innovations.

Markedly different from today’s dispassionate marketing ballyhoo, Castle’s gimmicks were truly individualistic and full of his personality, juiced with pure adoration for cinema and a contagious spirit of playfulness. He took pride in making himself a public figure that was as much carnival barker as filmmaker, and worked with stars as varied as Vincent Price and Joan Crawford. He also directed Marcel Marceau in a hugely unconventional studio feature and produced Roman Polanski’s trendsetting U.S. breakout ROSEMARY’S BABY. Jeffrey Schwartz’s doc tells Castle’s astounding rags-to-riches story with gusto, using a wealth of archival footage punched up by entertaining reflections from the likes of John Waters, Roger Corman, Joe Dante (whose wonderful MATINEE was a feature-length Castle tribute), Marcel Marceau, Stuart Gordon, John Badham, Forry Ackerman and John Landis. Castle’s passion shaped generations to come, but Hollywood has never had another like him. SPINE TINGLER! will remind you just how great a loss that is.

—Mitch Davis