Thursday, October 28, 2010


This psychological thriller was William Castle's B-movie answer to Hitchcock's PSYCHO. A sexy blonde who calls herself Miriam Webster (cleverest bit in the movie) arrives at a motel and gives handsome bellboy Jim $2000 to marry her at midnight, promising to get an annulment soon after. Instead, she violently stabs and kills Mr. Adrims, the justice of the peace (in a scene with several visual references to the shower stabbing in Psycho). She escapes and goes back home to a small seaside town, where we find out her real name is Emily and she's a caretaker for Helga, an old mute invalid--we also see Emily tell Helga spitefully that Adrims died screaming. We're also introduced to the real Miriam, a pleasant young woman who runs a flower shop, and Miriam's stepbrother Warren, who married Emily in Denmark (clue # 1 to the proceedings) and brought her back to care for Helga--Helga had been a caretaker for Warren and Miriam when they were children. It's clear there's something wrong with Emily, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there is also something quite strange about Warren, though at first it's hard to tell if it's the character who is strange or the actor, who seems to give a bizarrely stilted performance (and that's actually clue #2). Finally, there's Karl, Miriam's handsome boyfriend and an old friend of the family. We know that Warren has daddy issues--Dad tried unsuccessfully to toughen him up--but to say much more would give away the surprises of the last 15 minutes. It's difficult to discuss the film without spoilers, though most viewers will certainly figure out fairly early on at least one of the plot twists. The film's low budget hurts it a bit, and the acting by a couple of the leads is dicey, but there is still a kind of perverted charm to the film. It's not as dark or atmospheric as Psycho but if you use the Hitchcock film as a starting-off point, you'll probably enjoy this. The cast includes two chunks of male eye candy: Glenn Corbett (pictured) as Karl, and Richard Rust in the small role of the tricked bridegroom. The life and times of Joan Marshall (who, under the name Jean Arless, plays Emily) was apparently an inspiration for the script of Warren Beatty's sex farce Shampoo. Though no classic, this is worth at least one viewing. Available in the William Castle DVD set from Sony. [DVD]

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