Directed by William Castle [Other horror films: House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), The Old Dark House (1963), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1964), I Saw What You Did (1965), Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), The Spirit Is Willing (1967), Shanks (1974)]
William Castle’s first delve into horror, Macabre is admittedly a bit light. There are some suspenseful scenes at times, and the atmosphere is on point, but ‘horror’ feels a bit strong. Nonetheless, I’m a liberal man, and have no problem considering Macabre a horror film, and more so, have no problem saying that while not great, it’s certianly a nifty one.
Primarily the film deals with the disappearance and abduction of a little girl who has been buried alive, and a chase to find her location before she dies. It’s tense, and being a mystery, occasionally convoluted, but that’s just part of the fun. Based on a novel titled The Marble Forest by 12 authors (each of whom wrote a chapter of the book), Macabre can feel stagey at times, but I still think it’s worth it.
Partially, that’s just due to William Castle’s charm – we’re warned at the beginning of the film to keep an eye out on those sitting around us, lest they show signs of extreme fright (as always, Castle’s films would have been a hoot to see in the theaters). I also like the story, though, and while the ending perhaps could have been executed a bit better, the overall concept is great, and the ending was definitely a nice surprise. Some flashbacks were also used to decent effect.
William Prince consistently reminded me of another actor, but I never could place who. Despite that, he did a very fine job as the lead. Jacqueline Scott was good as a potential suspect, which is something that can fairly be said for most of the cast, though I was hoping for something more from Susan Morrow’s character. It was sort of nice seeing Howard Hoffman here, a year before he played the butler in House on Haunted Hill. Related, Ellen Corby, who I’ve seen in films such as The Strangler and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was a nice surprise.
One thing that I do think helped this film is the fact much of it took place in a misty graveyard, with trees, vines, tombstones, the whole works. Some of the better scenes in the film took place in this setting, and I thought it brought with it fantastic atmosphere. This doesn’t come close to beating the creepiness of later Castle movies, such as the aforementioned House on Haunted Hill, but I did like it.
And another addition I found charming – the closing credits list the performances of the film divided into those who were dead at the end, and those who were still living. This was coupled with simple animation of hearses and, once we got to the living characters, people walking by. I mean, we’re talking early, black-and-white animation, but it was still just the thing I’m not surprised to see in a Castle movie.
Macabre isn’t anywhere near the calibre of Castle’s best work, be it House on Haunted Hill, Mr. Sardonicus, or Homicidal, but having seen it twice, it’s a nice little introduction to early William Castle, and for that reason alone, I do think that if you’re a classic horror fan, it’s worth seeing at least once, even if it’s not great.
3 thoughts on “Macabre (1958)”