Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Shanks"(1974)d/William Castle

Photobucket
Yeah,Shanks for nothin',Castle.
When somebody mentions a genre giant like William Castle,titles like "13 Ghosts"(1960),"The House on Haunted Hill"(1959),"The Tingler"(1959),or "Strait-Jacket"(1964) immediately come to mind,and leave one with fond memories of the cinema's greatest showman and his indelible legacy therein.Tonight's selection,"Shanks",his final directorial morsel,on the other hand,probably does not.There's a reason for that.You'll find no "Percepto!","Emergo!","Coward's Corner","Fright Break",or even "Illusion-O" here.Long-time Castle staple Vincent Price isn't on board,either.Unfortunately for anyone on board for the 93 minutes of strangeness served up here,this film's gimmick is "Mime-O".That's right,ninety-three minutes of pantomime-based weird.They didn't call 'em "dumbshows" for nothing,ya know.I needed Castle's electric shock in my seat just to stay awake this time around.Hell,a cheap plastic skeleton on a wire might have kept me from snoring out loud,too.Loosen your cravat,throw on your most colossal pair of seventies bellbottoms,and let's walk against the wind into this little number together,shall we?
Photobucket
Is that the tv remote you've got there,Malcolm Shanks(Marcel Marceau)?For the love of God,turn yourself off!
Once upon a time,there was a downtrodden mute puppeteer named Malcolm(Marceau) who lived with his abusive drunken brother and his wife,and only derived pleasure from putting on puppet shows for the neighborhood children,one of which,a pretty young girl named Celia(Cyndy Eilbacher,of "Bad Ronald" and "Slumber Party Massacre 2" fame),he's kinda creepily fixated upon.When he's not being talked down to or watching his soused sibling riverdancing on his handcrafted puppet heads,he works for Old Walker(also Marceau)in his laboratory experimenting on bringing dead animals back to life with electrodes and a crude remote control box.You know,I bet later on in the story,they're gonna try to use this morbid scientific discovery to bring people back to life.After Old Walker eats sudden geryatric death,Malcolm decides to use the codger's electrodes and channel changer on his stiffened corpse,resulting in a puppetesque mockery of life,all controlled by Shanks twisting a primitive knob or two.When Malcolm's brother suspects foul play after not having weekly pay to siphon from,the mute uses his ancient employer's corpse to add his brutally bellicose brother to the bodycount.His foul mouthpiece of a wife follows soon after.To avoid suspicion from the authorities,he reanimates the awful pair as well,and awkwardly stumbles them through town with a pair of channel changers hidden under his long coat.Wait,now there's three mimes clowning around on camera?I didn't sign up for this,Castle!
Photobucket
Where's "deliciously grotesque"?All I see is platitudinous vanilla.
With his pain-in-the-ass hovelmates effectively removed from the equation,our ascot-sporting anti-hero can finally focus his attention on corrupting the morals of minor galpal Celia.The young girl gets over the initial shock of her mute mate monkeying with puppet-cadavers and the strange couple retreat to Old Walker's mansion to play dress up with the flesh-dummies as macabre man-servants,only to be interrupted by perhaps the most effeminate biker gang to ever grace the silver screen since Larry G. Brown's "The Pink Angels"(1971),looking for a place to party in,and perhaps a young girl to strangle,a bell-bottomed mute to slap around.You know the drill.Before long,the bikers have their greasy mitts on the corpse controllers and make the rotting remains do even more stupid dead body tricks.When the leader...ahem..."Genghis Khan" decides he'd like to strangle Celia for kicks,Malcolm reanimates Old Walker,who he'd buried in the cemetery outside earlier,and a corpse-puppet v. corpse-puppet/corpse-puppet v. sissy biker battle-to-the-death(undeath?) ensues.Malcolm is victorious,but when he goes to rescue his young friend,he finds Celia is already dead.Alas,it's all just an elaborate daydream in the mute puppeteer's head afterall.She's alive,it's the movie itself that died about ninety-three minutes earlier...
Photobucket
Make it strangle the screenwriter,Malcolm!
Though I should put my ballot in the pro-mime box,as Commedia dell'arte dell'improvvisazione is unmistakably Italian in origin,I can't honestly say that I'm at all proud of that little morsel of information.That pantomime combines with a piss-weak screenplay here to form a rotten piece of celluloid masquerading as a "horror movie" only reinforces that for me.Director Castle makes a cameo here as a supermarket grocer,and genre staple Don "Return of the Living Dead" Calfa also punches the clock as a biker/victim of the morbid mannekins.Composer Alex North uses an effective score,previously rejected for "2001:A Space Oddysey"(1971),but none of these things could ever save this boring mess.I'd urge Castle completists to avoid this altogether,and enjoy the incendiary cockroaches of "Bug!"(1975) instead.Imagine yourself somehow trapped in a claustrophobic invisible box full of SUCK.The Wopsploitation scale rating here is also deservedly invisible.
Photobucket
Two stiffs standing in the weeds.Move over,Avatar.Excitement has a new name...
Photobucket

Share

3 comments:

doc said...

Shanks allot WC.

beedubelhue said...

(;2p3)

beedubelhue said...

http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g190/beedubelhue/200px-Marcel_Marceau_in_Dresden_200.jpg

This both says it all,and effectively closes out this thread,I think...

 
Connect with Facebook