In some ways, it is easy to talk about the work of 1950s/1960s filmmaker and huckster William Castle, as the memorable gimmicks he came up with for most of his films (such as the skeleton above the audience’s heads in House on Haunted Hill and the mildly electrified audience chairs for The Tingler) lend themselves to any lively prose discussion of Castle’s very successful career. But it might also be said that in another way they are self-defeating in any serious discussion, as talking about the films themselves rather than the sales gimmicks is usually a secondary corollary of such writing – and although many of the movies are subpar, there is most definitely a case to be made for the best of them. There have been previous books on Castle, but none have yet made a persuasive case for such discussions – until now. Murray Leeder’s collection is a truly perceptive study that examines the films from a variety of angles as well as including a commentary on the aspects of popular entertainment and audience appeal they represented. Unsurprisingly, given the provenance of the book – Edinburgh University Press — there is writing here of perception and ambition. Some will argue that Castle’s films do not merit such attention, but those of us who fell under the late director’s spell will find much to entertain and stimulate.
The Films of William Castle Murray Leeder, editor, is published by Edinburgh University Press