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Homicidal (1961) – DVD Review

Homicidal DVD box art


Written by: Robb White
Directed by: William Castle
Starring: Jean Arless, Glenn Corbett, and Patricia Breslin


  • Psychette: William Castle and ‘Homicidal’
  • Trailers for Mr. Sardonicus and Strait-Jacket

Released by: Sony Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it.

Miriam Webster (Breslin) has a good life. She owns a successful floral shop, dates the handsome pharmacist Carl (Corbett), and her beloved half-brother Warren has returned from Europe. He brings trouble in the form of a beautiful yet unstable blonde named Emily (Arless). Supposedly brought to care for Warren’s ailing former nanny Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), Emily spends her time being bitchy to Miriam, putting the moves on Miriam’s boyfriend, and tearing up Miriam’s shop. And there is Emily’s fascination with sharp edged weapons and her need to shove those weapons in other people. Can Miriam avoid Emily when she goes Homicidal?

[ad#longpost]This belongs squarely in a class of film called ‘The B Movie’. Nowadays that phrase is used to refer to any bad movie, but ‘B’ movies were originally produced to compliment the ‘A’ feature and give the audience a sense that they were getting more for their money. While they usually have small budgets and stars of low wattage, some of these films were actually watchable. But by the late 50s and early 60s, the double-barreled impact of the studios’ loss of control of the movie theaters and the new popularity of television meant that producers had to get creative to get butts in the seats.

One of the most interesting was William Castle, the master of promotional hype. All his horror films of the time had some sort of gimmick, from taking out insurance policies on the audience to rigging skeletons to fly around in the theater to placing buzzers in their seats to give them shocks. Homicidal‘s gimmick is “The Fright Break”. Before the final climatic scene, a timer is displayed and members of the audience is given 45 seconds to leave if they are too scared and fear for their health. To get their money back, they had to stand in The Coward’s Corner until the rest of the audience leaves and probably die of humiliation instead of fear. The Fright Break gives a bit of the unusual to an average thriller. Homicidal, while invoking some of Psycho’s imagery and themes, is nowhere near its caliber. But taken on its own, it does supply some thrills and twists.

Homicidal screen capture 1

The two trailers for Mr. Sardonicus and Strait-Jacket are interesting when considering how movies previewed back in the day, but the main extra is the documentary, Psychette: William Castle and ‘Homicidal’. This is a short piece discussing the feature film and especially its marketing. Castle marketed himself as much as his movies, even going so far as interviewing moviegoers after the film. Several film experts discuss how Castle was interested in giving the audience a unique experience and a good time. Homicidal is not great art, but it’s good to rent with some friends with plenty of popcorn to throw at the screen.

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