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Directed by William Castle
USA
1964

 

Film legend Joan Crawford gives a terrific performance in this chiller from pioneer horror movie producer William Castle. Crawford plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who goes berserk when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. With her three-year-old daughter accidentally witnessing the grisly act, Lucy axes the couple to death. She spends twenty years in a mental institution for the double murder. After she is released, she moves in with her brother (Leif Erickson), his wife and her own daughter (Diane Baker), now twenty-three. Her nightmare is over ... or is it? When a spate of axe murders start occurring suddenly in the neighborhood, police think Lucy has reverted to her old ways. The truth is finally revealed in a rousing, blood-chilling finale.

***

In this chilling blood-tale in "Psycho" style, Robert Bloch modernizes the Lizzy Borden story. A wife (Joan Crawford) literally axes her cheating husband and his lover, witnessed by her three-year-old daughter. Mom is packed off to the insane asylum for 20 years before reuniting with the daughter (Diane Baker). From this point, the axe murders continue along a contrived plot intended to lead the audience astray until the mystery is solved. Crawford's strong performance and the excellently constructed suspense are the best elements of the film -- and the chopping saves the show when the plot tends to slow.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

Posters, Comic Book, Lobby Cards etc.

Theatrical Release: January 19th, 1964

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Comparison:

Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Shout! Factory  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

   

 

  

Also available in a two-pack Blu-ray with Berserk, from Millcreek:

  

Distribution Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:32:45 1:32:53.609 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.85 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

1.78:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 33,473,550,435 bytes

Feature: 25,330,231,296 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 30.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1586 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1586 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1665 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1665 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
All Original 1.85 Aspect Ratios 

Edition Details:
• The Magic of Illusion-O
• Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket
• Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests
• Axe Tests
• Scream For Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler
• Taking the Punishment Poll
• Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal
• TV spots
• Ghost Story: Pilot (The New House)
• Ghost Story: Graveyard Shift
• How To Plan a Movie Murder- Vintage Featurette
• HOMICIDAL Youngstown, Ohio Premiere.
• Original "British" Trailer Introduction
• Original Candy Web Trailer
• Original "Candy Web" Theatrical Opening Message from William Castle
• Original "Candy Web" Theatrical Closing Message from William Castle
• Alternate Opening (British)
• Alternate Opening (Swedish)
• Alternate Opening (French)
• Alternate Opening (German)

Disc 5

• Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (1:22:00)

• Commentary with Producer/Director Jeffrey Schwarz and Terry Castle


DVD Release Date: October 20th, 2009

One Keep Case
Chapters: 12 X 6

Release Information:
Studio:
Shout! Factory

 

1.78:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 33,473,550,435 bytes

Feature: 25,330,231,296 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 30.99 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• 
Audio commentary with authors Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr and David J. Schow
• "Joan Had Me Fired" - an interview with Anne Helm (6:47)
• On the Road with Joan Crawford - an interview with publicist Richard Kahn (6:35)
• "Battle-Ax" - The Making of Straight-Jacket (14:40)
• Joan Crawford Costume and Make-up Tests (3:29)
• Ax-Swinging Screen Test (0:38)
• Trailers (2:38)
• Still Gallery

 

Blu-ray Release Date: August 21st, 2018
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 16

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - September 2018': The new Shout! Factory release is, in 1.78:1, dual-layered, in 1080P with a high bitrate. It has some fairly consistent grain, occasional depth, not substantial crispness but well-layered contrast. It seems like a suitable bump over the single-layered SD.

Shout! Factory use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel (24-bit) in the original English language. There are a few effects and screams but mostly notable in the score is by composer, bandleader, and conductor Van Alexander (The Big Operator, Castle production's I Saw What You Did, 13 Frightened Girls) with its appealing use of the electronic Theremin and it sounds quite impacting in the lossless. The audio is quite strong and there are optional English subtitles on the Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray.

There is an excellent audio commentary with authors Steve Haberman, Producwe/Director Constantine Nasr and David J. Schow who talk about a variety of details dealing with the film's evolution, the score, lots on Joan Crawford and how Castle even had small cardboard axes for distribution in the theatre. It's full of information like the 'Hagsploitation' genre and the discussion has a nice flow. There are also some extras that were in the William Castle DVD set plus others. There is "Joan Had Me Fired" a 7-minute interview with Torontonian Anne Helm and how she didn't make it into the film's early sequence. On the Road with Joan Crawford is a 6.5-minute interview with publicist Richard Kahn, "Battle-Ax" - The Making of Straight-Jacket is Jeffrey Schwarz's 2002 documentary with Diane Baker, Donald Glut, Michael Schlesinger and film historian David Del Valle running 1/4 of an hour. There are Joan Crawford's costume and 'Make-up Tests' plus the 'Ax-Swinging screen test', a trailer and an extensive still gallery.

There is value in this - and the commentary is a part of that enticement. It looks and sounds quite strong as compared to the old DVD and it remains a film you can revisit. Sure, Crawford, Castle and hagsploitation genre fans should indulge in this Shout! Factory Blu-ray.

***

On The William Castle DVD set: As with other Sony boxsets like Icons of Horror - Boris Karloff or Icons of Horror- Hammer Films collections, the feature films of this boxset - eight in this particular package - are shared, two each on four dual-layered, progressive DVDs. There is a fifth single-layered disc of the Castle documentary. All have original aspect ratios are 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced, and each disc is coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. They have original mono audio (or 2.0 channel stereo) and there are no subtitles. The package (image above) is a three tiered Digi-pak housed inside a cardboard slipcase. Five of the eight films have been on DVD previously - some with extras - Mr. Sardonicus, Homicidal, 13 Ghosts, The Tingler, and Strait-Jacket.  Zotz! (1962), 13 Frightened Girls! (1963), The Old Dark House (1963) and the 5th disc award-winning documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007) make their debut on DVD.

Image quality: Although the previously released films-to-DVD are stated as being 'remastered' - this is a term that is easily thrown around and can mean very little. I already owned the single-layered Strait-Jacket with Joan Crawford and the image quality actually looks about the same despite the chronologically newer transfer. So, as these are all shared with another feature - we can consider each of them single-layered and not especially improved upon the previous DVD editions. The Tingler and Homicidal look quite good, the contrast on 13 Ghosts and Zotz! looks a little suspect, Straight-Jacket had some visible noise but overall despite some chroma - I'd say that these are all completely watchable. Certainly not pristine transfers but despite a move to Blu-ray - these aren't going to look dramatically superior. The modest appearance of these 8 films on digital is really no surprise. Sony's come-ons are the three previously unreleased (on DVD), the documentary - and getting them all in one package.

Audio was acceptable if unremarkable. It was consistent and clear enough but the dialogue is not supported with any subtitles which is a surprise as, I believe the individual DVD editions did have optional English, French, Portuguese or Spanish.

 

The supplements on the first 4 discs seem to duplicate the previously released films-to-DVD with some minor new material and content for the Zotz! (1962) - original trailer, 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) - alt-openings, The Old Dark House (1963) - original trailer. These are good though are stealing a bit of thunder from the 5th disc documentary - which you may want to see first. What may be new (I don't own all the older DVDs to be absolutely positive) is Season 1, Episode 19 of Ghost Story entitled Graveyard Shift with Patty Duke and John Astin and a cameo by Castle as the aged studio head. The Magic of Illusion-O, Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket, Scream For Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler, Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal and the Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests, Axe Tests, the alternate Country and Drive-In scenes - mostly made for further promotion - are all interesting. None are overly long and, at least, worth a peek.

 

The award-winning, hour-twenty two minute, 2007 - Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story documentary is great and where a lot of the shorter featurettes steal their content. It also offers a separate optional commentary track with Producer/Director Jeffrey Schwarz and Terry Castle for those who can't get enough (like moi). It focuses heavily on details like Joan Crawford's domination of Strait-Jacket and the Castle-produced Rosemary's Baby.  It has Diane Baker, daughter Terry, John Waters, Roger Corman, Leonard Maltin and many more with archive footage discussion of the impresario by Roman Polanski, Vincent Price and others. It's just great.

 

There was never anyone like William Castle. His finger was definitely on an entire era's movie-going pulse. For anyone who has seen Joe Dante's wonderful 'Matinee' from 1993 (a film I strongly recommend!) - they will know that John Goodman's character is a direct homage to Bill Castle.

 

Some of these films are wonderful enjoyment and I question any true film fans who would look down their nose at movies like The Tingler (1959), Homicidal (1961), Strait-Jacket (1964) and Mr. Sardonicus (1961) - they are pure entrainment. Cheesy - SURE - but they really define a time when one man's films were sneakily reaching out to embrace the public. You can really get an appreciation by watching the included Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story. Castle was dismissed by critics but adored by film-goers.

 

Despite the majority of the films in this package having been on DVD previously - the overall cost makes good financial sense for those who are just getting into the director/producer's oeuvre. You get 8 films and a feature length documentary for less than $60 (less than $7/each). We can complain that Sony are scrimping and not including films like "Macabre" - but I think this is a fabulous introduction to the director which will surely build more demand for his work like Shanks (1974), Project X (1968), Let's Kill Uncle (1966) or The Night Walker (1964). Let's hope for a Volume 2 !!

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus


 

Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Blu-ray Subtitle Sample

 

 

1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


More Blu-ray Screen Captures

 



 

Box Covers

 

   

 

  

Also available in a two-pack Blu-ray with Berserk, from Millcreek:

  

Distribution Sony (William Castle Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC Shout! Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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