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directed by William Castle
USA 1958


Why is Dr. Rodney Barrett shoveling dirt in a spooky cemetery at night? He’s hunting for the coffin holding his young daughter – his still living young daughter. She’s buried alive, an anonymous caller reported. And Barrett has mere hours to find and rescue her. Events of an even more unusual bent will follow in this shocker that began William Castle’s string of fright films (including House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler) that relied on memorable promotions to grab interest and box-office dollars. The gimmick here: filmgoers were insured by Lloyds of London for $1000 should they die of fright while seeing the movie. No insurance offered with this DVD. But in a way the film’s closing credits are, well, to die for.


This first gimmick outing from horror producer William Castle is mainly distinguished by the clever ad campaign promising... $1000 insurance for each patron (from Lloyds of London, no less!) against the possibility that they may die of fright during a screening of the film. (A similar gimmick would later be employed by the producers of the less imaginative thriller The Screaming Skull, who promised patrons an all-expense-paid funeral.) Castle certainly had nothing to worry about, since there is nary a moment of heart-stopping terror to be found in Macabre. That said, the plot is consistently entertaining, involving small-town doctor Rod Barrett (William Prince) racing the clock to locate his missing daughter after she is buried alive in the town cemetery by the same psychopathic killer who murdered his wife and her sister. It's clear that Castle had not yet honed his talents as a huckster of cheap thrills -- which reached their cheesy apex in The Tingler -- but there is definitely a spark of mischief here.

Excerpt of review Cavett Binion, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Release: October 1958

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:11:15

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.55 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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


Audio Dolby Digital 1.0 (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: October 12th, 2010
Keep Case

Chapters 16



Ahhh... the film-gimmick King William Castle. Here advertised for the Premiere of Macabre - Lloyds of London insurance for the all audience members against 'death by fright' for their time invested in the film - his first, but certainly not last of the horror genre. Rainy graveyards and empty caskets setting the stage for a kidnapped doctor's daughter who is presumed... buried alive!

It's standard single-layered but progressive and looking very clean and consistent. Good contrast and decent detail. This is labeled under the Warner's new "Re-mastered Edition" marquee and the image transfer gives a strong presentation. There are a few artifacts but nothing overly bothersome. There's some decent shadow and light play.

The mono sound is decent but unremarkable and there are no extras, nor subtitles, offered.

The film starts with a ticking clock and request to the audience to watch out for their neighbor and contact the management if they appear 'too frightened'. I'll bet even back in the 50's it was more fun than serious. Mastermind Castle brought some good times to the cinema and this has its share of atmosphere and genre appeal. Fans of the director's style should get enjoyment out of this one. It's certainly not perfect but what of his directorial work was?    

  - Gary Tooze



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Region 0 - NTSC


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