I’ve previously penned about William Castle’s cinematic escapades, specifically regarding THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and the influence of Castle on Joe Dante’s work (and THE TINGLER? Definitely an influence. You can see it not only in MATINEE, but also GREMLINS 2).

Yet again, my favorite local arthouse theater — the Music Box — hosted another Castle screening by the same folks (this time presented in Percepto! Whatever that is!), all interactive and enthralling!

If you are or have been an avid MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 viewer, you’ve seen THE TINGLER before. They, well, they do eviscerate it. Despite a rocky premise and a number of clumsy lines and awkward special effects, it’s far smarter than they give it credit.

The always magnanimous Vincent Price is a scientist who is investigating the physiological logistics of fear. He postulates that fear is imbued by a creature — the titular Tingler — that only manifests itself when one is terrified. He sets out to prove his point, and matters escalate.

I don’t need to tell you that Price is amazing here — he always shows up and gives his all, no matter the material — but the film is surprisingly gorgeous, especially the print that we saw. The contrast of blacks and whites are measured but effective; there’s a surprising amount of center-framing, and well, everyone just looks splendid, even the Tingler! (Yes, the Tingler definitely is poorly puppeteered, but the design is great and it glistens like it’s real!)

What is most astounding about this work — and unfairly discounted — is its reliance on a deaf and mute individual. This is one of the earlier genre films I can think of that utilizes ASL and deafness as a plot point without belittling the character. Said character is the wife of an older man, and together they pointedly run a theater that exclusively shows silent movies. Her husband mostly communicates with her via ASL, despite the fact that she can read lips.

(I will note that this film does slightly disparage her by briefly labeling her as ‘deaf and dumb’. She is not dumb.)

This is a film that explicitly asks you to scream at certain points. (I’ll note, everyone at the Music Box gamely participated, myself included! It was a lot of fun!) However, the crux of the film is centered around a woman who cannot scream, who has no voice, who can only communicate via visual motions. What’s more filmic than that?

Castle gets a lot of shit for being a schlocky, gimmicky director. Yes, he definitely more than leaned into that, but hell, so did Hitchcock. Did Castle rig up electrical shocks in theater seats to thrill audiences? Yes. Did I attend a screening featuring a number of campy interactive performances, solely meant to titillate? Yes. However, the work does have an empathic heart beating under the schlock.

If you do choose to watch THE TINGLER, please bear that in mind.


Back-to-back cosmos-enacted zombie horror films! First, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and now a quintessential take on Los Angeles: NIGHT OF THE COMET!

This is another repost, as Sunday is a day of rest. I’m not religious, but I do think it’s a it’s a healthy action and I will be relying on Sunday reposts here on out because I do need to prepare for NaNoWriMo.

I fucking love this film. It’s a whimsical teen zombie film, witty, surprisingly progressive, vibrant, and has one of the more nuanced sisters dynamic I’ve seen in genre films. It’s brilliant and well-worth your time this month.


I’m not sure how many folks remember William Castle nowadays, given that he did most of his most intriguing work in the 50s and early 60s but, if you are a horror fan, you are probably aware of him (and you’ve probably watched Joe Dante’s love letter to his sort of theatrical gimmicks via his brilliant film MATINEE).

That said, myself and a friend went to my favorite movie theater — Chicago’s Music Box Theatre — to see a 35mm print of Castle’s THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL that also promised to involve Castle-esque gimmicks, such as actors roaming through the audience and skeletons.

Reader: they did two screenings and the one I attended — at 9:30 on a Thursday night, nonetheless — was sold out.

I’ve seen THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL more than a few times. Vincent Price is exceptional in it, as always, and it’s chock full of schlock, including all of the standard ‘haunted house’ tropes, such as falling chandeliers, senseless locked doors, and plenty of fake-outs. (It definitely owes a debt to James Whale’s THE OLD HOUSE (1932), which Castle remade later in his career.) Is it a great film? No. Does it make much sense? No. Is it populated by B-grade actors not quite giving it their all? Yes.

Is it a memorable film? Fuck yeah. It has a fantastic set, serviceable lighting, and striking set-pieces.

I realize I’m extremely lucky to live in a city where my favorite film palace loves to show horror, and even luckier that they go to the trouble of recreating gimmicks. They even talked to Castle’s daughter to get points of reference and her blessing. These folks are doing the work.

While THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is a blast under any circumstances, seeing it in a fully sold out thousand-plus seat theater with a group of very-game audience members who were all very well-mannered while still being appropriately rambunctious was one of the best post-pandemic screenings I’ve attended. It reminded me of the controlled chaos of The Vic’s Brew ’n View (R.I.P.) where everyone’s there to have a good time and respond to the screen appropriately, be it laughing, clapping, or blurting out something legitimately funny (instead of play-acting MST3k).

I know I often say this, but nothing can recreate the feeling of seeing a movie in a theater, and when you encounter these very sort of specific circumstances, it’s extremely special. The Music Box created an experience that those who were there will be dining out on for years, and they deserve every accolade. I only hope that you can find a similar theater that you can call a home-away-from-home.


(Blu-Ray/Roku/tubi) As one might suspect, I was a gigantic nerd in my youth, enough of one that I was part of a group in high-school that would pool our lunch money to order LaserDiscs of late 80s anime and we’d then, err, find ways to ‘happen upon’ ways to duplicate copies for all involved. Let me tell you: bootlegging works were far more difficult, but far more enthralling, back then.

Apart from the soundtrack occasionally popping up in my playlists over the years, I’d mostly forgotten about PROJECT A-KO (despite still having a proper VHS copy of it)! At least, until this post popped up in my feeds.

The immediate flashback this post induced was: “oh, now that I think about it, this anime wasn’t just fan-service, it was super gay.” And, yup:

“The basic plot of PROJECT A-KO is: one dumbass lesbian fighting another dumbass lesbian to win the heart of the dumbest lesbian in the lands.”

I forgot how funny, how comic, PROJECT A-KO was, even though I know I didn’t get the bulk of the in-jokes and parodies and references back-in-the-day, and probably still don’t. However, it features a ton of hilariously universal kinetic physical comedic moments, while still often feeling grounded despite, you know, someone using numerous missiles as stepping stones during combat. Additionally, while the characters do a lot of punching, there’s not much in the way of punching down. Everyone here is flawed and messy and definitely either queer or over-protective found family, and you’re meant to identify with their flaws, rather than scorn them.

I rarely recommend any YouTube film-centric commentary video that runs for over an hour because I often don’t have the patience for watching them, but I highly recommend the one linked in the MeFi post above. I learned a lot, and it brought back a lot of memories.

Lastly, the OST is well-worth your time. Spaceship in the Dark is still a banger with all of its orchestral hits.

NAKED CITY (1958-1963)

(Pluto/Roku/tubi/VOD) NAKED CITY was a long-running TV show adapted from the 1948 film THE NAKED CITY, bringing a more grounded police procedural to the small screen, ten years after the film, and seven years after DRAGNET made the leap from radio to TV. While show creator Stirling Silliphant (THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT writer, creator of the previously mentioned ROUTE 66 which was spurred into existence by an episode of NAKED CITY) had nothing to do with the original film, he took to heart the intent of putting NYC and its citizens on display.

The first season features John McIntire and James Franciscus inhabiting the same THE NAKED CITY roles as Lt. Detective Dan Muldoon and Detective Jimmy Halloran although John McIntire quickly grew tired of New York City and the show, so he was written out in a -jawdropping- way, then NAKED CITY was recast and turned from a half-hour show to an hour long, and recast again — this with Paul Burke as the lead detective — and with him it finally found some legs.

The show’s fumbling worked though, as the delay allowed NAKED CITY to capture a completely different New York City than the one portrayed in THE NAKED CITY, a NYC with counterculture, where the youths had started to distrust the police, as opposed to the fantasyland of 60s DRAGNET. (I’ve watched far too much DRAGNET:

Like its modern day companion LAW & ORDER, it made the most of the NYC theater scene and booked a number of extraordinarily talented guest actors who hadn’t been discovered yet, including Cicely Tyson, Peter Falk, Bruce Dern, Suzanne Pleshette, and many more. Even if you ignore the adept location shooting, brisk plotting and deft character work, the show’s worth a watch simply for the faces that pop up.

“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”