Bill Castle Does a Dreamy Thriller
The Night Walker (1964) Is Out On DVD
I anoint Barbara Stanwyck as 60's, if not all-time, scream queen after seeing TCM's new disc release of The Night Walker, paired with Dark Intruder to tie ribbon on obscurities fan-base has begged for. Should it matter that both are mediocre-minus transfers? Depends on intensity of your want. Mine was reckless enough to order sight (or review) unseen. Lesson learned again --- don't wade out till you know murk of the water. Sole compensation is The Night Walker being 1.85 and plenty fun, sort of a jazzed-up Thriller episode with bigger stars and wider frame for poverty of art direction. What was the difference between features and TV at Universal? Answer: Practically none under weighty thumb of Lew Wasserman, U's chief baker whose bread always seemed three days old, him not worthy to associate with Hitchcock in any capacity other than agent, but born to tie-in with William Castle on downward arc of latter's shlock ride.
Castle linked with Universal for a mid-60's trio, intended to be five, plus a possible TV series "a la Hitchcock," but the association stopped after three, each less gimmick laden than chillers that gave Bill a name. Could Hitchcock have quelled fulfillment of the deal, as he had allegedly used influence to get Thriller cancelled? I wonder too if Castle and Hitchcock passed each other on ways in/out of the commissary. Maybe not, as AH took meals in his bungalow, and I doubt he invited Bill to join. Each had imitated the other, gone after similar markets, no love lost between them, though whatever $ Castle could bring U would be shared by major stockholder Hitchcock (The Night Walker used Psycho-scribe Robert Bloch, and Castle's last several pics had borrowed heavily off Psycho's blueprint). Universal was for covering thriller bases at both class and cheap level, thus Marnie to grace first-runs in '64, The Night Walker for grinds. There was a "commissary cocktail party" to kick off the latter, as reported by Army Archerd on 5/14/64, co-stars Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor in attendance, with Joan Crawford sending congratulatory wire and hope they'd duplicate her socko Castle partnership that was Straight-Jacket of the previous year.
Castle and Universal flogged The Night Walker's "dream" theme, launching a contest with Modern Screen, latter among last stands of a dying fan mag tradition. There was also a six-minute teaser (titled Experiment In Nightmares, cost: $25K) with "nitery hypnotist" Pat Collins to herald arrival of the feature at theatres (anyone seen it?). Castle told trade press that The Night Walker would be a departure: "I've gone from gore into pure shock and suspense," his latest linked with "the current teenage rebellion against parental control." Say what? There are no teens in The Night Walker, at least none I saw, but Bill covered the disparity, explaining that "teenage frustrations also manifest themselves in dreams," so voila!, The Night Walker has a youth angle. He would make a point or two less cock-eyed, such as conviction that pictures are best opened regionally instead of mass-saturated: "You can be big in
Other Castle doozies he'd tell to sell The Night Walker: "Our company (that is, his company) is one of the wealthiest in