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Homicidal

4.4 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Cross Alfred Hitchcock with a carnival showman and you might come up with William Castle, the low-budget horror king of the exploitation gimmick. Homicidal is arguably his best film, a devious little Psycho knockoff with all the right ingredients: a sleepy Southern California town, a beautiful blonde with icy eyes and a thing for knives, a mute old woman in a wheelchair, and a deep, dark secret involving a repressed, awkward young man still haunted by the abuses of his dead father. Ever the cinematic carny, Castle pulls a trademark gimmick just before the climax: the clock-countdown "Fright Break," for anyone "too frightened to see the end of the picture." What the film lacks in tension it makes up for in startles and shocks. Castle is no Hitchcock, but he adds an insidious twist that pays off even if you see it coming.

The DVD also features the seven-minute documentary "Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal" and the not-to-be missed original trailer. --Sean Axmaker


Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Wolfe Barzell, Patricia Breslin, Teri Brooks, Alan Bunce, Glenn Corbett
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Anamorphic, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: March 12, 2002
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005V4XE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,150 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Homicidal" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kona VINE VOICE on July 24, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Do you remember shrieking with horror and giggling with delight at William Castle's old black and white spook-fests? Well, here's one of his best: Homicidal, a drama that borrows freely from Hitchcock's Psycho.

As the story opens, a strange woman pays a stranger to marry her and promptly kills the man who performed the ceremony. Back in the sleepy town of Solvang, California, we meet a peculiar young man named Warren who has returned to his old home with this mysterious woman. Warren is about to inherit a fortune on his twenty-first birthday, but strange things start happening...and what secrets are hidden in that dark, old house?

This movie is short on actual violence but long on creepy atmosphere and things that go bump in the night. The actors are all good, but the real star is director Castle, who creates a very scary mystery with so much tension you'll be on the edge of your seat.

In true Castle-style, there is a gimmick: Just before the final scene, a clock appears on screen to allow those too frightened to watch the end to leave the theatre - and sit in the Coward's Corner booth in the lobby. It's all in good fun and not to be taken seriously; you'll be spooked by the thrills and chuckling as soon as it's over. A fun movie!
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One of the most pre-eminent showmen in Hollywood, William Castle, director of such films as The Tingler (1959) and House on Haunted Hill (1959) released Homicidal in 1961, one year after the release of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Psycho. Some will say it's a blatant rip off of Psycho, and others will say it's more of a homage, but either way, it's a very entertaining film.

The story starts off showing a woman, played by actress Jean Arliss aka Joan Marshall, checking into a hotel and offering a bellboy two grand to marry her. The bellboy is naturally curious, but the lure of the humongous pile of greenbacks keeps his queries to a minimum. They arrive at the Justice of the Peace, late in the evening, and the ceremony proceeds, only to end in a very grisly, visceral murder. Confused? I was too, but all will be revealed as the film progresses. The film's plot is fairly intricate, involving murder, money, and mayhem. The story mainly takes place in a small, southern California town focusing on the remaining family members, a brother and sister, Carl and Miriam Webster, both sharing the same father but different mothers. Jean Arliss plays Emily, a live-in caretaker for the now elderly mute woman confined to a wheelchair that cared for Warren while he was growing up. A dark, mysterious family secret drives the film that maintains a stranglehold on the viewer's attention until the very end. The plot seems very convoluted at the beginning, but the pieces slowly start to fall into place. I really don't want to get into specifics about the movie, as I fear I will give something away to someone who hasn't see the film, but I will say that Castle really was able to provide suspense pretty much throughout.
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In 1962, my husband and I, along with many on and off campus college students, went to see the "much touted," Homicidal. Neatly seated in the small theatre, voices were booming until the movie started. Popcorn and cokes were the norm, so we settled down to view the movie we thought would be over rated by the general population of the small town.

Much to our surprise, the black and white thriller lived up to be one of the most horrid things we ever watched. Several minutes into the psycho, popcorn and cokes flew through the air and pelted every head that wasn't under the seat! Screams from men and women echoed as though we were in the Grand Canyon and couldn't get out of the enormous abyss. Taking a few deep breaths to calm our senses, the movie continued while we waited for the next knife to jab into another person's guts. Calm, we were...for awhile.

Refilling the snacks (popcorn and cokes)from the previous episode of the nerve shattering wacko woman's rage, all became quiet. Holy Moley! When the countdown came (it's on the movie) for those to exit the theatre to keep from watching the all time, teeth shattering, hair raising scene...we sat there like dummies. Then Helga, gotta love Helga, scared the beejeebers out of us. Once again, popcorn and cokes soared through the air. One of the ladies in front of us passed out, another one was yelling she was in labor and others scattered out of the movie like mice being chased by a cat.

After the movie, my husband and I had to enter a two story house to get to our apartment. The hall lights would not come on and we ran up the stairs as fast as we could. Needless to say, the movie did a number on our psyche and we talked about this movie for years.
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Format: DVD
What a strange movie! Capably written, directed, and acted, it has interest as a time capsule of 1961. Watch a pharmacist fill a patient's prescription for sleeping pills and hand them to the kindly doctor! Watch the cool cars, new then, readily find parking spaces in an uncrowded Southern California!

The director offered refunds part-way through to those too frightened to contine vieweing. But few took up the offer, considering the terms. According to Wikipedia:

"William Castle... came up with 'Coward's Corner,' a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn't take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: 'Cowards Keep Walking.' You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform?...I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, "'Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner'!" As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity -- at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, 'I am a bona fide coward.' Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this.... I'm sure that in many cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture. No wonder theater owners balked at booking a William Castle film. It was all just too complicated."

What a stunt! What a showman!
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