This William Castle film is a great example of what having been a “star” can do for you. It can give you top billing and a prominent place in the advertising and marketing campaign for a new theatrical release. Case in point is Joan Crawford’s participation in another gimmicky thriller from Castle. Joan’s role amounts to little more than an elongated cameo while two debuting young girls and long time lower tier leading man John Ireland are the films real stars.
“I saw what you did and I know who you are.”
It’s a case of the phone prank gone wrong for this William Castle fest. Something most kids of today’s age wouldn’t really grasp as the phone industry has had such a drastic change since the era of the rotary telephone. Feeling like a warped Sunday Night Disney Feature on TV with a jazzy score to boot, debuting Andi Garrett and Sarah Lane play a couple of teenaged girls hoping to arrange a sleepover despite the trepidations of their fathers played by Leif Erickson and John Archer. Once alone and looking for some innocent fun and trouble to get into, the prank calls begin.
Just as the pair are beginning to annoy would be victims, they place a call to the home of John Ireland. The call comes as he viciously murders his wife by pulling her into the shower where he’ll attack her with a knife and throw her through the glass shower door. The whole segment is actually pretty vicious considering the lighter tone it takes with the young girls. When John picks up that phone and the girls launch into their “I saw what you did” speech,” John is worried.
Complicating matters is the appearance of Joan Crawford as his neighbour who is obviously having an affair with Ireland. Despite deducing that he’s just killed his wife, she fully intends to make John her own. It’s rather bizarre and kind of sad to see any woman let alone Joan Crawford playing this part. Not only is the character desperate but it’s hard to separate the actual actress from the role. Sorry Joan but it’s not a flattering part and to be honest, you look aged and tired.
Thankfully for Ireland, the girls call back with their imaginations and hearts aflutter, make the silly mistake of looking up his address and driving by his home to perhaps get a peak at the older man with the sexy voice. Young Andi gets out of the car only to run head first into crazy Joan who thinks that the young girl is a lover of aging John. She gives the adolescent girl a good scare and steals the car’s ID tag tossing it at Ireland and warning him to stay away from other women.
I won’t tell you the end result of this discussion but will say that address is going to lead to a chilling climax when Ireland decides to pay a visit to the girl he only knows by voice and claims to have seen just what he did. “You’re just a kid.”
I’m of a mind that this one hasn’t aged well yet when the final conflict comes to a fruition, both Castle the director and Ireland with murder on his mind deliver the goods. No sooner does the impact of the fade out take place when it’s back to the jazzy score that has me thinking I’ve been watching some weird game show the entire time.
By the time the late 1950’s came around, director William Castle had moved into doing triple duty. Producing, directing and self promoting. He would become one of the few directors along with Hitchcock who the general public might be able to name should they see him in a picture or promoting his latest film by appearing in the trailer. Miss Crawford had already worked with Castle the previous year in Straight Jacket.
John Ireland is one those actors I’ve always enjoyed seeing on the screen. Perhaps more notable as a bad guy or one we can never quite trust, this leading man originally born in Canada amassed an incredible amount of credits over the years appearing in some great films. Among them, Spartacus, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Red River and even the earlier version of the O.K. Corral story, My Darling Clementine.
For a look at this time capsule, it’s out on blu ray from Scream Factory who keep coming up with titles worthy of my attention.
*** SPOILER ALERT***
Lastly what the hell is the promoter thinking when they issue a lobby card like this.