Original film poster
|Directed by||William Castle|
|Produced by||William Castle|
|Written by||Robb White|
|Music by||Hugo Friedhofer|
|Editing by||Edwin H. Bryant|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 26, 1961 (US)|
|Running time||87 minutes|
Homicidal is a 1961 thriller film produced and directed by the self-proclaimed "King of Showmanship", William Castle. Written by Robb White, the film stars Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, and Joan Marshall (billed as Jean Arless). It was released with a "fright break" that allowed patrons to receive a refund if they were too scared to stay for the climax of the film.
A mysterious attractive blonde (Arless), an elderly family nurse who uses a wheelchair and is unable to speak (Leontovich), and a soon to be 21-year-old family heir all share an isolated brooding mansion where many unseemly events occur.
Film prologue 
As with most of his films William Castle spoke directly to the audience in a prologue similar to those Alfred Hitchcock used for his then popular TV show. William Castle told the audience:
- "The more adventurous among you may remember our previous excursions into the macabre - our visits to haunted hills - to tinglers and to ghosts. This time we have even a stranger tale to unfold... The story of a lovable group of people who just happen to be homicidal."
After fifteen years directing a string of B movies for Columbia, Universal, and Monogram, William Castle mortgaged his house and formed "William Castle Productions" in 1958. His first release Macabre, was a modest thriller. To draw attention to the film, he offered every audience member a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London against death by fright during the film. Castle promoted the film with TV commercials and previews that focused more on the life insurance policy than the film. The public bought it and the film was a financial if not critical success. William Castle added a gimmick to most of his films over the next ten years.
This was the only film credit for enigmatic star Jean Arless. Many have assumed this was her only film. In truth Jean Arless was actually actress Joan Marshall. She appeared in television and films from 1958 through 1969 using her real name. For her male role in Homicidal, Castle had Marshall's hair cut like a man's and dyed brown, had her wear brown contact lenses and had prosthetic appliances made to alter the shape of her nose, mouth and hands.
The "Fright Break" 
A 45-second timer overlaid the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voice-over advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. To ensure the more wily patrons did not simply stay for a second showing and leave during the finale Castle had different color tickets printed for each show. About 1% of patrons still demanded refunds, and in response:
"William Castle simply went nuts. He 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. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and 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."
Critical response 
Glenn Erickson from DVD Savant said it was "a perfectly wretched movie, bad enough to make Castle's other hits seem like flukes."
- Castle, William (1976). Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America: Memoirs of a B-Movie Mogul. New York, Putnam. ISBN 0-88687-657-5 (Pharos edition 1992). Includes introduction by John Waters.
- Waters, John (1983). Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. New York, Macmillan Publishing Company. Chapter 2, "Whatever Happened to Showmanship?", was originally published in American Film December 1983 in a slightly different form.
- "Time Listings: CINEMA". time.com. 1961-09-15. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
- "DVD Savant Review: Homicidal". dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
- Homicidal at the Internet Movie Database
- Homicidal at the TCM Movie Database
- Homicidal at AllRovi
- Will the Real Jean Arless Please Step Forward? - TCM Movie Morlocks on "Homicidal"