William Castle

Active - 1937 - 2007  |   Born - Apr 24, 1914   |   Died - May 31, 1977   |   Genres - Horror, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Share on

Biography by Bruce Eder

New York-born William Castle was known to some as one of the movies' great schlockmeisters, but his films are also among the most beloved "B"-pictures of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he did produce one unabashed classic, Rosemary's Baby. Starting out as an actor on stage, he got to Hollywood in the late 1930s and became a director in 1943. He made numerous low budget pictures, most notably as part of the Whistler and Crime Doctor series, but it was as an independent producer during the late 1950s that Castle made his mark. Recognizing the growing enthusiasm for shock thrillers and horror films, he devised various exploitation campaigns to go with his films--thus, a good haunted-house chiller like The House On Haunted Hill was marketed around a new process called "Emergo," which consisted of a luminous skeleton swung out over the audience during scenes involving a disembodied skeleton's appearance on screen. Other pictures, such as The Tingler, gave selected members of the audience mild electric shocks through their seats during appropriately tense sequences. Even without these "effects," however, these films were good, solid competent pictures that hold up well on television. Castle soon began infusing his own personality into the marketing of his movies, appearing in opening wrap-around scenes and trailers, a kind of poor man's Alfred Hitchcock. Homicidal, Castle's near-parody of Hitchcock's Psycho, was one of his strangest films, and bears watching on that basis alone. Later on, as his string of exploitation titles ran out, Castle left the director's chair and produced his best, and best-known movie, Rosemary's Baby, directed by Roman Polanski. He died in 1977, soon after publishing his autobiography, Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Right Off America. In 1993, Universal released Matinee, a Joe Dante-directed comedy built around a producer/director (John Goodman) loosely based on William Castle.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography