Shanks (1974)

Genres - Fantasy, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Donald Guarisco

William Castle's final film is the strangest of his career, and given his track record, that's saying a lot. The best thing about Shanks is its sense of daring: it's combination of fairy tale-inspired plotting, silent-film storytelling techniques, horror film elements, and bizarre flights of fancy ensures that this is truly a one-of-a-kind viewing experience. Unfortunately, Shanks lacks the consistent, skillfully crafted story necessary to make this bizarre mélange of elements work: Ranald Graham's script drifts along in an episodic style that keeps the film from building any dramatic tension and it also suffers from lethargic pacing that makes the film feel like it's twice its 90-minute length. The script is further burdened with paper-thin characterizations, which in turn, hurt the performances: Marcel Marceau makes an impressive display of his mime skills in a dual role, but both parts are so weakly characterized that his efforts go nowhere. William Castle tries to keep the film afloat with clever touches like the use of silent film-style title cards, but the weak story ultimately overwhelms the film's sense of style. The only element of the film that truly impresses is Alex North's whimsical score, which was rightly nominated for an Academy Award. To sum up, Shanks is a brave but unsuccessful experiment that can only be recommended to William Castle fanatics.