Join me in the confines of my house on the hill, where every week I’ll be sharing with you a seemingly random review of a movie that’s come across my horror-nerd radar in the middle of the night. So come join my on the couch. It may give you some insight into the way our referential minds connect films, it may introduce you to something you never knew existed, or it may give you a rash that requires a 7-day ointment treatment. Or, maybe none of that matters in the end–because this is ARBITRARY CINEMA..
I SAW WHAT YOU DID – BLURAY REVIEW
“William Castle warns you: THIS PICTURE IS ABOUT UXORICIDE!”
Disclaimers like this regularly adorned the posters and lobby cards of master showman William Castle’s films. To boil him down to just “shlock” though, doesn’t give his legacy the due-justice it deserves. Sure, his advertising boasted schtick to accompany his movies. HOMICIDAL’s “Fright Break” allowed you sixty seconds to leave the theater and get your money back if you were too frightened to see the climax, but before you received it, you were asked to stand in a “coward’s corner” display as the crowd let out. MR.SARDONICUS’ “Punishment Poll” allowed viewers to decide the fate of the eponymous villain while an on-screen Castle counted the votes. Random seats were wired to shock the audience during THE TINGLER and with HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, you were treated to a plastic skeleton zip-lining through the theater. So yes, without a doubt, William Castle loved turning the viewing experience into an event. However, here’s the thing; the movies themselves are also quite good. I often lovingly refer to Castle as the “Blue Collar Hitchcock” because he made films for the general public to enjoy, while Hitch was often a high brow critic’s darling, but Castle was more influential then he realized. PSYCHO was put into production because Hitchcock wanted to make a straight up horror after seeing the success HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL garnered.
Shout Factory, in their undying quest to satiate the appetite for cult film fanatics, have now released Castle’s teen thriller I SAW WHAT YOU DID under their sister label, Scream Factory. Special features only include a photo gallery and theatrical trailer, but the fact that Scream Factory gives us films that most companies wouldn’t bother with an HD transfer, is a gift unto itself. So when a release like this comes with very little, you’d be an asshole to complain. Plus, it’s William Castle in 1080HD! The fun is in the experience.
I Saw What You Did follows teens Libby (Andi Garrett) and Kit (Sara Lane) during a night of harmless fun making crank phone calls while her parents are away. When Libby randomly dials Steve (John Ireland) and claims “I saw what you did and I know who you are”, she’s unaware that he’s actually just thrown his nagging wife through a glass shower. A guilty Steve asks her name and if they can meet to “talk”. Libby tells him that her name is “Suzette” and that she’ll keep in touch. In reality of course, she’s a teen babysitting her younger sister, Tess. On top of it all, Libby can’t even drive. I should note that I’m sure it also doesn’t help that the girl apparently lives in bumfuck nowhere because, in the opening credits, when Kit asks Libby to explain how to get to her house, it’s so incredibly detailed and complicated that the dialogue fades away so the credits can roll through. The girls don’t grasp the severity of who they’ve just implicated themselves with and Libby’s building romanticism of Steve may be clouds her better judgement. “He sounds so sexy” she playfully exclaims. (Yeah, if you like guys who throw their wives through glass doors). Nevertheless, Libby plans to randomly drive across town with Tess and Kit, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING style, to Steve’s house to “just see what he looks like”.
However, the plot thickens, since Steve is also involved with his neighbor Amy (Joan Crawford) and she catches on to Steve’s crime and she’s not too happy when she overhears him talking about meeting Suzette. Amy uses her knowledge to blackmail Steve into marrying her. Of course, if the body in the shower is any indicator, she’d know he’s not husband material. Crawford reminds us why she’s such a popular gay icon by delivering every campy line with boozy flavor and mind you, playing a mere housewife, wearing a necklace so ostentatious, you’d swear a chandelier threw up on her throat. After catching Libby peeping into Steve’s window, she belts out some major quotables like, “You little tramp! I know what you’re up to. And with a man twice your age!”. Her outlandish performance in I Saw.. can only be matched by her role in William Castle’s far superior slasher, STRAIGHT JACKET.
I Saw What You Did builds to a tense climax where Steve pays the girls a visit at their home (how he found it without GPS could likely fill an entire movie). Keep in mind though, this wouldn’t be a William Castle movie without a twist or “shocker” and I’d be willing to bet that the now-familiar horror movie trope of “the killer in the back seat” was given birth to by Castle. We’re so accustomed to it now, but imagine the shock it must’ve given audiences back then! It’s moments like this that William Castle deserves respect for, aside from his campy showmanship. He had a real ingenuity in how he thrilled the viewer. Always keeping you on your toes, he was a master at marrying cheap thrills with moments of pure shock.
My main complaint about the film has always been the music. There are so many moments when the vast size of the farm, shrouded in fog, or the heavy shadows of Libby’s sprawling old home, could deliver some genuine frights, but the accompanying music is just too jazzy and playful. It doesn’t seem to ever fit the movie*. I suspect that Castle’s choice of music was intended to tone down the intensity of a film that featured children in peril. For a movie that’s already chock full of salacious stuff: budding teen sexuality, cross-generational romanticism and Uxoricide (the killing of one’s wife), maybe Castle figured he should tame the rest. If the 1965 version is still too tame for you, there’s always the 1988 made-for-TV version with Shawnee Smith. My personal favorite is Gary Sherman’s LISA, (a somewhat similar take on the idea, albeit with a few tweaks) starring Staci Keanan as a bitchy teen who inadvertently sets her mother up with the serial killer she’s been chatting with. Damn kids should just stay off the phone–go outside, plant a tree.
*I want to pose a challenge to any of our more tech-savvy readers: re-edit a clip of I Saw What You Did, with a soundtrack more fitting of the suspense, and leave the link in the comments below. I just want to see what a difference it makes.