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It sounds kind of pathetic, but I sometimes try and link together two small themes when it comes to selecting my next film - in this case, the theme was Jacqueline Scott, who co-starred as Polly Baron in "Macabre," and also co-starred as Carol Maxwell in "The Galaxy Being," the very first episode of "The Outer Limits." It's a thin, tenuous link, to be sure - not unlike throwing a dart, blindfolded, at a global map to determine your next family vacation, but I wouldn't have discovered "Macabre" without it. "Macabre" was one of the first "huckster" films, where director William Castle gave each patron a $1,000 "frightened-to-death insurance policy" upon entering the theater, written by Lloyd's of London. If anyone died of fright during the film, their beneficiaries got $1,000. There's also a plea at the very beginning to "look out for your neighbor" showing any signs of distress, so that appropriate medical attention can be obtained quickly, and another plea at the end, urging customers not to tell anyone about the film's surprise ending. The campy, promotional aspect of this film is, by far, the most important and historical thing about it; nothing else is of any merit. Although "Macabre" is completely dated, the one thing about it that's not is the basic premise: A man's daughter is kidnapped, and placed into a coffin, where she has about five hours of air before she suffocates. The film is a "race-against-time" pioneer that would be very typical in today's landscape - in that regard, it was truly a groundbreaking movie (although I don't really know whether or not it was the first of its type). Two people whom you may recognize from "Macabre" are Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, and The Millionaire on "Gilligan's Island") and Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton on "The Waltons," whom I've been running into a *lot* in shows aired around the turn of the 50s-60s decades - I've seen her in several anthology series, and have written about her on this website). About 2/3 of the way through the film, I sneak-peaked a look at some reviews in order to get some characters straight (I still don't know the infamous "twist ending"), and Leonard Maltin seems to sum things up nicely when he said, "promises much, delivers little." Despite William Castle's hype about the film (this is apparently the first movie ever to have "gimmick promotion"), this is shaping up strongly to be typical, B-level 1950's suspense (so far, there's very little horror to be found). I found it very difficult to sort through the relationships of the characters in this film, so I'm going to explain them to you here (this is after about thirty minutes of research, and will save you time without ruining anything about the movie). I very much recommend that you read them *before* seeing the movie (if you get the five following bullet points straight in your mind, the movie will be *much* easier to comprehend); nevertheless, since they reveal some relationships - albeit none that harm the plot - I will mark them as spoilers: *** MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW (SORT OF - THEY'RE MORE HELPFUL THAN HARMFUL) *** * There are three "families" involved, the Wetherbys (Wealthy older man), the Barretts (Doctor), and the Tyloes (Sheriff). * There are two deceased girls, both daughters of the wealthy, older Jode Weatherby. * Alice Wetherby Barrett was one of the daughters, died a few years before, and was married to Dr. Barrett. A nuanced point is that Alice also apparently had a relationship with Sheriff Tyloe before Dr. Barrett took her away from him (this issue is presented very subtly in the film, and is easily missed, but you will notice obvious animosity in how the Sheriff feels about the Doctor). * Nancy Wetherby (Tyloe?), who was blind, was another daughter, died just a few nights ago, and had some sort of relationship with Sheriff Tyloe. I cannot figure out whether or not they were married, but imdb.com implies that they were, perhaps incorrectly (I don't think they were). There is a flashback in the film that shows the relationship between Nancy and Sheriff Tyloe - Nancy is also a girl who sleeps around, and has gotten pregnant by one of her lovers (even she doesn't know who it is). * Marge Barrett (the daughter of Dr. Barrett and Alice) is 3 years old, is Jode Wetherby's granddaughter, and is the one who's kidnapped. *** END MILD SPOILERS *** This movie was neither scary nor suspenseful. Unless you are a hardcore, and I mean hardcore, movie fan, your time is best spent as far away from this drivel as possible. There was almost nothing to like about this movie, and it was one of the worst films I've seen in a long time. But not *the* worst: That honor goes to "Five" (but not by much). To show how much William Castle evolved in ten years, and also to show how much of an influence "Psycho" had on the genre when it came out in 1960, William Castle was the Producer, believe it or not, of the 1968 classic, "Rosemary's Baby."
*** SPOILER ALERT *** (Please do not read this if you're planning on watching the film for the first time.) I haven't seen "Rosemary's Baby" in decades - the only thing I remembered about it was that it starred Mia Farrow giving birth to the devil's spawn, and now that I'm prompted, that it was directed by Roman Polanski. The year that I've recently concentrated on was (coincidentally) Roger Ebert's first year as a critic, 1967, and Rosemary's Baby is from 1968, making it right after what I consider to be one of the most significant years for Hollywood. Incidentally, I've read Ebert more posthumously than I did when he was alive, and although I don't always agree with him, I consider him to be one of the greatest critics in any field that I've ever read. My father used to *love* "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies" - "This is the best show on television," I remember him joyfully telling me, repeatedly - as my father became older and more feeble, he rented 2-3 movies a day, every day, for several years - besides my mom, movies were my father's great love when he got older, and he saw more of them than anyone I've ever known. As a second tangent, I remember very well Mad Magazine's movie satire, "Rosemia's Boo-boo" - not the details (I was only 7); just the fact that it existed - the cover is pretty funny: One amazing thing is that Rosemary's Baby only came out five years before "The Exorcist" - it seems like a *lot* longer to me. There are several movies I distinctly remember my parents making a big deal out of going to see: The Exorcist was one, and "The Godfather" was another, both being around the same time. I was "treated" to seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" when it came out the same year as Rosemary's Baby - I didn't appreciate it at all, but I remember the usher selling pamphlets, walking around the theater before the film started, hawking, "2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001: A Space Odyssey - Get the official brochure for 2001: A Space Odyssey" - it's funny what kids remember, and what they don't, because that had - by far - the greatest impact on me. I don't remember another time when I've seen an usher hawking brochures in a theater before a movie like that, but my memory doesn't mean much. I love the subtlety of John Cassavetes in this film, although much of that was probably due to the screenplay of Polanski - he changed from being a completely human cynic, to an agent of the devil, and the viewer is unable to pinpoint exactly when this change happened - although in retrospect, it happened early on. Right when Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) reaches her breaking point about the quack, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), and the pain she's been in for an extended period of time, the pain instantly goes away - that's a brilliant ploy on the part of the Devil. This isn't the first film to juxtapose raw evil with a child (I can think of "The Bad Seed," and also "The Twilight Zone" episode, "It's a Good Life," both of which used pre-adolescents, but neither of which used a fetus or neonate) - so this might be one of the first-ever movies to impose Satanism on a pregnant woman, certainly running parallel (and opposite) to the Virgin Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus. I just now this afternoon had a piano lesson, and I mentioned to my teacher that I naturally think polyphonically, so the very second I heard "The name is an anagram," I was sure I knew what it meant: The "tanas" root would redirect as "Satan." - but, of course, I was wrong, as the root is spelled "tannis"; the real meaning of that cryptic instruction is much more clever. Rosemary also taught me a new word: "covens." Man, I hate to say this, but when Rosemary has sequestered herself in her apartment - attempting to flee her creep-o husband, Guy, and Dr. Sapirstein - when she's on the phone, and the two sneak by her in the background, they look *exactly* like something out of Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks." Now try and see that scene - supposedly fraught with tension - without laughing your ass off (the movie is free with a Hulu membership, and the scene takes place with 20:30 remaining in the film). Goodness, I'm at the part with the Asian gentleman with the camera. Ugh. I actually *still* don't know what's going to happen, although it has already been revealed who the baby's real father is; we just haven't seen "little Adrian" yet. Wow, I just finished the film: *Very* well-done ending. I was fearing that they'd show the baby, and that would have ruined everything - you can't show pure evil, but you can imagine it. I also thought Rosemary might have been carrying a second knife, and was going to kill the baby (without showing him), which would have been a brute-force outcome; as it turns out, maternal bond(age) wins out in the end - no matter what. In 2014, the Library of Congress selected Rosemary's Baby for preservation in the National Film Registry; I suspect if Rosemary had killed the baby at the end - which I believe would happen had it been filmed for today's audiences - the film would not be such a classic.