Macabre (1958)


(director: William Castle; screenwriters: Anthony Boucher/Robb White/from the novel “The Marble Forest” by Theo Durrant; cinematographer: Carl Guthrie; editor: John F. Schreyer; music: Les Baxter; cast: Ellen Corby (Miss Kushins), Philip Tonge (Jode Wetherby), Jacqueline Scott (Polly Baron), William Prince (Dr. Rodney Barrett), Jim Backus (Sheriff Jim Tyloe), Christine White (Nancy Wetherby Tyloe), Susan Morrow (Sylvia Stevenson), Howard Hoffman (Hummel, Caretaker), Dorothy Morris (Alice Barrett), Linda Guderman (Marge), Jonathan Kidd (Ed Quigley, Funeral Director), Voltaire Perkins (Preacher); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Castle; VCI (Allied Artist); 1958)

Too bad the b/w pic wasn’t as imaginative as the film’s promotional campaign.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first film that noted gimmicky shock/schlockmeister horror director William Castle(“The Tingler”/”Homicidal”/”Strait-Jacket”) employed a gimmick. Theater-goers were promised courtesy of Lloyds of London a $1,000 insurance policy payoff if they should drop dead from fright during the movie. Too bad the b/w pic wasn’t as imaginative as the film’s promotional campaign. The script is written by Robb White, who adapted it from Theo Durrant’s novel “The Marble Forest”. It’s more a mystery story than a horror pic, with the twist being who is the villain. Problem with the pic is that it never delivered the promised scares, the flashbacks were clumsy, plot holes were deep and, furthermore, the many flashbacks were toilsome and killed off the film’s rhythm.

In the small town of Thornton, there’s the unusual midnight funeral of the blind Nancy Wetherby Tyloe (Christine White), the wife of the sheriff Jim Tyloe (Jim Backus). Meanwhile the disliked local Lothario physician, Dr. Rodney Barrett (William Prince), is made aware by his loyal lovesick nurse, Polly Baron (Jacqueline Scott), that a maniac called at home to taunt him that he kidnapped his 3-year-old daughter Marge (Linda Guderman) and buried her alive in a child’s coffin with just five hours to save her.

While Barrett, Polly and the wealthy, fragile former heart attack vic, the elderly grandfather of the missing girl, Jode Wetherby (Philip Tonge), frantically dig up the graves in the foggy local cemetery searching in vain for Marge, the back story is provided in various flashbacks.

The hateful sheriff courted Nancy’s wealthy sister Alice (Dorothy Morris), but she married Barrett instead and when she died three years ago during childbirth the love stricken sheriff never forgave Barrett for the poor way he medically treated her. The sheriff now blames the doctor for also not providing the proper care for his blind wife, and warns Barrett that just about everyone in town hates him and want him to leave.

Susan Morrow plays the part of Barrett’s cold new social climber girlfriend. Jonathan Kidd is the worried funeral director, who reports that someone that day stole a child’s coffin. Ellen Corby plays the old maid longtime servant for the Wetherby family.