William Castle: The Poor Man's Alfred Hitchcock

Step Aside Ed Wood

Ed Wood certainly got a lot of attention for making movies that were so bad they were absolutely compelling. After all, Plan 9 From Outer Space is arguably the best-worst movie of all time.

But William Castle was no slouch either.

Castle was the producer/director of dozens of B-movie horror films.

But more than that, he was the king of movie gimmicks.

Whether it was wiring theatre seats with electric buzzers, having skeletons zip through the audience on clotheslines at dramatic plot points, or offering fright insurance for movie patrons, Castle worked every trick in the book and invented new ones of his own.

And like Hitchcock, Castle also made an appearance in most of his films.

While Hitchcock generally made a short quiet cameo somewhere in his movies. William Castle often opened his films with a brief intro letting you know just how SCARY!! the film you were about to see truly was.

Though it's hard to believe it based on just how bad some of his black and white films were, Castle did eventually break into the big-time with one movie, starring Mia Farrow, that many regard as a classic.

Castle produced the 1968 thriller, Rosemary's Baby.

He wanted to direct it was well but the studio wanted someone with a better reputation to take the helm. Roman Polanski got the job but, of course, that's another story.

3D glasses? No! A special color-coded Ghost Viewer!! for 13 Ghosts

Lloyd's of London Fright Insurance anyone?

In Mr. Sardonicus, Castle gave you a chance to vote on the fate of the lead character with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down ballot card.

Homicidal had a 45 second Fright Break! to give you a chance to leave the theatre if you were too scared to sit through the rest of the movie!


One Giant Leap...

Originally posted: July 20, 2009

lunar module
Moon Lander by Thomas J. Kelly

"Tranquility Base, Here...The Eagle Has Landed..."
On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin lifted off from earth atop a roman candle that soared above the clouds and roared into history. Four days later, and forty years ago, Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 mission, set foot on the Moon.

The Surly Bonds of Earth.
Only 66 years before the Apollo 11 mission, the Wright Brothers achieved powered, heavier than air flight over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In 1969, the Saturn V rocket that propelled the Apollo crew was the most massive of its era, powerful enough to break the bonds of gravity for a journey of a quarter of a million miles.

But not to be forgotten is the Lunar Module, the engineering marvel of the Grumman Corporation.

Home Away from Home
Christened the Eagle and weighing little more than a 2006 Hummer, it was the Lunar Module that touched down upon the magnificent dusty desolation of the Moon, and was lander, living space and launch pad for the crew's two day stay.


Living Space...

Launch Pad...

After Project Apollo was shelved, Grumman bid to build the Space Shuttle. And though their Lunar Module was the only major component of the Apollo/Saturn system to never suffer any failure that negatively impacted a mission, they were not awarded the contract.

A Testament to Teamwork
After the end of the Cold War, Grumman was acquired by Northrup. But the base of the Lunar Module still stands in the Sea of Tranquility as a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of the Grumman team.


Remembering the Cyrkle: Red Rubber Ball and Turn-Down Day

They weren't exactly one-hit wonders.
They actually scored two Top-Forty records. And they were lucky enough to sign with the most famous band manager of all time.

Back in the early 1960s, Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes were the founding members of a US music group called the Rhondells.

After being brought to his attention by a business partner who heard them in New York, Brian Epstein, who you'd think would have his hands full managing the Beatles at the time, took the group under his wing in 1965.

But the band's name didn't work for Epstein. He changed it to the Circle. Beatle John gave the name a twist of Lennon by suggesting a quirky spelling based on a certain roundabout back in England.

Red Rubber Ball, co-written by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel, was Cyrkle's biggest hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard TOp 100 List. Turn-Down Day also cracked the Top-Twenty.

A short time later Cyrkle was the opening act for the Beatles during their 1966 US tour.

After their tour duties were done, however, with Epstein having little need for a US connection, they didn't get much attention.

By 1967, Cyrkle had disbanded.

The group's founders each went separate ways but both went on to compose commercial jingles. Tom Dawes, who passed away in 2007, wrote the famous Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz jingle for Alka-Seltzer.

Cyrkle had some guts
Their shall-we-say unique rendition of the Beatles I'm Happy Just to Dance with You seems odd to the ear but we give them credit for putting their own stamp on such a popular song by such a popular group.

The Cyrkle version...

The Beatle version...

Tom Dawes: 1944-2007