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Subj: Creature Feature 115: The Night Walker(1964)
Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 at 07:01:34 pm EST (Viewed 128 times)
In 1964, William Castle ditched the gimmicks and delivered a straightforward psychological thriller with The Night Walker. The film starred Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, and Hayden Rorke and had a screenplay written by Robert Bloch. It was distributed by Universal Pictures.
Irene Trent(Stanwyck) is the wife of jealous blind millionaire Howard Trent(Rorke). After a fight in which Irene reveals she has been dreaming about a better lover, Howard states he believes her affair is true and with lawyer Barry Morland(Taylor). Howard is killed in an explosion and Irene's dream lover seems to become real. However, anytime the "dream" goes on too long, Howard returns to haunt Irene. Irene believes herself to be going mad but a major twist at the end reveals a bizarre plot to get Howard Trent's money.
The Night Walker is probably my personal favorite of William Castle’s movies. I believe it’s the only Castle movie I saw before I knew who Castle was. I like a good “Gaslight” movie and apparently so did Castle as he used the theme several times. In The Night Walker, he designed a truly weird and creepy movie. Stanwyck gives a great performance and Rorke’s character is very unsettling. The soundtrack wonderfully compliments the bizarreness of the plot. Castle shows that, while he’s a B-movie director, he is very good at what he does. The wedding scene with the mannequins freaked me out as a kid and still affects me today. While some reviews I’ve read found the film to be slow-moving, I’ve always found the plot engrossing with a weirdness that builds and builds. There really isn’t a creature in this “Creature Feature “ but Howard Trent’s ghost is spooky and there’s enough eeriness to make The Night Walker an entertaining viewing.
The opening. Veteran voice actor Paul Frees gives a great narration on dreams, focusing on nightmares of course, following Vic Mizzy's chilling theme music during the credits and setting up a truly strange story.
Howard and Irene's fight. Strong performances by Stanwyck and Rorke quickly give the viewer insight into these characters and also leads to the explosion that kills Howard.
Irene in Howard's lab and Howard's "ghostly" appearance. As with most William Castle productions, the scare is more important than the plot, so it's best not to try to figure out how the characters accomplished such scenes. The scare is quite good, though.
The wedding scene. This is nuts. The "dream man" leads Irene to a chapel with mannequins who perform the wedding until Howard's ghost appears. I think this is the movie that gave me my phobia of mannequins and dummies in such scenes as from "The Trevi Collection" in Kolchak The Night Stalker, "The After Hours" from The Twilight Zone, and Dead Of Night(1945).
The Night Walker trailer
Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck were married from 1939 until 1952. Stanwyck appeared in noir classics like Double Indemnity and Sorry, Wrong Number. Taylor is a well known Hollywood icon but, looking at his Wikipeia entry, I don't believe I've ever seen one of his movies besides The Night Walker.
Robert Bloch is best known for writing Psycho. He also wrote the screenplays for Castle's Strait-Jacket(1964) and three Star Trek episodes, including the Jack The Ripper themed "Wolf In The Fold".
Hayden Rorke is best known for playing Dr. Bellows in I Dream Of Jeannie. I couldn't believe this when I found it on wikipedia! If I watched the movie again I would barely recognize him and only because I already know.
Vic Mizzy, who created the score for the movie, also created the themes for The Addams Family,Green Acres and several Don Knotts' films including The Ghost And Mr. Chicken.
The Night Walker is sometimes included in the "Hagsploitation" or "Psycho-biddy" genre due to Barbara Stanwyck's appearance. Other examples of the genre are Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Castle's Strait-Jacket, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and Who Slew Auntie Roo?.
You can watch The Night Walker here:
The Night Walker
Next time: while I plan on watching William Castle movies Strait-Jacket and I Saw What You Did, I'm not sure that I'll review them here, so it's undecided.
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