I Saw What You Did
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I Saw What You Did

If you had the good fortune of being introduced to movies during the 60s the new undoubtedly remember the name of William Castle. As a director and producer of ‘B’ movies that were the standard fare for drive-ins the local theaters. Most of his movies were thrillers often enhance with little touches of science fiction or horror. What he was best known for is not so much the movies but is unique way of promoting them. Significant numbers of his films were promoted with various gimmicks such as having skeletons reached to fly over the head of the audience were tiny electric shocks wired it into some of the seats. The movie of the consideration here, ‘I Saw What You Did’, Mr. Castle had seatbelts installed in the last several rows that the theater dutifully promoting that they were installed to prevent people from being knocked out of their seats for the shock of the film. I remember watching this movie in the neighborhood theater although utilizing the seatbelts would ensure the future ridiculed your friends. Years later my wife and I court it on late-night television reminding me how much fun it was to watch the movie only that I had a better appreciation for the regrettable fact that many A-list Hollywood actors experiencing a decline in their careers forced to sign on from films make quick and cheap such as this one. There was another thing about William Castle much like his contemporary, Roger Corman, the understand the business end of making movies and was able to get his projects approved due to his reputation bringing the films and on time and usually under budget. Now, thanks to Cinedigm, a distributor that has been obtaining the rights for many older guilty pleasure movies remastering them into high definition. This film has finally received the Blu-ray release to help us complete collections of Mr. Castle’s body of work.

One evening Dave (Leif Erickson) and his wife Ellie Mannering (Patricia Breslin) had a social engagement to attend. This necessitated having a teenage daughter Libby (Andi Garrett) babysit her younger sister Tess (Sharyl Locke),To help pass the time Libby’s best friend, Kit (Sara Lane), came over for the evening. Instead of doing homework or anything productive the two mischievous teenage girls decided make prank phone calls. This form of homeless, albeit annoying, past time has been rendered impossible things to * 69 and caller ID. It consisted of dialing random numbers saying something outlandish before hanging up. Tess insists on joining in although Libby and Kit are certain she’s too young. Tess proves them wrong with her first attempt. She gets a woman on the phone he convinces her that she was trying to call her mommy to pick her up from the movies. She was upset because I was the last time and now she can try again. As you can see this film is already racking up number of archaic elements. I’m quite certain that nobody in this current generation has ever seen public payphone especially not one that took a dime to make a phone call. When it’s once again Libby’s turn she makes a phone call about backfire on all of them reading dire consequences.

Libby just happened to call Steve Marak (John Ireland), was just murdered his wife, Judith (Joyce Meadows), disposing of her body in the woods. Just as he comes back in the phone rings with Libby on the other end with a very serious tone of voice "I know who you are and I saw what you did." After committing such a heinous crime Steve was understandably more than a bit paranoid and the comment made by the person on the other end of the phone call short far too close to home for his comfort. If there was a witness to what he did they had to be silenced before they could inform the police. Marak's neighbor Amy (Joan Crawford) has always been infatuated with him and doing her best to entice him to leave his wife for her. When she finds out about the murders she sees it as an opportunity to finally be with him. Despite her star status Ms. Crawford’s contribution to the film is barely more than a cameo. She had been getting a reputation is a difficult actress to work with so despite the low the normal salary she accepted the offer made by Mr. Castle for role in this film.

Libby was far too curious her own good and because she was intrigued by the voice of Frank’s victim to decide she has to go would find out what he looks like. Kit "borrows" the car from Libby’s parents and after Tess and Libby and Kit get in they drive in search of the mysterious man. The core may have been confusion that were commonplace in throes of this time soon come into play. Amy finds Libby lurking about the home and mistaking her for yet another younger lover chases her off. Little did Libby know but that just saves her life. Marak had a knife and was about to kill how to silence the person he thought was a witness to his crime. This several potholes that the screenwriting does try to catch up but what the audience is left with is a number potholes big enough to drive in 1965 Plymouth sedan through. One thing this scenario does prove is that bored teenagers do not need the Internet to get into serious trouble, a good old-fashioned landline.

As mentioned previously I do consider this film to be a guilty pleasure. As such it definitely qualifies as an acquired taste and not everyone to find it as enjoyable as I do. This is a film reception is going to be clearly defined by the age of the audience member. Baby boomers that are familiar with the work of William Castle are in a better position to understand his methods for creating suspense and tension. Younger viewers who were used to horror films are exceptionally explicit and heavily dependent upon overly graphic special effects and makeup find this film slow-moving and dull. This is an excellent example of a 60s suspense/thriller with the audiences mood is manipulated on the psychological basis. I’ve always found the psychological scare far more effective than the quick and cheap visceral fright that became overly popular first with the slasher movies and later with such films like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ that are collectively referred to as torture porn.

Even though the plot is so highly dependent upon artifacts in technology now more than half a century old, but is not likely to change of the underlying human emotions and motivations. The passion, frustration and anger that would lead a man to murder his wife would also understandably leave him quite receptive to being paranoid. The enamored neighbor unrequited love for him makes is so suspicious that she was to mistake a young teenage girl as a potential romantic rival. In the beginning of the film it is shown that the Mannering home is quite remote and back at that time even major markets such as New York City could only provide a handful television stations there is not a lot to do for couple or teenage girls. Telephone prank calls on juvenile and I suppose that some form of them still exist today but for Kit and Libby it was quite literally the only way they could interact with helpless victims for their pranks. One last thing that should be kept in mind especially by those younger viewers is that black-and-white film is greatly enhanced by remastering to high-definition. A Blu-ray edition black-and-white film such as this reveals details you never imagined before. Suddenly the texture of the clothing, elements of the set such as wallpaper and tablecloths, all take on an enhanced sense of reality as you can see the craftsmanship of the cloth. This explosion of visual details serves to pull the audience deeper into the story making you feel as though you’re part of the action. This is a fun film and is still enjoyable in this era of tablets and cell phones.

Posted 05/23/2016

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