johnlink ranks MACABRE (1958)

William Castle is well known within horror circles. A B-movie maven, he used clever PR concepts to get people into theaters. These came to be known as gimmick films. MACABRE is considered the first of these. Theatergoers were asked to sign an insurance policy to get into the movie, just in case they suffered ‘Death By Fright’. Something told me that I didn’t need to have such a policy to see a 1958 B-movie in the 21st century…


I watched MACABRE (1958) on 5.30.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

It turns out that the death certificate has something to do with the plot, which is nice at least. I won’t go into how, since it becomes something of a doubly linked idea in the third act. Just know it isn’t pointless.

This is a B movie through and through. A Dr. Barrett (William Prince) is notified by a mysterious caller that his daughter has been buried alive and he has five hours to find her. He is joined by his assistant Polly (Jacqueline Scott) in searching for her, but does not want to notify the police chief (Jim Backus) because the good doctor is widely blamed for the death of his own wife. In fact, Barrett wants to tell nobody in town because he thinks they all hate him.

Put aside the fact that anybody would help find a little girl buried alive no matter who the father was. The movie tries to explain this a coupe times, though the ending turns out to be the true reveal. Because of this, it is hard not to see where this film is headed. The surprises are not frequent. One comes at the death of a gravedigger, and another (a truly effective one even by today’s standards) comes when a coffin is opened and its contents revealed. In terms of plot, this movie lacks any sort of sophistication.

I appreciate the atmosphere of the graveyard where Dr. Barrett searches for his daughter. It’s all fog and smoke in true black-and-white horror movie fashion. The exteriors are simple and cheaply constructed, but this movie doesn’t need more. The secondary characters react to major events in the climax as if nothing happened (or as if they weren’t being informed what the scene was before the take was shot). But, other than a few weakly written female characters, the movie has more depth of character than one might expect. The history built between the chief, Dr. Barrett, and the family of the former Mrs. Barrett(s) works well.

I’m not sure this is a movie to run out and see by any means. I thought the description of the film sounded interesting and so I gave it a shot. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly memorable. Worth a watch once if you run into it, but not worth seeking out unless you are a Castle completest.





Oh, and here is a picture of the insurance certificate:


~ by johnlink00 on May 30, 2013.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks MACABRE (1958)”


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