Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Puppets and Ventriloquism
- William Castle Films
This odd curio — William Castle’s final directorial effort, and Marcel Marceau’s lone starring role — is a disappointment with patches of brilliance. Marceau and his fellow mimes (Tsilla Chelton and Philippe Clay as his manipulative sister- and brother-in-law) aren’t very good as “straight” actors; but once their characters have died and are forced to perform as puppets, they’re simply wonderful. Unfortunately, the sloppy screenplay is a distraction, with poorly written characters, a weird friendship between Shanks and a young girl (Cindy Eilbacher), and the inexplicable arrival of a motorcycle gang in the final fourth of the film (which does nothing but show off Castle’s seeming desire to have “marionettes” fighting hoodlums). The concept behind Shanks is a clever one, but ultimately too limited in narrative scope; the story would have worked better as either a ballet or a short film. Watch for a cameo by Castle as the grocery store owner.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Many cleverly choreographed and performed “live action” puppet sequences
- A truly bizarre — albeit disappointingly executed — premise for a horror film
Yes, simply for its historical relevance as Castle’s last movie and Marceau’s only leading role in a film.