Shanks (1974)

Shanks (1974)

A mad scientist (Marcel Marceau) teaches a deaf-mute puppeteer named Malcolm Shanks (also Marceau) how to revive and manipulate the dead.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deafness
  • Horror
  • Mad Doctors and Scientists
  • Puppets and Ventriloquism
  • William Castle Films
  • Zombies

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

Must See?
Yes, simply for its historical relevance as Castle’s last movie and Marceau’s only leading role in a film.


  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “Shanks (1974)

  1. First viewing. A must – as the assessment says it all, there’s little to add. This one-of-a-kind flick is too unique to ignore – and rather sweet, considering it’s a William Castle film.

    Particularly noteworthy is famed composer Alex North’s eccentric, yet evocative score.

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