Macabre (1958)

Macabre (1958)

“We’ve got to think like the man who did this — it’s the only way that we’re going to find Marge.”

With help from his loyal nurse (Jacqueline Scott), a widowed doctor (William Prince) whose blind and pregnant sister-in-law (Christine White) has just passed away receives a message that his daughter (Dorothy Morris) has been buried alive in a coffin and has only five hours to live before asphyxiating.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Flashback Films
  • Horror Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Search
  • William Castle Films

William Castle’s breakthrough “gimmick horror” film — in which he offered audience members “death by fright” life insurance policies — was this race-against-the-clock thriller, which provides plenty of atmospheric sets and shadows while maintaining genuine suspense about Morris’s well-being and who the actual culprit is. Scott is a plucky sleuth-in-waiting:

… hard-working character actress Ellen Corby (check out her resume on IMDb!) is appropriately mysterious as a long-time nanny:

… and Jonathan Kidd is nicely cast as an anxious funeral director with a chip on his shoulder.

Jim Backus’s character, on the other hand, feels out of place:

… and a flashback tale about Prince’s blind sister-in-law seems like a subplot from another movie. Overall, however, this is a solid horror outing, worth a look for fans of Castle’s work.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography
  • Fun credits
  • Les Baxter’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s got some nice thrills, and is must-see for Castle fans.


One thought on “Macabre (1958)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though (as noted) Castle fans will at least be curious-enough to give it a once-over.

    As per my post in Revival House of Camp & Cult (on fb):

    “The teddy bear had cemetery dirt on it!”

    ‘Macabre’: Finally! The film that answers the question: Is cemetery dirt different from… well, y’know… dirt? William Castle began making movies in 1939, but he didn’t really move into camp/cult territory until this flick… a ‘test run’ for ‘House on Haunted Hill’ and ‘The Tingler’. Castle got better in this vein as he went along but he only hit pay dirt a few times. ‘Macabre’ is sort of a convoluted shambles but it has its moments (and is fairly complicated). As a tough-as-nails sheriff, Jim Backus gets to make out– (wait! Jim Backus making out?! with *anybody*?!) and Ellen Corby gets to… be Ellen Corby. There’s some fun, dopey dialogue: “(Better) than turned over to a woman like *Sylvia* who only wanted to use Marge as a stepping stone to her own emotion! Maybe that’s why they call them *’stepmothers’*!!” The conclusion is satisfyingly OTT.

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