The Night Walker (1964)

Directed by William Castle

What’s the problem???

23 August 2002 | by Christopher Mercurio (United States) – See all my reviews

Really, what is the problem? This movie has a great script, a great score, great actors and a great director. There really is nothing to hate about this movie. The Night Walker is similar to William Castle’s other films; like House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, and this movie is just as creepy. It’s basically about nightmares. Are they nightmares or are they more. Great story line. But there is also a great twist. I rented this movie, but I was at first going to buy it to add to my William Castle collection. I rented it and expected a terrible movie. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t a terrible, but a great horror movie or a great mystery. I especially like the part where Barbara Stanwyck is screaming, “I can’t wake up!” “I can’t wake up!” This is a great movie. See it and you won’t be disappointed.

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Castle Chiller Saved By Its Stars

7/10
Author: phillindholm
17 April 2007

Producer/Director William Castle, famed for his low-budget shockers complete with assorted gimmicks, had by now reached his “Star Stage.” He had featured Vincent Price in two of his films, and in 1964 really scored a coup when he signed Joan Crawford for “Strait- Jacket.” Thanks mostly to her drawing power (she would later do “I Saw What You Did” for Castle) the film was a hit – and her publicity appearances on behalf of it didn’t hurt, either. So, for his next project, Castle signed both Barbara Stanwyck and her initially reluctant ex-husband Robert Taylor to headline “The Night Walker” from a script written by “Strait-Jacket’s” Robert Bloch (who also penned the book “Psycho”).

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In this psychological mystery melodrama, Stanwyck plays the wife of a rich, blind scientist (Hayden Rorke) who suspects her of having an affair. He hires a detective (Lloyd Bochner) to determine whether his wife is only dreaming of a lover or actually has one. Shortly thereafter, he is killed in an explosion, and his now very rich widow is plagued with nightmares in which he is pursuing her (when she’s not dreaming of her mystery lover, that is). Taylor is her late husband’s lawyer whom she turns to for help when her dreams begin to drive her mad. And so goes the plot…

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Most critics saw this as another “Horror Hag” movie, in other words, a lurid yarn featuring a Golden Age star, a cycle which began with “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” (with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) and continued with “Strait-Jacket” (Crawford); “Lady In A Cage” (Olivia De havilland) and Ann Sothern) “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” (Davis, De havilland and Agnes Moorehead) etc. This time around though, the still- beautiful Stanwyck was cast as a victim, rather than a villainess (as most of the veteran actresses ended up playing in these films were) and she generated a good deal of sympathy-(besides being a terrific screamer).

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The supporting players (Bochner, Judi Meredith, Rochelle Hudson and Marjorie Bennett) are capable and game, the production is well photographed and features a truly creepy score from the great Vic Mizzy (“The Addams Family, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”). Famed voice-over king Paul Frees (for some reason credited as ‘Ted Durant’) sets the scene beautifully with a short but effective prologue. What really makes this work, however, are the still-potent talents of Stanwyck and Taylor, both of whom are really better than the material, but give it their all nevertheless. Alas, though profit participant Stanwyck toured with Castle to promote it, “The Night Walker” was a box-office flop, and it would take “Rosemary’s Baby” which Castle only produced, to put him back on top. It’s still an above-average film of it’s type though, and pretty scary to watch alone at night.

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Hitchcock, it’s not. It’s better.

9/10
Author: Pete H. Kanter (KanterTheShark) from Los Osos, Ca–USA
6 October 2001

Without a shadow of a doubt, screenwriter/novelist Robert Bloch (1917 – 1994) will always be best remembered for the 1960 film that made Alfred Hitchcock a household name: “Psycho”; and young Janet Leigh played what small part she had, in The Bates Motel, to the hilton.

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But the four-years-after thriller, “The Night Walker”, which starred an actress who’d already been a star for more than a decade had a story line that haunted its lady in distress, rather than having her killed off after one scream.

Irene Trent (Barbara Stanwyck) was a troubled woman from the very start–having nightmares that seemed so real, she didn’t know the meaning of the word “reality”; and having a literally-blind, eccentric husband (Hayden Rorke)–who was so demanding of her, that we might as well have wished she got away with murder.

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Enter her lawyer and supposed friend, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor) and a very overbearing “dream lover”, (Lloyd Bochner), and you’ve got the formula for a workable “B” grade drama which, however predictable it might seem, isn’t going to be very predictable at all. Throughout the entire story, there’s a very gradual, even-paced sort of building-up-of-the-plot.

Had Alfred Hitchcock been handed this script, he’d probably have put in a subtle common-thread of humor. And, too, he’d probably have put himself in a cameo shot, in one scene or other. (Which scene that would’ve been would be anyone’s guess: an observer at the wax figure wedding? Maybe he’d have himself under a hair dryer at Irene’s beauty salon.)

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But there was no room for that sort of thing, here. The story moved along on an even keel. Even by the time Irene had the final piece of her personal life’s puzzle in place, the way the very final scene was to pan out was anything but predictable.

William Castle did one royal job, here, for insomniacs everywhere, for many generations to come.

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