Colorful director William Castle is best known for his prolific horror film output but toiled in programmers, routine dramas, and westerns for years before finding his niche. The native New Yorker was born William Schloss on April 24, 1914. Breaking into Broadway productions in the 1930s, Castle made his way to Hollywood later in the decade and soon found himself working in various facets of film production at Columbia. Coming up through the ranks, eventually the studio let him direct many of its programmers, such as The Whistler (1944; with Richard Dix) and Crime Doctor's Man Hunt (1946; with Warner Baxter). By the mid 1950s, Castle was working in television, where he discovered his talent for science fiction and horror. In 1955, he directed some episodes of the sci-fi anthology series Science Fiction Theater along with another famed horror director, Jack Arnold.

William Castle

Late 1950s portrait of director William Castle

Castle's first real foray into horror films came in Macabre (1958; with Jim Backus). In order to promote the film, Castle employed the first of a series of gimmicks designed to hype his films. For Macabre, theatergoers were issued a life insurance policy which was payable if any audience member died of fright while watching the film. Castle's gimmicks were nothing short of brilliant, using wired plastic skeletons to frighten theatergoers watching The House on Haunted Hill (1959; with Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart) and 3-D for 13 Ghosts (1960; with Martin Milner). He found his greatest gimmick in Joan Crawford, whose career revival in 1960s horror flicks packed audiences in theaters to see Strait-Jacket (1964; with Diane Baker and Leif Erickson) and I Saw What You Did (1965; with John Ireland and Patricia Breslin).

the films of william castle

The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Carol Ohmart with Vincent Price

Carol Ohmart and Vincent Price starred in Castle's The House on Haunted Hill

The Tingler (1959)

Vincent PriceVincent Price

From The Tingler with Vincent Price and Patricia Cutts

Homicidal (1961)

Richard Rust and Joan MarshallGlenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, and Joan MarshallPatricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, and Joan MarshallGlenn Corbett and Joan Marshall

From the campy psycho-thriller Homicidal, my favorite William Castle film. LEFT: Joan Marshall proposes marriage---and a quickie divorce---to bellhop Richard Rust in exchange for $2,000. CENTER A: With Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, and Joan Marshall as Warren. CENTER: With Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, and Joan Marshall. RIGHT: Marshall, as Emily, knocks Glenn Corbett out. Billed as 'Jean Arless' in this film, Joan Marshall steals the movie with her over-the-top performance

Zotz! (1962)

Tom Poston and Julia Meade

From Castle's comedy/horror flick Zotz! with Tom Poston and Julia Meade

The Old Dark House (1963)

Tom Poston, Janette Scott, and Fenella Fielding

From Castle's horror/comedy The Old Dark House with Tom Poston, Janette Scott, and Fenella Fielding

Strait-Jacket (1964)

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford portrayed an axe-wielding murderer in Castle's Strait-Jacket

The Night Walker (1965)

Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, and Jess BarkerRobert Taylor

From The Night Walker, released by Universal. LEFT: With Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, and Jess Barker. RIGHT: With Robert Taylor

I Saw What You Did (1965)

Joan Crawford and John Ireland

Joan Crawford is soon to become victim to murderer John Ireland in the creative horror flick I Saw What You Did

Let's Kill Uncle (1966)

Let's Kill Uncle

From Castle's Let's Kill Uncle

The Spirit Is Willing (1967)

Vera Miles, Sid Caesar, and Barry Gordon

From Castle's horror/comedy The Spirit Is Willing with Sid Caesar, Vera Miles, and Barry Gordon

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Patsy Kelly, Ruth Gordon, and Mia Farrow

Produced by William Castle, Rosemary's Baby was perhaps the crowning achievement of his career. Pictured are Patsy Kelly, Ruth Gordon, and Mia Farrow

Project X (1968)

Christopher GeorgeChristopher George

Christopher George stars as Hagen Arnold in the science fiction thriller Project X

Circle of Fear (1972-1973 NBC TV Series)

Patty Duke, William Castle, and John Astin

Promotional photo from Castle's early 1970s series Circle of Fear. This photo was taken during production of the episode The Graveyard Shift, which featured Patty Duke, William Castle, and John Astin

Bug (1975)

Bradford Dillman

Bradford Dillman in a still from Bug, the last film produced by William Castle

Shampoo (1975)

William Castle, Julie Christie, and Warren Beatty

William Castle as producer Sid Roth with Julie Christie and Warren Beatty in the hilarious sex comedy Shampoo. Directed by Hal Ashby, who was married to Joan Marshall, the star of Castle's Homicidal, the film was in part based on Marshall's experiences in 1960s Hollywood. Marshall also appears in this film as Mrs. Schumann

later years

Castle's directorial output slowed in the late 1960s. Since he owned the film rights to Ira Levin's 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby, he produced the film version the following year, but Roman Polanski served as director. In the early 1970s, Castle produced the NBC TV series Circle of Fear. And on occasion, he acted in several films, including Day of the Locust (1975; with William Atherton and Karen Black) and Shampoo (1975; with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie). The latter film was a reunion of sorts for Castle and Joan Marshall, the star of Castle's 1961 psycho thriller Homicidal. Marshall's husband, Hal Ashby, directed Shampoo, in which Marshall also makes an appearance. Just one year after the publication of his autobiography Step Right Up!: I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America, William Castle passed away from a heart attack on May 31, 1977, at the age of 63. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.

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This listing includes only those films for which William Castle is credited as director and/or producer:
Bug (1975) with Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles, Patricia McCormack, and Richard Gilliland
Shanks (1974) with Marcel Marceau
Ghost Story (1972) with David Birney, Barbara Parkins, Sam Jaffe, Jeanette Nolan, and Sebastian Cabot
Riot (1969) with Jim Brown and Gene Hackman
Rosemary's Baby (1968) with Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., and Emmaline Henry
Project X (1968) with Christopher George, Henry Jones, and Keye Luke
The Spirit Is Willing (1967) with Sid Caesar, Vera Miles, Mary Wickes, Jesse White, Robert Donner, Nestor Paiva, John Astin, and Harvey Lembeck
The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar, Robert Ryan, Anne Baxter, Jan Murray, Richard Pryor, Charles McGraw, Bill Dana, and Godfrey Cambridge
Let's Kill Uncle (1966) with Nigel Green and Nestor Paiva
I Saw What You Did (1965) with Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Leif Erickson, Patricia Breslin, and John Archer
The Night Walker (1965) with Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Judi Meredith, Hayden Rorke, Rochelle Hudson, Marjorie Bennett, and Lloyd Bochner
Strait-Jacket (1964) with Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, Rochelle Hudson, George Kennedy, and Lee Majors
The Old Dark House (1963) with Tom Poston, Robert Morley, and Janette Scott
13 Frightened Girls (1963) with Kathy Dunn, Murray Hamilton, Joyce Taylor, and Hugh Marlowe
Zotz! (1962) with Tom Poston, Julia Meade, Jim Backus, Fred Clark, Cecil Kellaway, Margaret Dumont, and Mike Mazurki
Mr. Sardonicus (1961) with Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, and Audrey Dalton
Homicidal (1961) with Glenn Corbett, Joan Marshall (billed as Jean Arless), Patricia Breslin, and Richard Rust
13 Ghosts (1960) with Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Donald Woods, Margaret Hamilton, and John Van Dreelen
The Tingler (1959) with Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, and Patricia Cutts
House on Haunted Hill (1959) with Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Macabre (1958) with William Prince, Jim Backus, Jacqueline Scott, and Susan Morrow
Uranium Boom (1956) with Dennis Morgan, Patricia Medina, and William Talman
The Houston Story (1956) with Gene Barry, Barbara Hale, Edward Arnold, Paul Richards, and Jeanne Cooper
Duel on the Mississippi (1955) with Lex Barker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens, and Craig Stevens
The Gun That Won the West (1955) with Dennis Morgan, Richard Denning, and Paula Raymond
New Orleans Uncensored (1955) with Arthur Franz, Beverly Garland, and Michael Ansara
The Americano (1955) with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero, and Abbe Lane
Masterson of Kansas (1954) with George Montgomery and Nancy Gates
The Law vs. Billy the Kid (1954) with Scott Brady, Betta St. John, and Alan Hale Jr.
The Saracen Blade (1954) with Ricardo Montalban, Betta St. John, Carolyn Jones, and Michael Ansara
The Iron Glove (1954) with Robert Stack, Ursula Thiess, and Alan Hale Jr.
Drums of Tahiti (1954) with Dennis O'Keefe and Patricia Medina
Jesse James vs. the Daltons (1954) with Brett King, Barbara Lawrence, James Griffith, and Richard Garland
The Battle of Rogue River (1954) with George Montgomery, Richard Denning, and Martha Hyer
Charge of the Lancers (1954) with Paulette Goddard, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Richard Wyler, and Karin Booth
Slaves of Babylon (1953) with Richard Conte, Michael Ansara, Leslie Bradley, Terry Kilburn, Linda Christian, and Julie Newmar
Conquest of Cochise (1953) with John Hodiak and Robert Stack
Serpent of the Nile (1953) with Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Jean Byron, Michael Ansara, and Julie Newmar
Fort Ti (1953) with George Montgomery
Cave of Outlaws (1951) with Macdonald Carey, Alexis Smith, Edgar Buchanan, Victor Jory, and Hugh O'Brian
Hollywood Story (1951) with Richard Conte, Julie Adams, Richard Egan, Henry Hull, Fred Clark, Jim Backus, and Francis X. Bushman
The Fat Man (1951) with J. Scott Smart, Julie London, Rock Hudson, Jayne Meadows, John Russell, and Jerome Cowan
It's a Small World (1950) with Steve Brodie, Will Geer, and Margaret Field
Undertow (1949) with Scott Brady, Peggy Dow, Bruce Bennett, John Russell, and Rock Hudson
Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) with Howard Duff, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Tony Curtis, John McIntire, and Leif Erickson
The Gentleman from Nowhere (1948) with Warner Baxter
Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (1948) with Guy Madison, Diana Lynn, Lionel Stander, Margaret Hamilton, Irene Ryan, and William Frawley
Crime Doctor's Gamble (1947) with Warner Baxter and Steven Geray
Crime Doctor's Man Hunt (1946) with Warner Baxter, Ellen Drew, William Frawley, and Myron Healey
The Return of Rusty (1946)
Mysterious Intruder (1946) with Richard Dix, Regis Toomey, and Mike Mazurki
Just Before Dawn (1946) with Warner Baxter, Adele Roberts, Craig Reynolds, and Peggy Converse
Voice of the Whistler (1945) with Richard Dix, Lynn Merrick, Donald Woods, and Gigi Perreau
Crime Doctor's Warning (1945) with Warner Baxter
The Mark of the Whistler (1944) with Richard Dix
When Strangers Marry (1944) with Robert Mitchum, Kim Hunter, Dean Jagger, Neil Hamilton, and Rhonda Fleming
She's a Soldier Too (1944) with Beulah Bondi, Nina Foch, Percy Kilbride, and Lloyd Bridges
The Whistler (1944) with Richard Dix, Gloria Stuart, J. Carrol Naish, and Joan Woodbury
Klondike Kate (1943) with Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Glenda Farrell, Constance Worth, and Sheldon Leonard
The Chance of a Lifetime (1943) with Chester Morris

Circle of Fear, 1972-1973 NBC TV series, also known as Ghost Story. Castle served as executive producer
Men of Annapolis, 1957-1958 syndicated TV series. The show's star was John Ashley
The Man Called X, 1956-1957 syndicated TV series. Barry Sullivan was the star of this half-hour show
Science Fiction Theater, 1955-1957 syndicated TV series. Castle served as an occasional director of the anthologies in this half-hour series

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Watch William Castle's 1964 horror film The Night Walker
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