A Universal Picture
Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Bloch
Music by Vic Mizzy
Starring Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Judith Meredith and Lloyd Bochner.
John: William Castle. Robert Bloch. Vic Mizzy. I know we're here to celebrate Barbara Stanwyck, but man, what a lineup! I'm sure many of you are thinking--what gimmick did Castle have up his sleeve this time? Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you. The Night Walker is not only gimmick-free, it also lacks an introductory appearance from the jovial director. Instead, we get an interesting and somewhat surreal prologue about dreams narrated by none other than the great Paul Frees, which ends with a bizarre image of an eyeball in a closed fist.
Peter: That intro goes on and on and... I thought we'd never get to the film itself. Little did I know, once we got to the film, that was about as good as it gets.
Christine: Perhaps the gimmick was to get Barbara Stanwyck and ex-hubby, Robert Taylor, together for this film.
Jack: They seem pretty chummy--you wouldn't know they had been divorced in real life.
John: I think you’re right. In his autobiography, the fantastic Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America, Castle said, “I felt the declining box office on my next picture, The Night Walker, co-starring Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, both big stars that I felt would be strong enough to pull customers in. The picture played to almost empty theaters.”
Christine: I have seen many of Barbara Stanwyck's movies from the 1930s and '40s and it's great to see that she retains the same energy and acting talent here in her last feature film that has always made her a pleasure to watch. Including Stanwyck in a film automatically elevates its potential. Some sources state that Castle originally offered the part of Irene Trent to Joan Crawford, though I have not found much evidence to support the veracity of that claim. Although Crawford made an excellent axe-murderess in the previous Castle-Bloch feature, Strait-Jacket, I think that Stanwyck is the better choice for this role. Get a load of the way this lady screams. Yowza!
John: It didn't until you mentioned it. I'm just glad I had already watched the film!
Peter: Actually, Jack, the guitar bit reminded me of the intro to "2000 Light Years From Home" off Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones. Perhaps Mick and Keef were William Castle fans?
John: What was it exactly that brought these two lovebirds together? The explosion in the lab might have been the best thing to happen to Howard Trent (Hayden Rorke). Fortunately, it’s well-isolated, so a quick padlock on the door and the house is A-OK for the new widow, Irene. Unfortunately, she wants out of the place, pronto.
Peter: I like when the arson detective says the blast created a temperature so intense it melted everything beyond recognition... all while he's surrounded by damaged but still pretty recognizable equipment.
Peter: Though I liked the Mizzy score (of course, it doesn't hold a candle to his themes from Green Acres and The Addams Family), I thought in several scenes (most notably when Irene is explaining her dreams to Barry), the music is intrusive and threatens to distract the viewer from the dialogue. Of course, considering that the dialogue isn't all that good, that may be the point.
Christine: Nothing says bad dream like wax figures at a wedding. The dramatic organ music helps create the nightmarish atmosphere. This is my favorite part of the whole film.
|"The Cheaters" episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller|
Jack: Barbara Eden later wrote that Rorke was "unashamedly gay" and his partner was a TV director named Justus Addiss. I never suspected! He wasn't campy like Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly.
Christine: Heads spinning, candelabra spinning, melted ex-husband...obviously someone drugged the champagne.
Christine: She was warming up for this in Sorry, Wrong Number. She has an impressive lung capacity for someone who had reportedly been smoking since she was nine years old.
Jack: Judith Meredith spiced up the movie for a few minutes but never had much of a career.
Christine: Irene was apparently all out of screams by this time.
Peter: I thought, aside from the set-up scenes which were tense and showed promise, The Night Walker was a sloooooow burn that never went anywhere. I sure liked it when I was a kid. Scared the hell out of me, but then so did my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Stack. Difference is, I don't have to revisit him forty years later to find out he was just a big pussy cat.
Christine: Despite William Castle's warning, I don't believe many viewers will be forced to dream of secret desires they're ashamed to admit as a result of watching this movie. It is a bit of a let down after the way it was built-up, but I enjoyed the unexpected twists at the end, and Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor make it an entertaining ride that's worth watching. Vic Mizzy's music makes it all the more delightful. The Night Walker's lack of success may have had something to do with Stanwyck's decision to work exclusively in television henceforth. Apparently she complained that she was only offered parts thereafter about "grandmothers who eat their children."
Peter: Not Robert Bloch's finest moment.
|Legendary poster artist|
Reynold Brown's art for The Night Walker.
|Michael Avallone's tie-in paperback.|
Note that Robert Bloch's name is highlighted