There are a couple of genuinely creepy moments in William Castle’s I Saw What You Did, moments that don’t rely on skeletons flying overhead in a theater, electronic shocks delivered on cue, or a viewer card which can erase the ghosts from the screen for the faint of heart.
The Production: 3/5
There are a couple of genuinely creepy moments in William Castle’s I Saw What You Did, moments that don’t rely on skeletons flying overhead in a theater, electronic shocks delivered on cue, or a viewer card which can erase the ghosts from the screen for the faint of heart. Yes, this is a William Castle movie without gimmicks (one trailer tries feebly to insure potentially frightened viewers that seat belts will be provided for all seats) and which relies instead on a decent set-up for some honest suspense. The tension isn’t sustained well, and there is a lot of filler between shocks, but I Saw What You Did offers a decent chill or two down one’s spine.
Two teenaged girls (Andi Garrett, Sarah Lane) spend the evening playing telephone pranks on unsuspecting callers. They choose the wrong person in phoning Steve Marak (John Ireland), who has just murdered his nagging wife by butchering her in the shower, by teasing that they “saw what you did and know who you are.” Had one of the girls not been so curious as to what their attractive-sounding male victim looked like, they might have gotten away with the trick, but when they drive to his house to get a peep at him, they’re accosted by his jealous neighbor (Joan Crawford) who’s in love with Steve and is suspicious that younger women are seemingly now to his taste. She strips the registration card from the car steering wheel and flings it is his face asking for an explanation thus giving him an address where he can have a private encounter with his pranksters.
The screenplay by William McGivern is based on a novel Out of the Dark by Ursula Curtis, and the plot with the psychopath stalking these young girls who have no idea what he’s done or that he would feel threatened by their prank is a sound one filled with genuine menace and the potential for lots of shocks and scares. Director William Castle does provide a couple of real “boo” moments in the movie, and the shower murder is practically straight out of Psycho with point of view shots, a knife continually thrusting through the air, and blood swirling down the drain, but he’s undercut himself by his reliance on his big star name Joan Crawford to bring in patrons by inserting her into the shock fest with a dreary, soap opera-toned subplot about her lusting for Steve (even after she learns he’s a murderer) and her suspicions that he’s hiding affections for someone other than her. Those scenes and the too-lengthy set-up with the teen girls and their younger charge (Sharyl Locke) frittering away the night with pranks and gossip make it difficult to get the terror up and running or to sustain it with continual interruptions (the sitcom-like bouncy background score by Van Alexander likewise is no help when it pops up dissipating the menace and evil on the prowl). A fog-shrouded, isolated home in the country does help with the climactic scenes though they, too, waste precious moments that could have been filled with shadowy threats and potential death around every corner where minutes pass by without anything scary happening.
Joan Crawford’s performance is almost as if it’s from another movie, one of her overheated potboilers from the 1950s like Female on the Beach or Queen Bee as she throws herself onto the obviously disturbed character played by John Ireland and not noticing that he’s completely unbalanced and capable of anything. Ireland himself doesn’t quite get the menace perfectly (the shower murder is disturbingly vicious, but later acts are less so), and he could have turned his Steve Marak into something truly frightening. The real stars of the film are the two young ladies Andi Garrett and Sarah Lane. Both give decent performances as typical teens out for fun without thinking of the consequences. Leif Erickson and Pat Breslin play Garrett’s parents concerned that the telephone line is busy for three hours and then suspiciously frightened when there’s no answer at all.
3D Rating: NA
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding throughout the presentation (clear enough to see the make-up demarcations that give Miss Crawford a straight jawline), and the grayscale features rich, deep black levels and crisp whites. Contrast has been consistently maintained, and the fog drenched later scenes prove no problem at all for the transfer. Negatively, however, there has been little to no clean-up on this title with continual dust specks and debris (some scenes feature a flurry of speckles), and the reel change markers have been kept in place on several occasions. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very typical of this era of programmer film production. Dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, and it’s been mixed quite professionally with Van Alexander’s erratic score (bouncy-then-ominous) and the atmospheric effects which are important for the suspense to take hold in the latter half of the movie. There are no real problems with age-related hiss or crackle.
Special Features: 2/5
Photo Gallery (3:41, HD): a montage of stills, theatrical posters, lobby cards, and pages from the movie’s press book.
Theatrical Trailers (2:38, SD): two trailers in montage, the second of which features producer-director William Castle assuring the audience of its safety while watching the film.
I Saw What You Did is a fairly typical William Castle shock programmer from the mid-1960s featuring a potentially frightening plot that never quite reaches a boil. Still, fans of Joan Crawford or of Mr. Castle’s movies will likely be delighted to add another one even in flawed high definition to their shelves.