In last night’s “Hagsploitation,” episode of Feud: Bette and Joan, John Waters‘ childhood dream came true. He became William Castle, the B-movie king of showmanship whose promotional stunts were legendary. The episode opens with Waters as Castle, introducing an axe-wielding Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) during a promo tour for the 1964 film Straight-Jacket. Waters said about the unannounced cameo.
“It was an honor to be asked to do it, because I’m such a fan of William Castle. I had to keep the secret for so long because we shot it a long time ago. And the secret kept. I was surprised, because there were 100 extras there.”
When they asked me to do it, I was like, ‘Well, I’m not fat, should I wear a fat suit?’ and they were like, no, we just like the conceptual idea of you playing him.”
Playing Castle was also an opportunity to celebrate the classic theater gimmicks that Waters loved as a kid.
“When I first saw ‘House on Haunted Hill’ as a kid in Baltimore and the skeleton went out on the wire and the thousand kids in the audience went crazy … My whole life, I’ve tried to at least equal that cinema anarchy. I came close with the end of ‘Pink Flamingos,’ but I didn’t tie with it. He still beat me.
Divine and I used to go around to the theaters — we used to come out and Divine would rip a phone book in half.”
(At Waters recent Christmas show, he distributed eyebrow pencils and little packets of anal bleach.)
“There’s always gimmicks and I’ll go to every one of them. I was the last person watching ‘Piranha 3-D’ in 3-D glasses by myself, the last time it played in a suburban theater in Baltimore. I still will go for the gimmick.”
Waters’ favorite gimmick is Castle’s invention of the Percepto, which attached buzzers to theater seats during screenings of 1959’s “The Tingler.”
According to Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, he mortgaged his home and obtained the movie rights to the Ira Levin novel, Rosemary’s Baby before it was published, hoping to finally direct a prestigious movie himself. He made a deal with Paramount Pictures which, however, insisted on hiring young director Roman Polanski. Castle had to settle for producing the film. He did have a cameo, playing the grey-haired man standing outside the phone booth where Rosemary, played by Mia Farrow, is attempting to get in touch with the obstetrician.
Castle was unable to build on the film’s success. He suffered kidney failure soon after its release. By the time he recovered, all momentum was lost, and he went back to making his trashy B movies. He died in 1975.
(via Indie Wire)