Horror Movie A Day: Quint on I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965) Don’t use the phone for fun and games anymore!
Published at: Oct. 11, 2008, 12:52 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
I was going to start this by proclaiming I SAW WHAT YOU DID the first William Castle movie of the AMAD column, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth.
Legend has it Mr. Castle was a ghostwriter on the great Lawrence Tierney flick DILLINGER, which was recently covered. So, damn. There goes my proclamation. But I can say that this is the first traditional William Castle picture on the list.
The plot to this one is simple. What happens if you prank call the wrong guy?
In this case you have two teenage girls left to their own devices for a night, so they spend the majority of their time prank calling people picked at random out of the phone book. And these are pretty shitty pranks, too. Like, if a woman answers on a man’s number, the main girl, Libby (played by Andi Garrett), will put on a sultry voice and ask if Mr. Whatever is in, saying she’s been waiting for an hour, etc, etc.
That bitch probably broke up some marriages! That’s not cool! And I love prank calls. Anybody my age grew up with the Jerky Boys and discovered those awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger prank call soundbytes in my early days on the net. But damn, that’s cold, lady.
They get tired of breaking up marriages and decide to simply start saying “I saw what you did and I know who you are.” Unfortunately, they decide to do that on a dude who just killed his wife (almost as a direct result of their first phone call, actually where they tried to make her jealous as she was packing to leave) and that kick-starts the suspense.
Now Andi Garrett and Sarah Lane (who plays her best friend) are not good actresses. In fact their performances and the writing of their characters feels exactly like ‘60s sitcom TV. LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, maybe. There’s no nuance at all, they just say their lines with a smile, even when scared, apparently.
What makes the movie work is John Ireland as Mr. Steve Marak, the murderer. We’ve covered Ireland once before in RED RIVER alongside John Wayne and we have a couple more of his westerns on the books for later in the column. He’s a great screen personality and he really carries this movie.
He gives Marak a demented desperation. You can feel his life unraveling just in watching him move around a room.
When he kills his wife it’s a shock. He’s taking a shower when she comes in to the bathroom (to tell him he has a call… thanks, bored teenage girls) and sees the room torn apart, a knife stuck into a chunk of wood pinning (I assume) one of her dresses to it. She becomes… upset. And he goes in for the kill, which ends up in the still running shower itself.
I’m sure I’m not the first one to bring up the parallels to the PSYCHO shower scene here, but it’s definitely an influence…except in reverse. Here you have the person in the shower stabbing the one on the outside. There are mirrored shots, too, like the drain as blood swirls down it, a close-up on the showerhead, etc.
It’s a bit more violent than I was expecting, especially the end of it when Ireland sends his wife crashing through the glass shower door. I don’t know why that in particular got to me, but it was extremely violent, especially for this era.
Joan Crawford, in a surprisingly small role, is Ireland’s neighbor, and older woman who is in love with him. She ends up finding out about the murder and blackmails him into marrying her. Sorry to say, lady, but that’s probably not the most thought-out idea in the world.
But she’s not the only one doing stupid shit in the movie. In the glory days before caller ID there would be no horror movie if they didn’t decide to steal mommy’s car and drive by the dude’s house because they think he sounds sexy and wants to sneak a look at him.
Desperate to tie up any loose ends, Ireland is on the hunt for the voice on the phone that apparently saw and knows. This all leads to a foggy night cat and mouse game that does work and is actually pretty involving, especially when Libby’s little sister (10 year old Sharyl Locke) is in jeopardy.
Apart from the surface-level writing and shallow character work on the lead girls, composer Van Alexander deserves a kick in the dick for his score, which sounds like a comedy adventure score, not a horror score. I’m not kidding.
I once saw a show on TV trying to teach the audience how integral a movie score is in setting mood, especially in a horror film. They played the scene from early on in HALLOWEEN when mental patient Michael Myers steals the car with Carpenter’s score, then showed it again with, like, The Benny Hill music. This whole movie is the Benny Hill music.
It’s actually pretty catchy music, just completely wrong for the movie.
I know it sounds like I hated the movie, and that’s not true. It’s a quick running film and even though I didn’t like the two lead teenagers, they were cute enough to fill in the gaps between the interesting, adult characters.
John Ireland is the MVP of the movie, making it worth a watch just for his performance. He keeps the film moving, keeps us interested and sells the threat so well that I found myself caring for the girls in the last act even though the script really didn’t give me any reason to.
Final Thoughts: It’s a flawed movie, but a fun slice of ‘60s suspense. Next to Hitchcock it’s strictly kiddy time, but Crawford and Ireland turn in interesting, riveting performances that make it all worthwhile. Now, this title is out of print, so it’s quite expensive. If you can find it for cheap or if it airs on TCM over the next few weeks, definitely go for it, but don’t spend $80 on it.
Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
I’m getting sleepy and am going to sleep as soon as this is posted, but first, to put a topper on the crank call coverage, here's my one of my favorites.
Give me a finger… figure… top man… Adorable! You can say anything in an Irish accent and it’s cute, even if you’re asking to kill your teachers. Brilliant… Anyway, it's time to pull tomorrow's movie!
Next up is:
Okay, wow. Interesting mash-up. It is funny that the movie Gods gave me another “I” movie. Maybe we’ll get a threefer and I’ll pull I, MADMAN for the next title after I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. I’d almost hate to do that because no one would believe it’s chance, but it’s true. I’m literally pulling titles out of a bag.
See you folks tomorrow for some crazy ‘70s rapesploitation!