Last night my wife and I watched an old horror / thriller movie from director William Castle (“13 Ghosts”, “House On Haunted Hill”). Released in 1961 the film is called “Homicidal”.
A young blonde woman (Joan Marshall – “Shampoo”, “Bold Venture”, appearing under the name Jean Arless) checks into a Ventura, CA hotel and, calling herself Miriam Webster, offers the bellboy $1,000 to accompany her to the local justice of the peace that night and get married to her. Although somewhat mystified the bellboy agrees and goes along with her plan. When they arrive for the ceremony she inexplicably stabs the justice of the peace to death and flees.
She returns home where we discover that she is a nurse to an elderly mute woman, Helga Swenson (Eugenie Leontovich – “The Rains Of Ranchipur”, “The World In His Arms”).
As the film progresses we are introduced to the real Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin – “Peyton Place”, “The People’s Choice”), a florist, and her half-brother Warren who has recently returned from a spell living in Denmark. Their father has recently died, leaving a substantial fortune to Warren. The partly paralysed Helga was Miriam and Warren’s childhood Nanny.
It soon becomes clear that Helga’s nurse, whose name is actually Emily, is not content with murdering the justice of the peace but wants to make Miriam’s life hell too, for unspecified reasons. Luckily Miriam has a solid alibi for the night of the killing but, concerned by Emily’s hostility, she and her drugstore owner fiance Karl Anderson (Glenn Corbett – “Chisum”, “The Road West”) begin to investigate…
When the film was shown in cinemas there was a 45 second “fright break” pause in the film – which survives in the version we saw – that allowed anyone too scared to witness the climax to leave the cinema at that point. I wouldn’t say that the movie is that scary but is certainly has something.
As we were watching I felt that some of the acting, particularly from the character of Warren, seemed strangely stilted and wooden but despite this the film was oddly compelling viewing. My wife decided to look the film up on the internet as we were watching, so was aware of the twists to come, but I didn’t make the connection in my head until the aforementioned 45 second pause when something suddenly dawned on me that made sense of proceedings up until that point.